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8.554148 - Violin Recital: Adele Anthony
Born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, Franz Schubert was a chorister in the Imperial Chapel and a pupil of the Staatskonvikt, where a scholarship would have permitted further academic study after his voice broke, had he not chosen rather to take a course of training as a teacher and thereafter, briefly and intermittently, to join his father in the class-room. This vocation, for which he had no clear aptitude, he eventually deserted, devoting his time as far as possible to composition and to the company of his friends. By the time of his death in 1828, the result of a venereal infection contracted some six years earlier, he had begun to win some recognition from publishers, although official positions in any capacity in the musical establishment of Vienna still eluded him. Schubert, while no virtuoso, was both pianist and violinist, in the latter capacity the leader of his school orchestra, while in the Schubert family quartet he played the viola. His principal compositions for violin and piano are the three relatively conventional sonatas or sonatinas of 1816, the Duo Sonata in A major of 1817 and the Rondeau brillant and remarkable Fantasy in C major of the last years of his life. The closing months of 1816 had brought Schubert a temporary respite from the drudgery of serving as his father's assistant in the school-house. Now he was persuaded by his friend Franz von Schober to take advantage of his mother's hospitality and live, for the moment at least, in relative freedom. There had been no success in his application for positions that might have brought him independence, coupled with the kind of musical duties that might have served both as inspiration and discipline, and he was left, as he was until the end of his life, to provide music for the use of his own circle, rather than for any wider public, although his final years brought increased interest from publishers. In 1817, however, the year of the Duo Sonata in A major, later to be issued as Opus 162, publishers showed little sign of awareness of Schubert's existence. This was the year of his introduction to the established singer Johann Michael Vogl, of the court opera, now nearing retirement from the stage and willing to perform on the more modest scale of the Vienna salon, the year of a further series of songs, of overtures that acknowledge the contemporary popularity of Rossini and of a number of piano sonatas.
The Duo shares its musical tasks between the violin and the piano. There is, as so often with Schubert, something song-like in the first theme offered by the violin in the opening Allegro moderato, followed by further musical ideas before a brief central development and an orderly recapitulation. The second movement is a Scherzo, placed here to provide a contrast that proximity to the last movement would not here allow. There are surprises of key, as the E major Scherzo gives way to a C major Trio, approached chromatically by the violin. The Andantino digresses from its original key of C major into D flat and later into A flat, dominated by its returning principal theme. The sonata ends with an Allegro vivace, something of a scherzo in mood and character, if not in form, and avoiding the prolixity of some of Schubert's finales. The movement explores, in its course, the wider harmonic vocabulary that was always a part of Schubert's musical language.
Schubert's Rondeau brillant in B minor for violin and piano, published under this impressive French title by Artaria in April 1827, had been played at Artaria's earlier in the year by the young Bohemian violinist Josef Slavík, a new-comer to Vienna, and the pianist Carl Maria von Bocklet. It elicited critical praise for its originality, its succession of new ideas and its difficulty in a notice in June 1828 in the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst. The slow introduction leads to a Rondo in which Schubert can display the melodic invention and harmonic exuberance of which he was a master, its dominant principal theme suggesting a Hungarian source of inspiration. Two contrasting episodes, the first in G major and the second a march in D major, are followed by a triumphant conclusion in B major.
The Fantasy was written for Josef Slavík, one of the first great Czech virtuosi, who died in Budapest in 1833 at the age of 27. Slavík gave the first performance of the Fantasy in January 1828 with Carl Maria von Bocklet, when the demands it made on the audience persuaded some, including critics, to leave before the end, in spite of a virtuoso element in the writing, calculated to appeal to contemporary taste. The keys of the sections range from C major to A major and A minor and, for the third section, A flat major, before returning to the original key. This third section is a set of variations on the song Sei mir gegrüsst, written in 1821, allying the Fantasy with other chamber music works, the two string quartets and the Trout Quintet, that depend for their over-all effect so much on the inclusion of such variations. The third section of the Fantasy is clearly the heart of a work that is romantically brilliant in its achievement. It moves forward to a final Allegro vivace variation that brings with it the return of the theme.
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