About this Recording
8.570754 - SCHUBERT, F.: Flute and Piano Music - Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen / Arpeggione Sonata / Songs (arr. for flute) (Grodd, Napoli)
English  German 

Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Music for Flute and Piano

 

Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, and spent the greater part of his short life in the city. His parents had settled in Vienna, his father moving there from Moravia in 1783 to join his schoolmaster brother at a school in the suburb of Leopoldstadt and marrying in 1785 a woman who had her origins in Silesia and was to bear him fourteen children. Franz Schubert was the twelfth of these and the fourth to survive infancy. He began to learn the piano at the age of five, with the help of his brother Ignaz, twelve years his senior, and three years later started to learn the violin, while serving as a chorister at Liechtental church. From there he applied, on the recommendation of Antonio Salieri, to join the Imperial Chapel, into which he was accepted in October 1808, as a chorister, now allowed to study at the Akademisches Gymnasium, boarding at the Stadtkonvikt, his future education guaranteed.

During his schooldays Schubert formed friendships that he was to maintain for the rest of his life. After his voice broke in 1812, he was offered, as expected, a scholarship to enable him to continue his general education, but he chose, instead, to train as a primary school teacher, while devoting more time to music and, in particular, to composition, the art to which he was already making a prolific contribution. In 1815 he was able to join his father as an assistant teacher, but showed no great aptitude or liking for the work. Instead he was able to continue the earlier friendships he had formed at school and make new acquaintances. His meeting in 1816 with Franz von Schober allowed him to accept an invitation to live in the latter’s apartment, an arrangement that relieved him of the necessity of earning his keep in the schoolroom. In August 1817 he returned home again, when room was needed by Schober for his dying brother, and resumed his place, for the moment, in the classroom. The following summer he spent in part at Zseliz in Hungary as music tutor to the two daughters of Count Johann Karl Esterházy von Galánta, before returning to Vienna to lodge with a new friend, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, an arrangement that continued until near the end of 1820, after which Schubert spent some months living alone, now able to afford the necessary rent.

By this period of his life it seemed that Schubert was on the verge of solid success as a composer and musician. Thanks to his friends, in particular the older singer Johann Michael Vogl, a schoolfriend of Mozart’s pupil Süssmayr, Leopold von Sonnleithner and others, his music was winning an audience. There was collaboration with Schober on a new opera, later rejected by the Court Opera, but in other respects his name was becoming known as a composer beyond his immediate circle. He lodged once again with the Schobers in 1822 and 1823 and it was at this time that his health began to deteriorate, through a venereal infection that was then incurable. This illness overshadowed the remaining years of his life and was the cause of his early death. It has been thought that this was a direct consequence of the dissolute way of life into which Schober introduced him and which for a time alienated him from some of his former friends. The following years brought intermittent returns to his father’s house, since 1818 in the suburb of Rossau, and a continuation of social life that often centred on his own musical accomplishments and of his intense activity as a composer. In February 1828 the first public concert of his music was given in Vienna, an enterprise that proved financially successful, and he was able to spend the summer with friends, including Schober, before moving, in September, to the suburb of Wieden to stay with his brother Ferdinand, in the hope that his health might improve. Social activities continued, suggesting that he was unaware of the imminence of his death, but at the end of October he was taken ill at dinner and in the following days his condition became worse. He died on 19 November.

During Schubert’s final years publishers had started to show an interest in his work. He had fulfilled commissions for the theatre and delighted his friends with songs, piano pieces and chamber music. It was with his songs, above all, that Schubert won a lasting reputation and to this body of work that he made a contribution equally remarkable for its quality as for its quantity, with settings of poems by major and minor poets, a reflection of literary interests of the period. His gift for the invention of an apt and singable melody is reflected in much else that he wrote.

The arpeggione, a form of bowed guitar, was invented or at least constructed by the Viennese maker Johann Georg Staufer in 1823. The instrument had six strings, tuned like a guitar, and 24 metal frets fixed to the fingerboard. Its only exponent of significance was Vincenz Schuster, who published a tutor for the arpeggione with the firm of Diabelli. It was for Schuster that Schubert wrote the so-called Arpeggione Sonata, a work that now generally forms part of the cello or viola repertoire. It is here transcribed for flute and piano by Uwe Grodd. The first movement opens with a theme proposed by the piano and repeated by the flute, with a version of the melody that is slightly extended, leading to a second, livelier theme and the conclusion of the exposition, which is then repeated. Much of the earlier material re-appears in the central development, which ends with a brief cadenza that re-introduces the first theme in recapitulation. The Adagio, after a short piano introduction, offers a fine singing melody for the flute, which leads the way to the final Allegretto, opening with a lilting theme that shows all Schubert’s facility of invention. A contrasting D minor episode recalls the rhythm of the first movement, giving way again to the first theme. New melodic material appears before the return of the D minor episode, now in A minor, leading in turn to the return of the first theme.

The arrangements of six songs, two from the cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey) and four from the posthumous collection Schwanengesang (Swan Song), are by the Munich goldsmith and flautist Theobald Boehm, who, in the course of a long life, did much to develop the flute as a modern instrument. The flute versions of the songs find room for ornamentation and modest variation in their course. Winterreise was written in the early months of 1827, taking poems by Wilhelm Müller in which a disappointed lover sets out on his winter journey, leaving the town where his beloved lives. In Gute Nacht (Good Night) the lover bids a winter farewell to the town to which he had come in the hope of May. The second song taken from the cycle, Der Lindenbaum (The Linden Tree), recalls the tree at the town gates where he had carved his words of love. The song has, over the years, become as familiar as a folksong, recalled, for example, by Thomas Mann’s hero in The Magic Mountain, as he stumbles through the mud of the battlefield.

Schwanengesang was assembled from Schubert’s last songs by the publisher Tobias Haslinger and advertised for sale in May 1829. The first arrangement from these songs is of Das Fischermädchen (The Fishermaiden), a setting of a poem by Heine in which a lover invites a fishermaiden to his arms, his heart like the sea, with its storms and tides, and pearl in its depths. The well-known Ständchen (Serenade), a setting of a poem by Ludwig Rellstab, has the lover’s songs making their gentle way through the night to the beloved. Am Meer (By the Sea), a poem by Heine, recalls former happiness, as the lovers sat together in the evening by the sea, the man now cursing his beloved for the poison her tears have brought to his life. The group of song transcriptions ends with Die Taubenpost (The Carrier Pigeon), a setting of verse by Johann Gabriel Seidl, added by Haslinger to the groups of songs by Rellstab and Heine. In this, Schubert’s last song, the poet treasures the carrier pigeon, the symbol of his messages of love.

Variations on ‘Trockne Blumen’ from ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ is Schubert’s only original composition for the flute. The theme is from the eighteenth in the Wilhelm Müller cycle, Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill), a story of disappointed love, as the miller’s apprentice sets out into the world, leaving his beloved to her new suitor. The Variations date from January 1824 and the song cycle from October and November 1823. The Variations were probably written for the flautist Ferdinand Bogner and call for considerable virtuosity that changes the nature of the original song in which the lover muses on the flowers, now faded, that his beloved once gave him, finally changing in mood from minor to major in its second half. The Introduction, underpinned at first by Schubert’s characteristic dactylic rhythm, leads to the Theme, with a first variation in demisemiquavers, a second that makes much of octave passages in the piano and a third with cross-rhythms between flute and piano. The fourth variation gives the piano rapid arpeggio figuration and the fifth launches the flute into virtuoso agility. The sixth variation, in 3/8, with the suggested tempo of Allegro moderato, transfers the song to a triple metre and the seventh variation offers a sturdy march-like Allegro version of the theme, now in E major throughout.

Keith Anderson


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