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8.553255 - SCHUBERT: Piano Quintet, D. 667 / String Trio, D. 581
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
String Trio in B flat major, D. 581
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, who had moved from Neudorf in Bohemia to join his brother in the same profession in the imperial capital. Schubert's mother, who was to give birth to fourteen children, of whom five survived, had been in domestic service in Vienna, where her father, a locksmith, had moved to avoid creditors in his native Silesia. Prom her he and his brothers seem to have inherited musical abilities, encouraged by their father, an amateur cellist.
As a child Schubert was able to take part in family quartet-playing, while his obvious gifts as a musician allowed him to become a choirboy in the Imperial Chapel, a position that brought the privilege of a sound education at the Staatskonvikt. At school he was a leading member of the orchestra, gaining some familiarity with the standard repertoire of the time. At the same time he was given a good general musical education and was able for some time to continue lessons with the old Court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, from whom Beethoven had earlier sought instruction.
When his voice broke in 1812, Schubert was offered a scholarship that would have allowed him to complete his general education, but at the expense of his increasingly exclusive musical interests. He chose not to take the opportunity and left the Konvikt to study for a year at the Normal School for the training of teachers, thereafter serving briefly and intermittently as an assistant in his father's establishment, an obvious family obligation.
Schubert was never to occupy any official musical position in Vienna, nor did he ever have at his disposal the kind of forces that Beethoven, for example, could muster, with the aid of his aristocratic and royal patrons. Schubert's life was passed with a circle of friends, with one or other of whom he from time to time lodged, to return, when occasion arose, to his father's schoolhouse. Much of w hat he w rote was designed specifically for performance at evening parties, informal concerts held in his friends' houses. It was only towards the end of his life that publishers began to show an increased interest in his music. Schubert died in 1828, as a result of venereal infection acquired some six years earlier. In March that year came the only concert in his life-time devoted to his music, an event that owed much to the generosity of his friends and brought him reasonable profit.
The B Flat String Trio, D. 581, was written in September, 1817, a year after Schubert's first surviving attempt at the form, an incomplete B flat Trio started in 1816. The form itself, with violin, viola and cello, presents its own particular challenge. Haydn made significant use of it, and Mozart contributed a work in concertante style. Beethoven wrote string trios in both a four-movement form, the structural counterpart of the string quartet and in the six-movement divertimento style, with alternating dance-movements. Schubert takes the first as a model, with an opening movement of transparent texture that follows the pattern of a classical first movement, with a shift of mode and tonality in the central section, before the re-appearance of the principal theme in the original key. The F major slow movement allows fine interplay between the three instruments and is followed by a Minuet framing a contrasting E flat major Trio that allows the viola rather more prominence. The work ends with a charming rondo.
In March, 1817, Schubert met the distinguished singer Johann Michael Vogl at the house of his friend Schober. Vogl was to become a close friend of the composer and an important interpreter of many of his songs. In the summer of 1819 the two, curiously dissimilar in appearance and disparate age, set out to visit Vogl's native district of Steyr and it was there that Schubert set to work on the A major Piano Quintet, known from the theme and variations that form its fourth movement as The Traut Quintet. It was intended for Vogl's friend Sylvester Paumgartner, a local amateur who played wind instruments and the cello and held regular musical evenings at his house, and was completed in Vienna on the composers return there. At Paumgartners request the work is scored for the same instruments as Hummel's E flat Piano Quintet, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano. It seems that Paumgartner also suggested the use of the theme from Schubert's song Die Forelle (The Trout) for the fourth movement.
The delightful first movement has a characteristic principal melody, reminding us of Schubert's genius as a creator of songs, and leads through typically remoter keys during its idyllic progress. This is followed by a second, slower movement in the key of F major, in which the piano announces the first melody, leading to two other thematic elements in the more distant keys of F sharp minor and D major and to further harmonic complexity in deceptively simple guise. The third movement, a scherzo and trio, is followed by the famous theme and its five variations. The last movement re-establishes the original key of A major, adding a second theme that has about it touches of The Trout. The movement lacks a formal central development, but discusses the proposed thematic material in passing, providing a conclusion in the same happy mood with which the work had begun.
Ensemble Villa Musica
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