AN 2 9184 – Schubert  Intégrale des Sonates vol. 4 – Mathieu Gaudet

Schubert: The Complete Sonatas and Major Piano Works, Vol.4 - Explorations

Release date March 19, 2021
Album code AN 2 9184
Periods Romantic
Genres Piano

Album information

Volume IV: Explorations 

I was born for nothing
but composing. 

– Franz Schubert 


Between his early “post-Mozartean” sonatas  and late masterpieces of symphonic proportions,  Schubert spent the years 1817 and 1818 exploring the possibilities of the piano sonata, through  unusual harmonic relationships, intensive use  of trills, heightened virtuosity, lengthy chord  repetitions, and extreme dynamic contrasts.  The Sonata in F Minor, D. 625, is one of the  fi nest examples of this second manner, with its  committed Romanticism and quest for direct  emotional communication allied with robust  structural features. Its first movement, much like  the Sonata in F-sharp Minor, D. 571, stands as  one of Schubert’s most exquisitely lyrical works.  Its slow movement, an “Adagio” in D-fl at major,  succeeds in melding astonishing modulations in  its development section, while still maintaining  continuity of tone. The “Scherzo & Trio” in the  distant key of E major is among the composer’s  most energetic movements, alternating between  repeated chord progressions and meteoric  flights of scales. The final “Allegro” breaks out  in a breathless cavalcade interspersed with solemn chorale passages that acknowledge a  legacy of medieval European myths. 

In 1818, Schubert also produced the Fantasia in  C Major, unknown until its rediscovery in Graz  in 1962. This work prefigures its more expansive  sister, the Wanderer Fantasy of 1822, and  features a unifying theme varied and developed  in contrasting sections and ostentatious in its  virtuoso pianism, something rather foreign to  Schubert. Indeed, it may have been written, at  least in part, by his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner.  Nevertheless, it contains moments of pure bliss  that render it both touching and refreshing. 

Schubert composed dozens of easily accessible  dance books for amateurs or students, suitable  for social evenings when the din of conversation  occasionally overshadowed music-making. But  despite their function, for the most part they  are like little gems enclosing the essence of his  genius. The Three German Dances, D. 972 date  from 1823, and even though they each span only  two lines, they succeed in painting miniature  pictures wherein the song’s natural line is as  limpid as its rhythmic clarity. 

The Moments musicaux, D. 780, written in 1823  and 1824, represent Schubert’s first attempts at  the “song without words” genre, which eventually led to his eight Impromptus, D. 899 and  935 as well as the three Klavierstücke, D. 946.  Although it is a compendium of single pieces  assembled by a publisher, the cycle is nevertheless veiled in an aura of mysterious beauty that  has made it a favourite among both music lovers  and performers. 

From its outset, the graceful opening minuet  exudes a shifting harmonic atmosphere through  deft major-minor key alternations. Its trio is a  rich chorale that radiates twilight luminescence.  In the second part, Schubert explores different  facets of the human psyche, moving from a  meditation on a lullaby rhythm to a searing, pier cingly expressive melody in F-sharp minor. The  unexpected repeat of this melody, transformed  into a cry of despair from the depths of the  human soul, creates such a musical shock that  Mahler would emulate its effect in the “Andante  moderato” of his second symphony. The third  piece, like the Hungarian Melody, D. 817, seems  to spring from a minute music box complete with  hopping march rhythm and Eastern European  harmonies. The fourth Moment musical is a  tribute to Bach’s Two-Part Inventions, though  Schubert, as he often does, veils its discourse in  mystery. Its sublimely elegant trio bears witness  to the composer’s tenacious Viennese roots. The mad cavalcade that constitutes the fifth piece,  a formidable technical exercise, reinforces by  contrast the sublime poetry of the final move ment, a long, melancholy postlude built as if on  a succession of sighs, ample lyrical gestures,  and meaningful rests. It is like a key to the entire  work, an open window on Schubert’s soul and  a wonderful offering, brought back from a long  journey of inner exploration. 

© Mathieu Gaudet
Translation: Rachelle Taylor

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Mathieu Gaudet
AN 2 9184 – Schubert: The Complete Sonatas and Major Piano Works, Vol.4 – Explorations

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