A versatile, passionate musician, Mathieu Gaudet has pursued a remarkable career as a soloist, chamber musician, and conductor for the past 20 years. He commands a vast repertoire of works and has [...]
They spoke about it
Volume IV: Explorations
I was born for nothing
– 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