Since his first performances in Asia and the release of his first solo album in 2008, pianist Mathieu Gaudet has quickly established himself on the Canadian scene as a complete artist hailed for the [...]
They spoke about it
A word from Nadia Labrie
I have been thinking about this recording project for years. I have wanted to record Schubert’s most beautiful works ever since I played Introduction and Variations during my final exams at the Conservatoire over 20 years ago. In the intervening years, I read through the Arpeggione Sonata – a work that requires great breath control on flute – without ever having the opportunity to perform it. It remained a dream until the urge to expose listeners to this wonderful flute repertoire became simply too strong to resist. First of all, I needed a talented and virtuosic pianist, Introduction and Variations being extremely challenging for both instrumentalists. I immediately thought of Mathieu Gaudet, who is both passionate about Schubert and an old friend with whom I studied at Rimouski Conservatory. I discovered the Die Schöne Müllerin cycle, when it was my soundtrack during long nights studying natural sciences. I have always found this music inspiring, so I wanted to perform a flute and piano version of some of my favourites. Schubert’s music is so uplifting, so inspiring, so passionate – it taps into the soul, the voice, and the breath of life. I hope it will transport you. Enjoy! Nadia Labrie
The works on this recording are all related in some way to transcription, whether they be instrumental versions of vocal works, the flute transcription of a sonata for a now extinct instrument, or a keystone of the flute and piano repertoire, the Introduction and Variations, based on a lied theme. We thus embark on a discovery, or rediscovery, of these Franz Schubert masterpieces, from “Heidenröslen,” a lied he composed as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, to “Ständchen,” written just prior to his premature death at the age of 31.
Heidenröslein, Op. 3, No. 3, D. 257
“Heidenröslein” (Little Rose of the Heath), D. 257, is one of five lieder that Schubert composed on August 19, 1815 during a period of intense creativity in which he focused on strophic forms. Such forms present a stimulating compositional challenge – how does one write music that can be repeated for each verse yet still express each verse’s subtleties? The lied’s innocent character befits the ingenuity of Goethe’s poem, which tells of a boy who decides to pick a small heath rose even after it has threatened to prick him, “so you will never forget me.” The melody’s simplicity serves as a canvas for performers to paint on, emphasizing the particularities of each strophe as they see fit.
Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795
In the same year of 1815, young German poet Wilhelm Müller wrote in his diary, “I can neither play nor sing, yet when I write these verses, I sing and play all the same … But patience! There may be found a sympathetically tuned soul who will discover the melodies in the words and give them back to me.” He would never know that his wish had been fulfilled by a contemporary Austrian, Franz Schubert. In the spring of 1823, as Schubert was recovering from his first bout of syphilis, he began to set to music Müller’s poem cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Miller), written between 1817 and 1820. In it, Müller assumes the character of an apprentice miller, relating his travels, love, and sadness. The brook is a unifying element in the cycle, serving as a source of inspiration, a confidante, and a symbol of passing time. Schubert conveys this with a characteristic murmur of eighth- and sixteenth-notes in the piano, which can be heard in four of the five excerpts from the cycle on this recording.
Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen, in E Minor, D. 802
Schubert’s only work for flute and piano, Introduction and Variations (D. 802), was completed in January 1824 and likely came at the request of flautist Ferdinand Bogner. It is based on the theme of “Trockne Blumen” (Dried Flowers), the 18th lied in the Die Schöne Müllerin cycle (D. 795). While the introduction retains the lied’s funereal character, with its implacable repeated-note motif in the piano, this mood is already attenuated with the theme’s exposition, in particular through ornamentation of the melody. The variations leave the mournful character further behind to instead feature the flute’s various qualities, in particular its agility. All the variations but one are in duple meter and in either E major or E minor. The exception – variation six in C-sharp minor and 3/8 time – also differs in its somewhat Baroque character, largely evoked by the many imitative entries in the piano’s left hand, which bring to mind a basso continuo line.
Arpeggione Sonata, in A minor, D. 821
In November of the same year, Schubert wrote the Sonata in A minor (D. 821) for piano and arpeggione, a kind of cross between the guitar and viola da gamba invented in 1823 by Viennese luthier Johann Georg Staufer. The work was premiered before the end of 1824 – Schubert at the piano – by guitarist, cellist, and composer Vincenz Schuster, who contributed greatly to popularizing the arpeggione. Since then, many instruments have appropriated this sonata, making it one of Schubert’s best-known works. The first movement’s rather melancholy A-minor opening theme soon makes way for a more optimistic second theme, a distinctive sixteenth-note figure that turns stubbornly around the same note and tossed back and forth between flute and piano. Employed extensively in the movement’s development, this motif is also recalled in one of the third movement’s interludes, a warm rondo in A major.
Ave Maria! – Ellen’s Gesang III, Op. 52, No. 6, D. 839
“Ellens Gesang III” (Ellen’s Third Song), D.839, now usually referred to as Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” is one of seven lieder and choral works composed in 1825 on portions of Walter Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake, translated into German by Adam Storck. In a letter to his father, Schubert wrote this about the lied: “They … wondered greatly at my piety, which I expressed in a hymn to the Holy Virgin and which, it appears, grips every soul and turns it to devotion. Perhaps this is because I never force devotion on myself, and I never set out to compose such hymns or prayers except when the feeling and spirit of devotion is spontaneous; hence, my devotion is usually sincere and genuine.”
Schwanengesang, D. 957 | Ständchen (Serenade)
Written between August and October 1828, “Ständchen” (Serenade) is one of 14 lieder that Schubert’s editor collected under the title Schwanengesang (Swan Song), D. 957, after his death on November 18, 1828. Of these, seven were set to poems by Ludwig Rellstab, including “Ständchen.” The tender and wistful melody unfolds over a lute-like piano accompaniment, oscillating between major and minor modes. After a somewhat tormented passage at the start of the last verse, the song recovers its composure, and the lied concludes softly in the piano, like a final entreaty dying away into the night.
© Florence Brassard
English translation: Peter Christensen