NOTES ON FRANZ SCHUBERT
Questions by visitors to this website
What can be said about Schubert's setting of strophic poetry? (Jaepil Han, Australia)
BB: Nearly every poem set to music by Schubert has a strophic
form. The composer mostly “translates” this literary structure into
identical repeats, with repeat signs, for each strophe.
How does his work differ from that of earlier composers? (Jaepil Han, Australia)
BB: There can't be made a sharp definition of how Schubert's work differs from that of his predecessors. In many ways he is still a classical composer, and even, formwise, a more conservative composer than his admired co-Viennese, Beethoven.
Generally speaking, Schubert's innovations are in the realm of harmony and texture in the miniature pieces like Impromptus, rhetoric and drama in the Lieder, and the vast, even immense, theme groups which characterize his later sonatas, symphonies and chamber works.
What challenges does it offer to interpreters and what solutions would you recommend to these challenges? (Jaepil Han, Australia)
BB: The challanges of Schubert's music to interpreters are multifold. Technically speaking, some works exceeded the feasible for the players and singers of his era. The composer himself once exclaimed, according to the myth: “Das Zeug soll der Teufel spielen” (Such stuff the devil should play), when trying to get the finish line of his Wanderer Fantasy.
Even nowadays, a pianist, well-versed in Schumann and Brahms (who are considered to be more difficult Romantics than Schubert), will find many a page which tests his capabilities to the utmost. Yet, every performer will agree with me that even these considerable technical challanges are being dwarfed by the bewildering mystery of Schubert interpretation.
Bart Berman has answered so many more questions throughout the years that the NOTES ON FRANZ SCHUBERT website exists. I am trying to organize them and add them to this page, in July, 2003. In the meantime I present Bart Berman's analysis here, for which I still have to find a better place:
Seventeen German Dances, D 366
Schubert wrote his Seventeen German Dances D 366, sometimes called Ländler, German for Country Dances, between the years 1816-24. Eight of them (the first six dances, as well as nos. 12 and 15) were published in a separate edition by Diabelli in 1824. They were consequently arranged by Brahms for piano four-hands. A complete edition appeared in 1869. Interestingly, nos. 7 (albeit with certain changes) and 17 (virtually unaltered) can be found also among the composer’s own dances for piano duet D 618 and 814. This could be the reason behind their exclusion by Diabelli, the remaining ones being rejected perhaps for being unattractive in his judgment.
Schubert’s dances for piano can be roughly divided into two sub-genres: that of a veritable accompaniment for dancers on one hand, and that which constitutes an autonomous musical art form on the other, which sometimes even forgoes the principle of symmetrical measures. For example, the title of the Valses nobles, (D 969), is telling in this respect: the composer emphasizes that these waltzes are meant as noble art music, rather than for dancing. The D 366 Dances, belong to this category of art dances. Yet, they retain the joyful simplicity and the flavor of a “Schubertiade,” a musical gathering of Schubert’s friends, which concludes with all guests dancing to their beloved Franzl’s Ecossaises or Waltzes.
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NOTES ON FRANZ SCHUBERT
Analysis of Five Piano Duets
The Unfinished Piano Sonatas
Completing the Unfinished Sonatas
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