NOTES ON FRANZ SCHUBERT
The Unfinished Piano Sonatas by Bart Berman
Unlike his “Unfinished Symphony”, Schubert’s five unfinished piano sonatas contain all the movements he intended to compose, leaving one or two of them incomplete. It has been argued that Schubert - working simultaneously on various musical projects - lacked the motivation to finish these movements, either because he had no publisher for the sonatas at the time, or because no opportunity for their performance arose.
In each sonata, Schubert stopped composing only after he had already written down the essential thematic components of the piece, that is, the Exposition and the Development sections. Thus, most of the remaining melodic and harmonic material can be constructed with a considerable degree of probability, based on sonata-form conventions, and a familiarity with the composer’s own idiosyncrasies.
Until present times, the unfinished sonatas have remained remote from public awareness. Robert Schumann, who made a major contribution to Schubert’s posthumous fame by writing extolling articles, referred only to the finished piano sonatas while ignoring the unfinished ones. In brief, the unfinished sonatas have not received their well-deserved recognition. Thus, for example, these sonatas do not appear in the Schubert Complete-Works editions. And, when at all published, such editions are difficult to obtain.
Of his unfinished sonatas, only the last one, D 840, has gained considerable popularity. Possibly, it helped that the publisher dubbed the sonata Reliquie (Relic), a rather arbitrary designation. More injustice was done to these works in subsequent years; a certain publisher combined movements from two disparate sonatas and published them under the title Adagio and Rondo. He abridged the slow movement and changed its key in order to adjust it to its new, faster counterpart!
The musicologist Otto Erich Deutsch made order in this chaos, compiling the Deutsch Catalogue of Schubert’s oeuvre. Thereby, he paved the road for more reliable editions of the composer’s works, such as those discussed here. In addition to their intrinsic value, the unfinished sonatas can provide precious insight into the creative process of this all-important Romantic composer.
In 1978, while still in the Netherlands, I completed the unfinished piano sonata in C major, D 840. Later on, I also completed Schubert’s first four unfinished sonatas, taking into consideration Badura-Skoda's endings, which were published in 1979. These five sonatas and their endings have recently been released on a double CD by the Dutch Erasmus label [WVH 204-205]. The first public performance of the sonatas and their new endings took place at the Tel Aviv Musica Da Camera Festival in 1997.
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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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