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ClassicsOnline Home » Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Schubert
Easy-Listening Piano Classics
The son of a schoolmaster who had settled in Vienna, Franz Schubert (1797–1828) was educated as a chorister of the imperial court chapel and later qualified as a schoolteacher, briefly and thereafter intermittently joining his father in the classroom. He spent his life largely in Vienna, enjoying the company of friends, but never holding any position in the musical establishment or attracting the kind of patronage that Beethoven had twenty years earlier. While Schubert’s work was admired by a close circle of friends and associates (including his teacher Antonio Salieri (1750–1825) and the prominent singer Johann Michael Vogl (1768–1840)) and some of his music was published during his lifetime, wider appreciation of his music was limited. Unable to secure adequate permanent employment, for most of his career he relied on the support of friends and family. Interest in Schubert’s work increased dramatically in the decades following his death, not least through the advocacy of Robert Schumann (1810–1856), and he is now acclaimed as one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. His final years were troubled by illness, as the result of a syphilitic infection, and he died in 1828, leaving much music unfinished. His gifts had been most notably expressed in song, but his talent for melody is always evident in his other compositions. As Leon Plantinga notes in Romantic Music: A History of Musical Style in Nineteenth-Century Europe: ‘In his more than six hundred lieder he explored and expanded the potentialities of the genre as no composer before him.’ These are notable for their highly-charged emotionalism, immeasurably enriched by Schubert’s expressive and at times experimental harmonies, not merely in their vocal lines but, perhaps more importantly, in their eloquent piano parts which may both illustrate dramatic situations and reveal psychological undercurrents. Indeed, many of his songs found new life as piano transcriptions by such great composers as Franz Liszt (1811–1886), Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) and Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943).
Schubert’s development as a composer progressed rapidly throughout his tragically short life. While taking as his starting point the Classical style of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), Schubert preferred spinning long-breathed Romantic melody rather than following the tightly argued harmonic drama of Classical sonata form; it’s no coincidence that some of his best loved works are variations. He also explored other harmonic relationships than the tonic-dominant pivot typical of the Classical style, giving his music a subtlety and power that would prove important for the Romantic composers who followed him.
Schubert’s compositions for piano include several sonatas, the Moments musicaux, two sets of Impromptus, and many other works. He also wrote a number of dances for piano, including Waltzes, Ländler and German Dances. The loss felt at his early death at 31 was touchingly expressed in the epitaph by the poet Franz Grillparzer for his tombstone: ‘Here music has buried a treasure, but even fairer hopes.’
If you’ve enjoyed this album, why not try these titles as well?
8.550259 SCHUBERT: 6 Moments Musicaux, D. 780 / 3 Piano Pieces, D. 946
8.550260 SCHUBERT: Impromptus (Complete)
8.557189 SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas Nos. 5, 7a, 11 and 12 (Fragments)
8.553235 SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas, D. 664, D. 537 and D. 960
8.553441 SCHUBERT: Piano Works for Four Hands, Vol. 2
8.554513 SCHUBERT: Piano Works for Four Hands, Vol. 3
8.555930 SCHUBERT: Piano Works for Four Hands, Vol. 4
8.555848 BRAHMS: Four-Hand Piano Music, Vol. 16
8.553062 LISZT: Schubert Song Transcriptions, Vol. 1
(Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 5)
8.554729 LISZT: Schubert Song Transcriptions, Vol. 2
(Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 17)
8.220093 RACHMANINOV: Piano Transcriptions
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Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Schubert