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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUBERT: Piano Trios in B-Flat Major, D. 898 and D. 28
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Franz Schubert (1797 -1828)
Piano Trio in B Flat Major, D. 898
Piano Trio in B Flat Major (Sonata) D. 28
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster,
who had moved from Neudorf in Bohemia to join his brother in the same profession
in the imperial capital. Schubert's mother, who was to give birth to fourteen
children, of whom five survived, had been in domestic service in Vienna, where
her father, a locksmith, had moved to avoid creditors in his native Silesia.
From her he and his brothers seem to have inherited musical abilities,
encouraged by their father, an amateur cellist.
As a child Schubert was able to take part in family quartet-playing,
while his obvious gifts as a musician allowed him to become a choirboy in the
Imperial Chapel, a position that brought the privilege of a sound education at
the Staatskonvikt. At school he was a leading member of the orchestra, gaining
some familiarity with the standard repertoire of the time. At the same time he
was given a good general musical education and was able for some time to
continue lessons with the old Court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, from whom
Beethoven had earlier sought instruction.
When his voice broke in 1812, Schubert was offered a scholarship that
would have allowed him to complete his general education, but at the expense of
his increasingly exclusive musical interests. He chose not to take the
opportunity and left the Konvikt to study for a year at the Normal School for
the training of teachers, thereafter serving briefly and intermittently as an
assistant in his father's establishment, an obvious family obligation.
Schubert was never to occupy any official musical position in Vienna,
nor did he ever have at his disposal the kind of forces that Beethoven, for example,
could muster, with the aid of his aristocratic and royal patrons. Schubert's
life was passed with a circle of friends, with one or other of whom, he from
time to time lodged, to return, when occasion arose, to his father's
schoolhouse. Much of w hat he w rote was designed specifically for performance
at evening parties, informal concerts held in his friends' houses. It was only
towards the end of his life that publishers began to show an increased interest
in his music. Schubert died in 1828, as a result of venereal infection acquired
some six years earlier. In March that year came the only concert in his
life-time devoted to his music, an event that owed much to the generosity of
his friends and brought him reasonable profit.
The first surviving composition by Schubert for piano trio is the
single movement sonata movement in B flat, D. 28, written in 1812, the year of
his mother's death. On the precise dating of the two completed piano trios
there has been considerable argument. It now seems probable that they were both
written late in 1827.
The B flat Trio, D. 898, opens with a boldly cheerful first subject
played by violin and cello and repeated by the piano, leading to the cello
introduction of a second melody of lyrical charm, material treated within the
limits of traditional classical form, but with Schubert's usual adventurous
exploration of remoter keys. There follows a slow movement, in the key of E
flat, with the cello proposing the principal melody, to be taken up by the
violin and then by the piano. The gently introspective mood is interrupted by a
more ominous middle section, before the re-establishment of the feeling of the
opening and the return of the first melody.
The scherzo and trio, the latter with its thematic connection with the
preceding movement, are followed by a final rondo, in which the violin
announces the principal subject, leading to a first episode of more
aggressively dramatic outline and a return to the dactylic rhythm of the main
theme, its expected subsequent final appearance replaced by a rapid coda.
Stuttgart Piano Trio
Since its foundation in 1968 the Stuttgart Piano Trio has won a
considerable reputation for itself. In 1969 the Trio won the Mendelssohn
Competition in Berlin and the International Radio Competition in Munich and
since then has appeared in many of the leading cities of the world and at major
festivals. The violinist Rainer Kussmaul was born in Mannheim in 1952 and
trained in Stuttgart, later winning prizes in Montreal, Bucharest and Leipzig.
He plays a violin made by Andrea Guarnerius in Cremona in 1692. The cellist
Claus Kanngiesser joined the Trio in 1971, after study in Hamburg, where his
teachers included Zara Nelsova, and masterclasses with Gaspar Cassado and Pablo
Casals. He plays an instrument made in 1841 by Gian Francesco Pressenda. The
pianist Monika Leonhard includes among her teachers Michelangeli and Alfred
Brendel and completed her studies in Stuttgart in 1969.
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