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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUBERT, F.: Piano Works for Four Hands, Vol. 3 (Jando, Kollar)
By Olin Chism
Dallas Morning News and Orlando Sentinel
"Many composers have written piano duets, but the greatest and most consistent was probably Schubert. Only Mozart, who composed fewer, is in his league. Schubert's output may be explained by the fact that he had few opportunities for orchestral performances during his lifetime.
Naxos is releasing a series of CDs devoted to Schubert's piano-duet music. The third volume, with Jeno Jand and Zsuzsa Kollar as the performers, is a good survey of the variety of Schubert's output.
One of the pieces is great: the Fantasy in F minor, D. 940. This 17-minute work approaches the profundity of Schubert's last piano sonatas, with wonderful melodic material and a sense of melancholy lurking under the surface.
The seven smaller pieces are not profound, though they are always tuneful and listenable. The pianists are solid. Mr. Jando is notable for his many distinguished recordings for Naxos."
The pianists are solid. Mr. Jando is notable for his many distinguished recordings for Naxos."
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Overture in F major, Op. 34, D. 675 • Fantasie in F minor,
Op. 103, D. 940 • Deutscher with Trios and Two Ländler, D. 618 • Variations on
an Original Theme, Op. 82 No. 2, D. 968a
Trois Marches héroïques, Op. 27, D. 602
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a
schoolmaster, and spent the greater part of his short life in the city. His
parents had settled in Vienna, his father moving there from Moravia in 1783 to
join his schoolmaster brother at a school in the suburb of Leopoldstadt and
marrying in 1785 a woman who had her origins in Silesia and was to bear him
fourteen children. Franz Schubert was the twelfth of these and the fourth to
survive infancy. He began to learn the piano at the age of five, with the help
of his brother Ignaz, twelve years his senior, and three years later started to
learn the violin, while serving as a chorister at Liechtental church. From
there he applied, on the recommendation of Antonio Salieri, to join the
Imperial Chapel, into which he was accepted in October 1808, as a chorister now
allowed to study at the Akademisches Gymnasium, boarding at the Stadtkonvikt,
his future education guaranteed.
During his schooldays Schubert formed friendships that he
was to maintain for the rest of his life. After his voice broke in 1812, he was
offered, as expected, a scholarship to enable him to continue his general
education, but he chose instead to train as a primary school teacher, while
devoting more time to music and, in particular, to composition, the art to
which he was already making a prolific contribution. In 1815 he joined his
father as an assistant teacher, but showed no great aptitude or liking for the
work. Instead he was able to continue the earlier friendships he had formed at
school and form new acquaintances. His meeting in 1816 with Franz von Schober
allowed him to accept an invitation to live in the latter’s apartment, an
arrangement that relieved him of the necessity of earning his keep in the
schoolroom. In August 1817 he returned home again, when room was needed by
Schober for his dying brother, and resumed his place, for the moment, in the
classroom. The following summer he spent in part at Zseliz in Hungary as music
tutor to the two daughters of Count Johann Karl Esterházy von Galánta, before
returning to Vienna to lodge with a new friend, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, an
arrangement that continued until near the end of 1820, after which Schubert
spent some months living alone, now able to afford the necessary rent.
By this period of his life it seemed that Schubert was on
the verge of solid success as a composer and musician. Thanks to his friends,
in particular the older singer Johann Michael Vogl, Leopold von Sonnleithner
and others, his music was winning an audience. There was collaboration with
Schober on a new opera, later rejected by the Court Opera, but in other
respects his name was becoming known as a composer, beyond his immediate
circle. He lodged once again with the Schobers in 1822 and 1823 and it was at
this time that his health began to deteriorate, through a venereal infection
that was then incurable. This illness overshadowed the remaining years of his
life and was the cause of his early death. It has been thought a direct
consequence of the dissolute way of life into which Schober introduced him and
which for a time alienated him from some of his former friends. The following
years brought intermittent returns to his father’s house, and a continuation of
social life that often centred on his own musical accomplishments and of his
intense activity as a composer. In February 1828 the first public concert of
his music was given in Vienna, an enterprise that proved financially
successful, and he was able to spend the summer with friends, including
Schober, before moving, in September, to the suburb of Wieden to stay with his
brother Ferdinand, in the hope that his health might improve. Social activities
continued, suggesting that he was unaware of the imminence of his death, but at
the end of October he was taken ill at dinner and in the following days his
condition became worse. He died on 19th November.
In the summer of 1819 Schubert had accompanied Vogl on a
visit to Steyr and to Linz, an excursion that had its direct musical result in
the Trout Quintet, written for friends in the former town. In Vienna again he
began in November his fifth setting of the Mass and completed settings of poems
by Goethe and Schiller. It was the same period that probably saw the
composition of the piano duet Overture in F major, D. 675, the only one of his
four duet overtures that was not a transcription of an orchestral work. The
Overture starts in F minor with a strongly marked dramatic Adagio, before an
Allegro that introduces the principal thematic material, leading to a rapid
concluding passage in a furious 6/8 metre. The work was published in 1825 as
the composer’s opus 34.
The very much more substantial Fantasie in F minor, D. 940,
was written between January and April in 1828, the last year of Schubert’s
life, and published posthumously the following year as opus 103. It was
dedicated to Caroline, Countess Esterházy, the younger of the two daughters of
Johann Karl Count Esterházy of Galánta, a kinsman of Haydn’s patrons, whom
Schubert had taught during summer months at Zseliz in 1818 and 1824, remaining
in contact with the family when they were in Vienna. The Fantasie marks the
height of his achievement in this genre. It opens in a poignant F minor, with
the opening melody soon briefly transformed into F major, before the reassertion
of the original minor. There is a shaft of sunlight again before the second
section, marked Largo and in F sharp minor, leading to a singing major key
melody. The stark dotted rhythms give way to an Allegro vivace, with a D major
trio. The final section brings a return of the poignant F minor melody of the
opening and a contrapuntal continuation, before the work comes to an end.
The Deutscher were written in 1818, characteristic of music
that had a defined social purpose. The dance frames two trios, the second in a
contrasting C major, before the original key of G returns in the repeated
opening dance. The following Ländler are not so designated but are clearly in
the form of that dance. These works were not published until 1909.
Schubert’s Variations on an Original Theme, D. 968a, were
presumably written in 1818 or 1824, although some have doubted their
authenticity. The work was presumably intended for his pupils at Zseliz, one of
a series of such compositions for the two Esterházy girls. It was first
published in 1860. There is an Introduction, ending in a short cadenza for the
upper player and followed by the simple theme. The first variation is
characterized by triplet rhythms, with the second in more rapid figuration. The
third variation is aptly marked Brillante and followed by a slower version of
the material. The variations end with a lively Finale.
The Trois Marches héroïques, D. 602, were intended for a
similar purpose and may be dated either to 1818 or 1824. They were published in
the latter year. The first March, in B minor, uses material that had been
written in 1816 for an uncompleted setting for voices and piano of Schiller’s
Die Schlacht. The three Marches follow the expected form and rhythm, each with
a contrasting trio section.
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