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Thread: Franz Schubert - The piano sonatas

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Franz Schubert - The piano sonatas

    Hello!

    A very long Schubert's piano sonatas were neglected in the world-wide concert-life. We have to thank Svjatoslav Richter and Alfred Brendel who were true pioneers to lift them up onto the stage.

    What was the reason for getting lost? Musical value? Too intimate that they were not suitable for perfomances?

    For me the sonatas are somehow the inner light of Schubert. They vary between ppp too ff... But especially the great nuances in the piano are so remarkable.
    His melody-lines lead to a sense of infinity, and they open a door to a world behind this visable reality.
    For example in the last Sonata D960, B-flat-major, in the 2nd movement, you can hear the sighing, searching human, in the background the calling bells of another world.

    Playing Schubert oneself, is more than medicine, it is the contact to pure human sensibility.

    What do think?

    Daniel

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    I agree so far, I have only heard sonatas 4 and 17

    But so far out of all my exploration I have a soft spot for Schubert, it is so.. deep somehow if that makes sense.

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    I don't want to beat a dead horse.. But the reason why they are neglected because people in 19th-century think that they are inferior with the sonatas of Beethoven (which is bs, btw), too long (bs, again), unpianistic (bs) and too intimate. Schumann criticized the last three piano sonatas in that regard, while Brahms was fascinated with them.

    It's actually Schnabel who championed the sonatas in 20th century and he was the first to play the whole D.958, D.959 and D.960 sonatas in a recital. We should be thankful to him! What a great guy..

    In my part, I prefer Schubert's sonatas to Beethoven, while the last one in B-flat major is my all-time favorite piano piece..

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Lightbulb

    The sonatas were 'neglected' because Schubert didn't get them published, and the manuscripts were stashed away for some time after his death. Even after they were found they were mostly unplayed before Schnabel, because of the tendency of the virtuosi to perform mostly their own compositions. You can Google for details.


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    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    @hiltroll

    I know what I'm saying..

    From Wikipedia:


    Furthermore, like the rest of Schubert's piano sonatas, they were mostly neglected during the entire 19th century, and have only gradually achieved public appreciation, after more than 100 years since their composition.

    One of the reasons for the long period of neglect of Schubert's piano sonatas seem to be their dismissal as structurally and dramatically inferior when compared to the famous sonatas of Beethoven....

    Schubert's piano sonatas seem to have been mostly neglected during the entire nineteenth century, often dismissed for being too long, lacking in formal coherence, being un-pianistic, etc.... Schumann, the last sonatas' dedicatee, reviewed the works in his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in 1838, upon their publication. He seems to have been largely disappointed by the sonatas, criticizing their "much greater simplicity of invention" and Schubert's "voluntary renunciation of shining novelty, where he usually sets himself such high standards", and claiming the sonatas "ripple along from page to page as if without end, never in doubt as to how to continue, always musical and singable, interrupted here and there by stirrings of some vehemence which, however, are rapidly stilled". Schumann's criticism seems to fit the general negative attitude maintained towards these works during the nineteenth century.


    Read more here:

    The fairly lengthy article discuss how Schubert's B-flat major influenced Brahms, the championing of Schnabel, the issue of repeats, comparison with Beethoveen and etc..

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    I was actually introduced rather early to Schubert's piano sonatas in my exploration of classical music. A friend helped guide me from one composer to another as I tried new things and told him what I liked.

    I thoroughly enjoy his piano sonatas. I have the entire cycle by Wilhelm Kempff, which is great. I could care less how they stack up to Beethoven - liking one has no influence on the other. Schubert gets a bit neglected in my listening, but from time to time I go back to him, and am amazed at what I hear.

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    I place many others Piano/Keyboard Sonatas ahead of Schubert's, but I do enjoy occasional forays into Lewis, Lupu, Sokolov, and Uchida, with 70's Brendel for complete Impromptus.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peeyaj View Post
    @hiltroll

    I know what I'm saying..
    And I agree with you. The main reason why Schubert's piano sonatas were not popular in the 19th Century is because they were not considered to be that good, especially in regard to Beethoven's. People thought that Schubert's works were defective and that he didn't know what he was doing on account of his apparently idiosyncratic pace, use of many repetitions, and his long and drawn out landscapes especially in the last movements.

    Of course, with hindsight, Schubert knew exactly what he was doing, but it wasn't until famous pianists like Schnabel, Fischer, Gilels, Serkin, Curzon, Haskill, Kempff, Brendel and others championed his works that these long-standing prejudices began to break down. Thereafter, Schubert's piano composition skills became steadily more accepted, until today he is considered to be among the best composers in this genre.

    I now prefer Schubert's piano solo work to most others, including Beethoven. They may possibly be rather less technically polished than some of Beethoven's, but that's of small value to me compared with the extra depth, poetry, and feeling in Schubert's sonatas. They suit my temperament and provide more of what I want out of classical music, and are a tonic to listen to.

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    I'm not totally sure why Schubert's sonatas weren't as popular in earlier days, although I am sure glad they are now! The B flat is tremendous, and all the others are wonderful, too. I cannot say I like them more than the Beethoven sonatas, but I also cannot say vice versa... Not because of how standard Beethoven's sonatas are, but because and only because of how they appeal to me. Sure, Op. 53 is played a lot, but it is really beautiful and wonderful, is it not?

    However, Schubert may now be my favorite composer, and listening to his lieder and chamber music really has helped me to understand his piano sonatas (and listening to songs and chamber music has helped me to understand solo piano music in general).

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    Some awesome box sets are out there -- 2 recent releases: Andras Schiff and Alfred Brendel.

    The sonatas are amazing pieces to get to know, and they are so rewarding to play. If you play them for an audience, the audience needs to be willing to go on a long, winding journey with you.

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    Schubert's piano sonatas are wonderful, but they are not superior to Beethoven's sonatas. No way. Beethoven's greatest compositions may very well have been his sonatas, and the late works achieve a spiritual solemnity that no one has ever matched, in my opinion. The Arietta of his last piano sonata and the slow movement of the Hammerklavier are miraculous! I agree that Schubert's sonatas were unjustly ignored for far too long, but that doesn't mean they are greater than Beethoven's. Ludwig, without question in my opinion, was the greatest composer of piano sonatas of all time. It isn't even close.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    The sonatas were 'neglected' because Schubert didn't get them published, and the manuscripts were stashed away for some time after his death. Even after they were found they were mostly unplayed before Schnabel, because of the tendency of the virtuosi to perform mostly their own compositions. You can Google for details.


    Only the 3 last sonatas 10 years after death... The other sonatas were not more successful therefore...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    I place many others Piano/Keyboard Sonatas ahead of Schubert's, but I do enjoy occasional forays into Lewis, Lupu, Sokolov, and Uchida, with 70's Brendel for complete Impromptus.
    I saw Sokolov quite recently and was blown away by the interpretation of the D845! A real great little man

    Thumbs up for Uchida!!!

    I prefer Lupu for the Impromptus...unrivalled!

    Brendel is really great too! I have his lives... they are gigantic!

    And still forgotten Arrau (why is Arrau so rarely mentioned!), listen to the final sessions....

    I love Schubert...

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