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Thread: Franz Schubert

  1. #361
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Schubert wrote so much damn music... I'll never hear it all.

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  3. #362
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post


    Schubert wrote so much damn music... I'll never hear it all.
    Mozart wrote even more! Perhaps we should stick to Webern!

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  5. #363
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    One of these days I'll get into Webern. And then back to Schubert the next.

  6. #364
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    I've just finished reading a book which was hard to put down, Ed Vulliamy's When Words Fail: A Life with Music, War and Peace. Mr. Vulliamy is a journalist who was primarily a war correspondent. His lifelong passion for music led him to write this book, part autobiography and traversal of history. He covers many conflicts, both from his time and before, relating them to culture, politics and history. The book covers many different kinds of music, but in terms of classical the two composers Vulliamy focusses on are Schubert and Shostakovich. One can be seen as the beginning of the end of the Enlightenment, the other as the end of it.

    Vulliamy starts the chapter on Schubert describing a performance of Winterreise. Its a sensitive description of each song on this journey from nothing into nothing, unremittingly bleak, filled with symbols of loneliness and death. He then relates this to the nihilistic outlook of the playwright Samuel Beckett, whose favourite composer was Schubert. Beckett considered Schubert a kindred spirit, a friend in suffering.

    Schubert described Winterreise as “a cycle of horrific songs.” Vulliamy says that the isolation lies more in Schubert’s music than in the poems by Wilhelm Müller, “Schubert is not setting the poetry - he is realizing it.” That makes me ask whether Schubert was to music as Stanislavsky was to acting?

    The pianist at that performance was Paul Lewis, one of Schubert's foremost interpreters today. A protege of Alfred Brendel, Lewis came from a working class background and talks of his experiences as a young musician. He gives many interesting insights into Schubert, one of the most elusive of all composers, including the relationship between him and Beethoven:

    We're all supposed to think that the Viennese classical era produced one tradition of music. But no: Beethoven always seems to find a way through, even to triumph. Schubert never does. He never finds a solution. At least, not after 1822 when he was diagnosed with syphilis. Everything then changes in the music, it becomes so bleak. Beethoven takes you through the shadow of the valley, but there's resolution in the end. Schubert not so - he takes you on a journey, and he leaves you nowhere.

    Lewis relates this to other works, including the late piano sonatas and 'Unfinished' Symphony. That work and the 'Reliquie' piano sonata, Vulliamy observes, share the same sense of tension found in Michelangelo's 'unfinished' statues of captives. They are trapped but struggle for eternity to be free from their existing forms.

    Earlier in the book, Lewis talks about playing the Sonata in A minor D784 to a group of children who had never heard it before. The pianist was surprised by their reaction:

    It was a concert for seven-and-eight-year-olds, and I played a passage from the A Minor...the "syphilis sonata" as I call it, bleakest of all. Why am I playing them this? I wondered - but no going back, it's the last movement, a cry of distress. They weren't prepared: I said, "I'm just going to play this to you, tell me what you think it means." And I couldn't believe what they came up with - "He sounds scared of something","He's running away","He's remembering another time." It was exactly what I'd spent years discovering. They'd never heard Schubert, but knew what he was trying to say. They understood the emotion, they heard it.

    Lewis is on the same page as Beckett was regarding Schubert, and indeed as Vulliamy is. To quote Lewis again:

    Beethoven is the most complete composer of all, because of this sense of resolution. But in my own life, I don't feel that I've arrived anywhere that is a culmination. I'm not sure there ever is such a place, and that is what makes Schubert the most human of all composers. The fact that there's no escape means it does not have to be as bleak as it appears. In real life, what do we escape from? Very little, and it's possible to come to terms with that.

    Reading this connected with my own experience of Schubert. Some aspects of it are really hard to take - the anguish and bleakness that Lewis talked of in terms of the late works - but I also see how it relates to life in a more mundane sense. Even in his less confronting pieces, there is a sense of the fragility and transience of life. Although this would all very much come to the fore in the music of later generations, the sense of economy and subtlety of Schubert's utterances only serve to strengthen the impact of his ideas. He achieves profundity using melodies which in other hands would come across as merely banal.

    The sense of doubt makes Schubert's music to be less of his time and more of our own time - one which Vulliamy traversed in his work, an era where certainty is but an illusion. Post-Holocaust, Post-Vietnam, Post-war on terror. So, if this is the end of the journey, where has it lead? Or is this yet another beginning to a better future? There's no answers to this, and therein lies the sense of including Schubert in this book that goes way beyond the confines of his small world and short life.
    Last edited by Sid James; Apr-26-2019 at 06:22.

  7. #365
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid James View Post
    I've just finished reading a book which was hard to put down, Ed Vulliamy's When Words Fail: A Life with Music, War and Peace. Mr. Vulliamy is a journalist who was primarily a war correspondent. His lifelong passion for music led him to write this book, part autobiography and traversal of history. He covers many conflicts, both from his time and before, relating them to culture, politics and history. The book covers many different kinds of music, but in terms of classical the two composers Vulliamy focusses on are Schubert and Shostakovich. One can be seen as the beginning of the end of the Enlightenment, the other as the end of it.

    Vulliamy starts the chapter on Schubert describing a performance of Winterreise. Its a sensitive description of each song on this journey from nothing into nothing, unremittingly bleak, filled with symbols of loneliness and death. He then relates this to the nihilistic outlook of the playwright Samuel Beckett, whose favourite composer was Schubert. Beckett considered Schubert a kindred spirit, a friend in suffering.

    Schubert described Winterreise as “a cycle of horrific songs.” Vulliamy says that the isolation lies more in Schubert’s music than in the poems by Wilhelm Müller, “Schubert is not setting the poetry - he is realizing it.” That makes me ask whether Schubert was to music as Stanislavsky was to acting?

    The pianist at that performance was Paul Lewis, one of Schubert's foremost interpreters today. A protege of Alfred Brendel, Lewis came from a working class background and talks of his experiences as a young musician. He gives many interesting insights into Schubert, one of the most elusive of all composers, including the relationship between him and Beethoven:

    We're all supposed to think that the Viennese classical era produced one tradition of music. But no: Beethoven always seems to find a way through, even to triumph. Schubert never does. He never finds a solution. At least, not after 1822 when he was diagnosed with syphilis. Everything then changes in the music, it becomes so bleak. Beethoven takes you through the shadow of the valley, but there's resolution in the end. Schubert not so - he takes you on a journey, and he leaves you nowhere.

    Lewis relates this to other works, including the late piano sonatas and 'Unfinished' Symphony. That work and the 'Reliquie' piano sonata, Vulliamy observes, share the same sense of tension found in Michelangelo's 'unfinished' statues of captives. They are trapped but struggle for eternity to be free from their existing forms.

    Earlier in the book, Lewis talks about playing the Sonata in A minor D784 to a group of children who had never heard it before. The pianist was surprised by their reaction:

    It was a concert for seven-and-eight-year-olds, and I played a passage from the A Minor...the "syphilis sonata" as I call it, bleakest of all. Why am I playing them this? I wondered - but no going back, it's the last movement, a cry of distress. They weren't prepared: I said, "I'm just going to play this to you, tell me what you think it means." And I couldn't believe what they came up with - "He sounds scared of something","He's running away","He's remembering another time." It was exactly what I'd spent years discovering. They'd never heard Schubert, but knew what he was trying to say. They understood the emotion, they heard it.

    Lewis is on the same page as Beckett was regarding Schubert, and indeed as Vulliamy is. To quote Lewis again:

    Beethoven is the most complete composer of all, because of this sense of resolution. But in my own life, I don't feel that I've arrived anywhere that is a culmination. I'm not sure there ever is such a place, and that is what makes Schubert the most human of all composers. The fact that there's no escape means it does not have to be as bleak as it appears. In real life, what do we escape from? Very little, and it's possible to come to terms with that.

    Reading this connected with my own experience of Schubert. Some aspects of it are really hard to take - the anguish and bleakness that Lewis talked of in terms of the late works - but I also see how it relates to life in a more mundane sense. Even in his less confronting pieces, there is a sense of the fragility and transience of life. Although this would all very much come to the fore in the music of later generations, the sense of economy and subtlety of Schubert's utterances only serve to strengthen the impact of his ideas. He achieves profundity using melodies which in other hands would come across as merely banal.

    The sense of doubt makes Schubert's music to be less of his time and more of our own time - one which Vulliamy traversed in his work, an era where certainty is but an illusion. Post-Holocaust, Post-Vietnam, Post-war on terror. So, if this is the end of the journey, where has it lead? Or is this yet another beginning to a better future? There's no answers to this, and therein lies the sense of including Schubert in this book that goes way beyond the confines of his small world and short life.
    Bravo. Fascinating and well said.
    "That's all Folks!"

  8. #366
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Bravo. Fascinating and well said.
    Thank you, however real credit is due to Vulliamy for his incisive interviews and analysis. The whole book has not only been informative but in many respects confirmed aspects of my own approach to music.

    I plan to do a similar write up on Shostakovich and put it on his thread here, but that will take time since three chapters are devoted to him. They cover the stories behind the 5th and 7th symphonies and also the operetta Moscow Cheryomushki. The chapter on the 7th is particularly interesting, since Vulliamy interviewed the surviving musicians from the Leningrad premiere, one of the key moments in music of the 20th century. Vulliamy scrapes away at the myths, controversies and ideologies in an attempt to come to the heart of the paradox which is Shostakovich.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    I'm not sure whether it has been mentioned in this thread, but Schubert has in recent years been the subject of a controversy involving his private life. It was discussed in the New York Times in this article.


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  11. #368
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Schubert remains one of the most elusive of all famous composers. There's little primary evidence (such as letters) remaining and most of the recollections by those who knew him where recorded decades after his death. His sexuality is still an open question. Its likely he had casual sex with women of low class - for example Vulliamy mentions a chambermaid called Pepi Pockelhofer - and even prostitutes, a number of accounts describe him visiting seedy parts of Vienna. There is conjecture about possible homosexuality or bisexuality. Like Beethoven, he admired noble women who where unattainable such as Caroline Eszterhazy who was like a confidante to him.

    Despite the uncertain details its clear that he wasn't interested in living a bourgeois lifestyle - marriage, children, a day job and so on. He loathed following his father's footsteps into teaching. He lived a life akin to the rock stars closer to our times, although he was only known to a small circle of friends and benefactors. His routine would be made up of composing during the day, performing at the gatherings known as Schubertiads in the evening and then socialising and drinking into the small hours. Periodically he would get cashed up with the sale of a set of songs and then blow it on parties. Its estimated that if he had kept a conservative budget, he could have lived comfortably like a lower level civil servant of the time.

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  13. #369
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    That Schubert led an unconventional life-style compared with some great composers is hardly "news". It's well known that he lived a largely bohemian style of existence, did not crave for a big reputation, was unlucky in love, earned very little during his lifetime, was little known outside of his small group of friends upon whom he often relied upon for both financial and moral support, that he picked up syphyllis at around age 25, that he wrote music at odd times of the day sometimes going into a kind of trance.

    His sexuality is an uncertain area, but he did attempt a marriage to a young lady (who was not of noble birth), but this all went awry before the marriage took place. Some of the murkier speculations in this area don't interest me.

    To leave things there is a pretty one-sided account of things, and to say the least hardly does justice to the man. He wrote a great deal of music of superlative quality, despite the several quite irritating comments to the contrary by a few people in another current thread. He revolutionised the genre of lieder, and made other worthy advances into the "romantic" era. In my estimation no other composer had the same high quality gifts of melody quite like Schubert's. Of all the great composers who died young, Schubert is the most outstanding in my view. This high opinion is shared by other classical music fans, as judged by the normally very high position achieved by Schubert in favourite composer polls.
    Last edited by Partita; Apr-30-2019 at 12:21.

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  15. #370
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Some time ago, on the old Amazon forum, we had a long series of games looking for the top ten works in every decade. Beethoven took all ten places in the 1800s, and all but one place in the 1810s. And then, in the 1820s:

    1 - Schubert: String Quintet in C major D.956 (1828)
    2 - Schubert: "Winterreise" D.911 (1827)
    3 - Beethoven: Symphony #9 in D minor Op.125 "Choral" (1824)
    4 - Beethoven: Piano Sonata #32 in C minor, Op.111 (1821-22)
    5 - Schubert: String Quartet #15 in G major D.887 (1826)
    6 - Beethoven: String Quartet #14 in C-sharp minor Op.131 (1826)
    7 - Beethoven: String Quartet #15 in A minor Op.132 (1825)
    8 - Schubert: Symphony #9 in C major D.944 "Great" (1826)
    9 - Beethoven: Piano Sonata #30 in E major Op.109 (1820)
    10 - Schubert: Fantasia in F minor for piano four hands D.940 (1828)

    I’d say any composer that can compete with late Beethoven on equal terms has got to be formidable indeed!

    The entire set of decade games can be seen here.


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  17. #371
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Must have been a controversial move putting Winterreise and the Quintet over Beethoven's 9th, but I would have done the same.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Hearing Artur Schnabel play Schubert has been a major revelation. I feel like I'm hearing this music for the first time, somehow.



    This is one I found particularly affecting.

    Has anyone else been listening to Schubert lately? I've been listening to this Schnabel box set all day, but now I feel like listening to one of the symphonies...

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Hearing Artur Schnabel play Schubert has been a major revelation. I feel like I'm hearing this music for the first time, somehow.



    This is one I found particularly affecting.

    Has anyone else been listening to Schubert lately? I've been listening to this Schnabel box set all day, but now I feel like listening to one of the symphonies...
    I will send you an interesting recording of Schubert 9 later.

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  23. #374
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Please do, that sounds great. Of the few Schubert 9ths that I've heard, one that I really like is Blomstedt/Staatskapelle Dresden.

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    Each and every piece this man wrote touches me... So you could call me a real fan. Dietrich Fischer Dieskau singing the Lieder , at least the two song cycles "Winterreise" and "Die schöne Müllerin" , I still haven't heard anyone interpret it as good as he does.
    The pianists interpretations... well for me Artur Schnabel and Alfred Brendel are the best I have heard

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