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Glazunov's Writings, Blog 7: For the Centenary of Schubert's Death - PART I

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This article was published in one of Leningrad's Academic journals in 1928, one of Glazunov's last written works before leaving the USSR to attend/adjudicate the competition for completing Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, and never to return to the USSR again.

Glazunov explained that the purpose of the article was to "remind Russian musicians of the global significance of the genius of Schubert and give ... the most concise description of his work. This is the reason for writing down the proposed short essay, and the extreme scarcity of literature on Schubert in Russian can serve as a sufficient justification for its publication."

Franz Schubert as Creator, Artist
and Great Engineer of Art (1928)

Franz Schubert, who created extensive musical literature, both vocal and instrumental, along with Beethoven - the greatest world genius of the first quarter of the XIX century.
His works are imbued with inexhaustible inspiration, vivid, distinctive character, indestructible strength and depth of thought and charming freshness of a healthy, eternally youthful content.
The short life of the great composer proceeded in southern Germany, populated by diverse nationalities, which undoubtedly had a wide influence on his creativity.
Without addressing the issue of national origin Schubert, I’ll say that he was bleeding many nationalities - German, Hungarian, and also Slavic, and to me, as a Slav, his music is all the more close. He is striking in his diversity and richness of content with impeccable technical invoice. You can name the works, for example many songs, and finally, the B minor and C major symphonies, in which the abyss of exciting moments and at the same time there is not a single measure that cannot be but admired.
It is wrong to propose the universal creator first and foremost, as the creator of the song, in which, of course, he is inimitable. He is no less out of reach as an instrumentalist and symphonist. It seems to me that these sides of his work are inextricably linked. In his instrumental works, Schubert widely used the melodic warehouse their wonderful songs. I can point to examples where he even borrows them entirely: Wanderer Phantasie for piano, variations in the posthumous Quartet on Der Tod und das Madchen, Forellen-Quintett 4, etc. Topics of a masculine Instrumental Character alternate in Schubert’s work with melodious soulful melodies, which his symphony predecessors do not observe to such an extent: this is a new word in the instrumental literature of that time, which left its mark on the works end of the XIX century (Tchaikovsky symphony).
The music of this comprehensive great genius draws attention not only to the wealth of melodic current, but also an inexhaustible source of bold and new harmonic techniques and polyphonic combinations; while a means to achieve the brightness of or other sound effects are mostly diatonic sequences of simple chords.
When you study Schubert’s works, you can never foresee what his modulation plan is.
Playing with a change of keys, sometimes climbing into very distant systems, Schubert unusually skillfully and naturally returns from his labyrinth to the original key, and in this area he is unparalleled.
I consider it a crime to do in his works, not so much longevity as grandiose, mechanical notes. The result is "divine lengths," while omissions of episodes in refreshing and revitalizing keys can be, however, shorter in time, but due to the inevitable prevalence of one and the same tonality, the harmonious orderly development of the plan is violated, and the impression is lethargic and unsatisfied, which is much worse than if the same length.
Like Mozart, Schubert already from infancy received musical baptism, and his compositional career was immediately clear.
Subsequently - a student of the famous Antonio Salieri, who was burning to understand secrets from his teacher creativity, grabbing his advice on the fly, Schubert under the leadership of the Maestro, during the 5 years of his stay at Convinct'e (a kind of singing chapel), the solid science of composition, perfectly learned the general bass (harmony) and the counterpoint of strict style.
Judging by the manuscripts, Schubert often resorted to the so-called numerical bass; the result of studying rigorously, the style is its bold, simple harmonization, sustained mainly on the modal sequence of triads.
Speaking about the texture, one cannot but mention the workmanship, powerful and colorful instrumentation in his orchestral and chamber works.
As for orchestral works, I doubt that Schubert had the opportunity to often hear them in concert, and I believe that, like the B minor and the C major symphonies, they lay in a hole until the discovering of them after a long period after the death of their author. Schubert’s orchestral techniques are new and at the same time very practical.
Due to the extraordinary power of creative flight he is not satisfied with the composition of the symphony orchestra of that time, and he uses trombones abundantly, achieving tremendous sonority thanks to the excellent arrangement of their voices. Until Schubert these instruments were not so widely used.
The principle of doubling woodwinds in melody solo, so familiar to Richard Wagner, was already known to Schubert. Very interesting and new to the first quarters of the 19th century combining French horns and bassoons in the beginning of the second part of the unfinished symphony and in the transition to a side part of the first part of the symphony, and also the use of horns in the introduction to the first parts of the C major symphony, where to these instruments, it seems that cantilena was first obtained with the participation of non-chord notes.
With regard to owning an orchestra, Schubert’s excellence is as original as his work, and makes up a significant portion of his all-encompassing talent.
Having inherited from his predecessors more from the outside than from the side of content, Schubert widely developed the vocal and instrumental forms. His romances strongly depart from the usual song storehouse, pouring into whole poems. Chamber and orchestral works, as mentioned above, amaze with grandeur of design.
Despite the scope of musical forms great symphonists created before the advent of Schubert, in unstoppable impulses of the world genius - their complete sovereign - fit into them.
A sensitive connoisseur of musical architecture, he created in addition to the development of the traditional form of variation, a new type of it is as a large composition for one constant theme in altered rhythms. A vivid example is the C major fantasy for piano.
Like the highest mountain peak, standing out lonely above the level of its compatriots, the genius of an unfinished symphony is inaccessible. It is significantly ahead of the era in which it was created, and its original the artistic appearance is almost inimitable.
It’s hard to establish Schubert’s continuity from any of the representatives of the preceding era - to such an extent it is brightly original. If we compare his work with the work of the genius, almost modern Schubert, Beethoven, then they have something in common not so much in essence, but by analogy with the methods of growth, leading to climax points.
The undoubted influence on the creativity of further generations of composers of Western and Eastern Europe should be attributed to the great genius of Schubert.
Oddly enough, but the southern German inspired his fellow tribe, the famous northerner Brahms.
Some works of the latter are piano the F minor quintet, piano waltzes and other compositions bear the imprint of the inspirational physiognomy.
Probably, he had the same effect on the music of the Hungarians and the southern Slavs - on Liszt and Dvorak. The Hungarian divertissement for piano four hands and frequent Slavic episodes scattered in Schubert’s numerous works could serve as samples for them.

--- To Be Continued --
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Updated Aug-19-2019 at 04:35 by Huilunsoittaja

Classical Music , Other , Composers , Literature