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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Franz Schubert "In Camara" at the Gardner Museum

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The last of our posts using tracks from Boston's Gardner Museum Music Library is dedicated to the music of Franz Schubert, and features as pièce de résistance his quartet Death and the Maiden. This work is significant for several reasons. It is considered one of Schubert's finest chamber works, and it has always occupied a favored spot in the string quartet repertoire. The quartet is a striking reminder to those who like to pigeonhole Schubert as a miniaturist or as a "song composer": it stands alongside the "Unfinished" Symphony and the Wanderer-Fantasie as a testament to his sense of large-scale organization and to the promise unfulfilled as a result of his early death.

As morbid as it may seem today, preoccupation with death was quite fashionable in the nineteenth century. The Romantic movement in music, drama, art, and literature embraced the idea of death as transcendent and fulfilling rather than fearsome. Medical science was still in its infancy, and the only real cure for many illnesses was the end of life. Death was gentle. Death was peace. Death was an end to suffering.

Based on the opening theme from his song of the same name (1817), the String Quartet in D minor illustrates Schubert's sympathy for death. By appropriating the music of the song, Schubert also imbues the quartet with the sentiments of the original text, in which Death urges a frightened maiden to trust him: he means her no harm, and she will sleep soundly in his arms.

The works that precede the quartet are interesting as well. This Introduction and Variations on "Trockne Blumen" (the 18th song from his song cycle Die schöne Müllerin) apparently has no other purpose than to further explore his song's melody. “The Shepherd on the Rock” is Schubert second-to-last song, written for voice, piano, and clarinet obbligato. The piece is an extended and very sectional one, certainly every bit as much a work of chamber music as it is a lied in the true sense of the word. The Piano Trio in B flat major from 1827 is the first of two magnificent works in the genre with which Schubert filled the void in piano trio composition that had existed since Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio of 1811.

Happy Listening!

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Introduction and Variations on “Ihr Blumlein alle”, D. 802
Paula Robison. flute
Paavali Jumppanen, piano

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (“The Shepherd on the Rock”) for voice, clarinet, and piano, D. 965
Musicians from Marlboro

Trio in B-flat Major, D. 898
Eroica Trio

String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810 (“Death and the Maiden”)
Borromeo String Quartet

August 16 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "The Dark Continent" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more August 16 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Aug-13-2013 at 10:24 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music