Themes: Longing, Intensity, the Supernatural, Word Painting
Influence of Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 and Quartet Op. 131 in c# minor
Lieder, Schubertiades, Salon Life, Poetry, Literature and Goethe
“Gretchen im Spinnrade”, inspired by Goethe’s Faust (see lyrics)
Performed by Barbara Bonney
Wordpainting: Left hand, heartbeat; right hand, spinning wheel
“Erlkonig” (“The Erlking”) Poem by Goethe, Music by Schubert
1.The Narrator sings in the middle range and is in a minor key
2.The Father sings in the low range and sings both in major and minor, in a voice strong and consoling
3.The Son sings in a tense voice in a high range, in minor. A good singer will increase the level of agitation at each entrance.
4.The Erlking's vocal line, in major, undulates up and down toa broken chord accompaniment
5.The Erlking lines are typically sung in a seductive, soft and silky manner . The bright major key of these passages makes the horror of the story all the more acute.
Piano Works: Impromptus, Moment Musicales, Sonatas Oh, the riches that await you here! The Impromptus, Op. 90 offer a rich array of musical colors, with sunlight and shadow weaving throughout. No. 1 is a memorial to Beethoven, after Schubert had been a pall breaker for his hero's coffin. It begins as a funeral march and then melts into a second lyrical theme in Ab Major, ful of sublime consolation. No. 3 in Gb Major is an unbroken stream of exquisite "angel babble". My favorite piano sonatas are both in A Major. No. 13, the "Little" Op. 120 is a gem of perfection: a gracious and warm opening Allegro, an aching and yearning Andante (filled with more suspensions than you can count), and to end, a finale that encompasses the best of the gaiety of a whirling Viennese waltz. The "Late" A Major Sonata( D. 959) ends with a Rondo whose sunny, lyrical and easygoing theme takes on a surprising poignancy as it nears the end, and keeps stalling as if the dying composer were begging for just a little more time in this world. This piece brings a lump to my throat whenever I play it.
Chamber Music Works: Trios, Quartets, Quintets I especially commend to your attention the "Death and the Maiden" quartet, written as he himself was dying at an all too-young age.
Symphonies: Start with sunny and delightful No. 5 (in the style of Mozart and Haydn), move on to the powerfully dramatic and stormy “Unfinished” No.8, and then end with the “Great” No. 9 inspired by Beethoven’s 9th and rescued by Robert Schumann, who loved it in spite of its "heavenly length".
Born in 1797 in Vienna
Schoolmaster’s son- studied violin, viola and piano as a choirboy
One of 14 children, nine who died in infancy
Gained attention as a choirboy, scholarship to Imperial Seminary
Studied conducting, music theory and composition with Antonio Salieri (Mozart’s maligned rival in Amadeus, but widely considered the most gifted music teacher in Europe)
1813- Returned to father’s school to be a “resoundingly indifferent” tutor to small children
1814- Failing to produce proof of suitable income, his engagement to Therese Grob was dissolved
1816- Became dependent on friends for support
1818- Piano teacher and composer
1820’s- Arrested for suspicious political activity; Schubertiades
1827- Pallbearer for Beethoven’s funeral
1828- Schubert succumbs to syphilis. His final requests: to hear the last quartet of Beethoven and to be buried at his idol’s side
Schubert died relatively unknown- it takes the combined forces of Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms to bring his music to proper prominence forty years later, a position it has thankfully maintained ever since.
English Translation of Gretchen am Spinnrade
(original German by Goethe)
My peace is gone, My heart is heavy, I will find it never and never more. Where I do not have him, That is the grave, The whole world Is bitter to me. My poor head Is crazy to me, My poor mind Is torn apart.
For him only, I look Out the window Only for him do I go Out of the house. His tall walk, His noble figure, His mouth's smile, His eyes' power, And his mouth's Magic flow, His handclasp, and ah! his kiss!
My peace is gone, My heart is heavy, I will find it never and never more. My bosom urges itself toward him. Ah, might I grasp And hold him! And kiss him, As I would wish, At his kisses I should die!
Erlkonig (original German text by Goethe) Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear? The father it is, with his infant so dear; He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm, He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.
"My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?" "Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side! Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?" "My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."
"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me! For many a game I will play there with thee; On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold, My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."
"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?" "Be calm, dearest child, 'tis thy fancy deceives; 'Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves." "Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there? My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care; My daughters by night their glad festival keep, They'll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."
"My father, my father, and dost thou not see, How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?" "My darling, my darling, I see it aright, 'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight."
"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy! And if thou'rt unwilling, then force I'll employ." "My father, my father, he seizes me fast, For sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last." The father now gallops, with terror half wild, He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child; He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread, – The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.