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The Piano Works of Schubert Eva Badura-Skoda
As a truly great composer of instrumental music Franz Schubert was surprisingly little known in his lifetime. It is also remarkable how slowly and reluctantly after his death the greatness of even his finest instrumental works was acknowledged. In this regard, examples can be found especially among Schubert's piano sonatas.
Shortly after World War II, a young Austrian pianist traveling through Latin American countries visited a music club. There he was asked to play unknown Austrian music. He immediately sat down and played early piano sonatas by Schubert. All musicians in the room had to agree that they never before had heard the sonatas and that these works, though unknown, were beautiful indeed. Such an event could still occur today, though the popularity of Schubert's piano music has grown tremendously during the last decades. Only half a century ago, the popular English music critic Hubert Parry did not hesitate to issue the verdict that “Schubert's movements [for piano]are in varying degrees diffuse in form, slipshod in craftmanship and unequal in content.” Nowadays this criticism is rather unlikely to be expressed, and statements of this kind presumably will never be made again.
The change in the doctrinaire assessment of Schubert's piano music, common especially in English-speaking countries, began to manifest itself with the appearance in 1928 of Sir Donald Tovey's essay “Tonality," in which he observed that an important motivation in Schubert's sonatas was key relationship. With this pronouncement, Tovey “in one stroke opened worlds of significance in these works: he suggested that the intellectual drive behind them need not be sought solely in theme manipulation, or in the Beethoven architectural schemes; it may be found equally in Schubert's patterns of modulation, in the juxtaposition and combination of the tonal colors implied by the key in which he was composing."
In spite of Tovey's enthusiasm for Schubert and the increasing awareness of Schubert's greatness after 1928, the commemorative year of his death, several decades passed before Schubert's piano sonatas appeared regularly on concert programs. Though today many pianists and piano teachers throughout the world admire and sometimes also play Schubert's piano music (though usually only the late masterpieces), the average pianist is still not accustomed to consider more than six or seven Schubert sonatas to be worth hearing frequently. Fortunately, pianists now may have at their disposal one of the reliable critical editions that were published during the last few decades, and they probably also own one or the other recording of Schubert sonatas. They even may have read through all sonatas in the Henle three-volume Urtext edition in a quiet hour or two. Rarely, however, do we come across a pianist who has performed all twenty Schubert sonatas in a concert cycle, and an even greater rarity is a complete recording of all the Schubert sonatas.
Because of the rather late acknowledgement of Schubert's great achievements as an instrumental composer, it may sound bold to state that Schubert's piano music somehow ranks in importance with that of Beethoven (for example, the Hammerklavier Sonata or the Sonata op. 111). If, however, we consider Beethoven's output as of 1802, when he reached the age of thirty-two (Schubert died two months short of thirty-two), the body of Beethoven's piano works might appear less significant than that of Schubert. Since Beethoven started at age twenty-six to give opus numbers only to those works that he found worthy of preservation, his list contains thirty-two masterpieces. On the other hand, Schubert never found himself in a position to make as careful a selection, and his twenty (or twenty-one) sonatas that can be performed today include a number of unfinished works as well as some early sonatas with which he probably would not have been satisfied in later years. Still, even the earliest completed sonata, the one in E major D 157, deserves to be played much more frequently than before, since it already displays typically Schubertian stylistic features and beauties, especially in the second movement in E minor, with its lovely melancholic siciliano character and its mood of "tearful smiling." The first movement (it was his second attempt to master the problems of sonata form; the fragment D 154 survives as a kind of draft for this movement) may still be open to some criticism. However, the second movement makes up for that, and among the other seldom-heard early sonatas are other masterpieces worthy of being discovered by every music lover.
Apparently Schubert had managed in a totally independent way to develop, during his apprenticeship years prior to 1815, an idiomatic style of writing for voice and for piano. This process took place mainly in the accompaniments of his songs. His way of expressing feelings-evoked through texts that inspired him to compose a poem or a ballade-in the piano parts of his lieder soon became a signpost of his style, a far cry from the simple continuo accompaniment typical of earlier songs. Truthfully painting the contents of the poems by means of colorful harmonic progressions and carefully fashioned motives and melodies, early on Schubert composed for the piano in an advanced, newly developed pianistic idiom. His vocal parts, too, sounded more and more natural; the declamation of the words always seemed to guide his melodic invention; and the melodies found their way from the vocal parts into the piano parts. They are sometimes charming, sad, or melancholic, sometimes simply heartwarming; sometimes, too, there are highly dramatic outcries as in the celebrated early masterpieces "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Erlkönig." The narration of "Erlkönig" completely grips the listener, who can vividly "hear" or sense the galloping horse and the storm in the piano accompaniment, as well as the fear of the child, the shudder of the father and the dialogue-all of which becomes an organic unity. In a similar compelling manner, “Gretchen am Spinnrade" depicts in the accompaniment the incessant turning of the spinning wheel, which stops only when Gretchen is overwhelmed by her emotions. This song, too, would not be as convincing a masterpiece if Schubert had not given the accompaniment such a decisive role.
These two masterpieces were written in 1814 and 1815 respectively. In 1815, Schubert finally managed to escape from the schoolhouse and the teaching profession, which had been an unbearable burden for him. From this year onward Schubert composed piano sonatas in an idiomatic pianistic style that reveals how effectively and innovatively he could write for this instrument. Thus, at the age of eighteen Schubert was already frequently able to express musically his most personal feelings often in such a direct and truthful way that no musical listener could or can remain untouched.
As recent research has shown, Schubert's destiny to become a musician was decided in 1804, when at the age of seven he passed a preliminary examination held by Salieri for candidates for the position of choirboy in the Court Chapel in Vienna (not as hitherto believed as late as 1808, when at the age of eleven Schubert passed the final entrance examination). From that date in October 1804 onward, his father knew that by studying music seriously the child could receive an excellent education free of charge. He let the child learn not only singing and composition but also piano and violin playing, for all these abilities were expected of choirboys in the Imperial Court Chapel. Schubert's first piano teacher seems to have been his brother Ignaz (twelve years older and hunchbacked, deprived of the then considerable privileges of a legitimate child since he had been born only two months after the marriage of his parents-what a fate!) and Michael Holzer, the Regens Chori at the nearby Lichtenthal Church, who taught the child all he knew about singing and composition. He became probably the most influential teacher during Schubert's childhood years.
Schubert's very first known composition, dating from the year 1810, is a Fantasy for piano duet in G major D 1 (sometimes confused with the Leichenfantasie or Fantasy of a Corpse). This Fantasy is apparently not much more than a composition study but shows Schubert's interest in all kinds of chamber music. More interesting is the second Fantasy for piano duet in G minor D 9 from 1811, though this piece still seems to be not much more than a student's essay in composition. Extant short pieces for piano solo of these apprenticeship years include the Fantasy in C minor D 2E; among other works (D 19B, D 128, D 21, D 22, D 24A-D, D 25, mainly dances but also two variation sets and counterpoint exercises), are several that seem to be lost.
In 1811 Schubert entered the Imperial Court Chapel as a choirboy, thus gaining a free place in the kaiserlich-königliches Stadtkonvikt, an excellent boarding school where he received further musical instruction from the pianist Wenzel Ruziczka. Some fugal expositions and variation movements were written in the following years, but Schubert's pianistic style developed more clearly in his songs and “solo-cantatas”: During these early adolescent years, mainly between 1811 and 1816, Schubert composed his longest monodic songs. Though we naturally also find some strophic settings among the songs composed in these years, most of the early lieder were ballades. And though some ballades remind music historians that in the Konvict Schubert encountered the songs and “solo cantatas” of a minor German composer named J. R. Zumsteeg, Schubert's ballades stand remarkably apart: The piano accompaniment is no longer a progression of simple chords but assumes a new musical significance; now the pianist acts as a real partner of the singer. In this way, Schubert's pianistic style reached its first level of excellence.
Schubert's works for piano solo can be grouped into four categories: sonatas, fantasies, shorter piano pieces, and dances. Of these, the sonatas are undoubtedly the most important and profound works of his pianistic output, while the dances, mostly Ländler, Deutsche, and waltzes, are somehow less significant, often bordering on popular music. Yet they should not be discounted: Their graceful charm antedates the symphonic waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr., and more than once they contain daring innovations that apparently served Schubert as "guinea pigs” for works of symphonic complexity. Thus, the Scherzo of the D-minor String Quartet can be traced back to the Ländler in G-sharp minor D 790/No. 6. Despite the charm and beauty of many of these dances, in the present essay we shall concentrate on the first three categories.
A survey of Schubert's sonatas shows that they can be divided into three groups. The first group of ten sonatas was written between 1815 and 1818, when Schubert was aged eighteen to twenty-one. These early works are still widely and unjustly neglected. The Sonata in A Major D 664, composed in 1819, links the first and the second group of sonatas. The second group was written in the years between 1823 and 1826 and was preceded in 1822 by the famous Wanderer Fantasy, which is most important as a turning point in the development of Schubert's mature pianistic style (it will be discussed later with the other fantasies, though-with some justification-it was once described as a "sonata in four movements with no pauses in between"). The last group of three sonatas represents one of the greatest miracles of creativity in the history of Occidental music: The autographs of the gigantic three sonatas in C minor, A major, and B-flat major D 958-960 were written during September 1828. Though sketches for these sonatas dating from the beginning of 1828 survive, and though the compositional process thus required more time than previously thought, Schubert probably organized, remodeled, and wrote down the premeditated material of the sonatas in one month. The simple act of writing 130 pages during such a short period is staggering, more so in light of its accomplishment only a few weeks prior to Schubert's death.
The difficult question of how many sonatas Schubert actually left as his precious legacy to the musical world should be answered in a pragmatic rather than a philological way: There are twenty different sonatas of which a performance is meaningful, and not twenty-one, twenty-two, or twenty-three, as sometimes mentioned in the literature (see Table 4.1).5 Some scholars (including Maurice Brown) count additional sonatas
TABLE 4.1. Schubert's Piano Sonatas
by including an E-minor fragment of 38 measures (D 769A = D 994) and another fragment in C-sharp minor of 73 measures (D 655). In these two fragments Schubert stopped composing at such an early stage that to complete them convincingly is impossible. Thus, they should not be counted as full sonatas.
The Allegro in E major D 154 is nothing more than a draft for the first movement of the Sonata in E major D 157. It contains 118 measures and is sometimes counted, too. There is also the tendency to number separately the first version of a (perhaps) completed sonata: An earlier and simpler version of the Sonata in E-flat major D 568 exists in D-flat major, numbered by Deutsch as D 567. In spite of miñor differences it is certainly misleading and actually wrong to count the two versions as separate sonatas (otherwise, one would have to credit Beethoven with two operas and Bruckner with sixteen symphonies!).
The only “unfinished” sonatas that stand justifiably as sonatas are those for which three or four movements have survived. As a rule the inner movements of these works are complete, while the opening and sometimes the closing-movements in sonata form break off at a late point (usually at the end of the development or the beginning of the recapitulation), suggesting that their completion remained a somewhat mechanical task for Schubert. Most likely, Schubert interrupted the writing process in these “fragments" only because he thought that they could easily be finished at another time. How he tackled this task can be seen in his B-major Sonata D 575 of which a draft with an incomplete first movement and two contemporary copies of the finished sonata exist.
The fact that movements of Schubert's sonatas were often published after his death as single piano pieces rather than coherent sonatas added considerably to the long-standing confusion about the actual number of sonatas. This confusion was resolved during the 1960s simultaneously by Maurice Brown and Paul Badura-Skoda. Their conclusions were validated and essentially confirmed by investigations of two Italian scholars, Fabio Bisogni and Gabriele Cervone. Paul Badura-Skoda completed those five sonatas that could be completed easily (by writing recapitulations closely based on the expositions and, if needed, adding a coda), edited the early sonatas of Schubert (Henle edition), and recorded all twenty sonatas for RCA Victor.
The Early Piano Sonatas
The question why Schubert's early piano sonatas have been neglected so long becomes more understandable when one considers that for many years no editions were on the market and only few scholars knew of their existence. Only in recent times did these sonatas become available to a wider public in an edition (the third volume of the Henle Urtext Edition, mentioned above), in which sonatas still in need of completion were included.
Pianists are understandably reluctant to perform unfinished works by any composer. But in Schubert's case, some of these sonatas are in fact not at all unfinished. The Sonata in A-flat major D 557 may serve as an example. It was a whim of Schubert to compose the last movement, a typical final movement comparable to that of Sonata D 664, not in A-flat major but in the "wrong" key of E-flat major. But why not? Beethoven's Fantasy op. 77, Chopin's Scherzo No. 2 op. 31, and Mahler's Second Symphony are works that end in another key than the one in which they started, yet they are not considered "incomplete." Why should Schubert not be allowed to have such an idea? But for a long time, scholars considered it impossible that this Allegro in E flat could be the finale of an A-flat sonata.
The two sonatas D 157 and D 279/346/277A are incomplete insofar as they lack final movements. Concerning Sonata D 279, Maurice Brown has written:
That the composer took more pains than usual with this early work is clear from the fact that he rewrote the Menuetto, with an alternative Trio in F. But although his manuscript contains only three movements, with the finale missing, there is a strong probability that the music of the last movement was composed and is still extant. There is an Allegretto in C, undated, the manuscript of which is in the City Library, Vienna. It is cataloged by Deutsch as D 346. This Allegretto is a thoroughly characteristic work of the young Schubert, and since it was not his custom in those early years to write isolated movements when he was absorbed in the composition of complete sonatas, it is highly probable that it is a finale. And the key suggests that it belongs to the Sonata in C.
One of several possible explanations why Schubert sometimes did not finish a sonata comes to mind: The wealth of ideas and the sheer force of inspiration must have haunted him very often. It is likely that, having barely set the essential parts of a sonata movement down on paper, Schubert immediately set out to write the next movement. Although he had a very quick pen, apparently his mind was far quicker. Paul Badura-Skoda, who completed the unfinished movements, commented on them in this way:
It is to our advantage that Schubert was very systematic in writing down nearly all his unfinished sonata movements up to the point of recapitulation. As the complete compositions show, most of Schubert's recapitulations are literal or nearly literal transpositions of the exposition. Thus, completing an unfinished movement remained for him a somewhat mechanical task, which he laid aside for later moments.... All I had to do in completing the unfinished sonata movements was to follow Schubert's own example.
After three “forerunners,” two from 1815 (Sonatas D 157 and D 279) and one from 1816 (Sonata D 459), Schubert's involvement with the piano sonata intensified in 1817 and 1818, when he composed no fewer than eight sonatas. While it is true that Schubert "inherited” the sonata form from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and a few others, it is equally true that he brought to it—and to piano technique—a new, fresh approach. His frequent use of melodies in octaves (often in a unison opening) accompanied by the left hand in open (wide) position clearly foreshadows Chopin and the late Tomantics. Little in these works suggests an anxious imitation of Mozart or Beethoven; more often than not we encounter bold passages as well as experiments that, admittedly, are not always successful.
A special formal feature in Schubert's sonatas, rarely mentioned in the literature, is his use of a first theme designed in the form of a two-or. three-part song melody with a full cadential close at the end. Typical examples of this kind of main subject can be found in the openings of his F-sharp-minor Sonata D 571/604/570 and his A-major Sonata D 664 (Example 4.1). Such a full close could easily compromise the structure of a sonata-form movement. Why continue after such a beautiful lied with anything other than a variation movement? Yet, unlike his famous predecessors, Schubert dares the impossible and carries it off just by writing a simple “naive" continuation. Miriam Whaples has stated aptly that already in his early string quartets the young Schubert invented a new kind of sonata form with such experiments as a one-key-exposition (D 94) and recapitulations beginning in the dominant (D 46, 74), the subtonic (D 94), and the relative major (D 173). The subdominant recapitulation, which quite probably comes directly from Mozart's C Major Piano Sonata K. 545, does not appear in Schubert until his second Piano Sonata (September, 1815), but then fairly frequently through 1817. Like Mozart, Schubert generally does not use this since-disdained "short-cut" to reproduce his exposition in exact transposition, but with very few exceptions-notably the B Major Piano Sonata, D 575rewrites, abbreviates, and otherwise rearranges his materials leading back to the tonic key. And if the B Major Sonata looks like a "short-cut”-i.e., a way of avoiding renewed thought in the recapitulation-it may be in a sense just the opposite: a reflection of Schubert's absorption in the remarkably long way he has taken in the exposition from I to V (i.e., I-b VI-IV-V, reproduced in the recapitulation as IV-II-b VII-I). In view of the fact that, as we shall see, he left no fewer than five recapitulations unwritten in the piano sonatas of these two years (all of the unfinished movements are sonata allegros which break off at the end of their developments), we may deduce from his having bothered to complete here what was essentially only a copying task that he took a more than perfunctory interest in his seemingly perfunctory recapitulation.
Haydn's and Mozart's sonatas usually make their first move to the dominant with great dispatch and directness. Schubert's lifelong fascination with the multiform ways of moving from I to V is a legacy from Beethoven, which the younger composer carried to a much higher level of development. The four-key scheme of D 575 above is the most elaborate: in subsequent works he rarely introduces more than one, usually thirdrelated, intermediate key. Indeed, if any one aspect of the 1817-18 period assumed a predominant importance in Schubert's development as an instrumental composer, it is his discovery of the power of third-related keys within the tonal plan of the sonata. His earlier experiments in transitional keys had relied upon IV (String Quartet D 32, Overture to Claudine von Villa Bella D 239, Second and Third Symphonies). From 1817 on, this key no longer appears in a transitional role in an exposition, except in the four-key plan of D 575. Instead the paths from I to V now lead in turn through almost all the keys thirdrelated to I or V or both: III (finale of D 613), iii (Ninth Symphony), and the favorite bIII (D 613, E Major Symphony sketch D 729, String Quintet D 956, among others), bVI ("Grand Duo" for piano four-hands D 812), VI (C Major "Italian" Overture D 591, and finale of the Sixth Symphony), and vii (C Major Piano Sonata D 840). Neapolitan key relations, on the other hand, which were to assume great importance in thelast few years of his life, play little part in the 1817-18 period. (Whaples, 35)
Not only in the tonal/harmonic blue print but also in certain chord progressions Schubert proved himself a "modernist" or even a "futurist" who went far beyond the harmonic range of his immediate successors. A few examples might illustrate this: Already in the first movement of his second Sonata in C major D 279, Schubert starts the development section with a series of harmonic shocks (Example 4.2).
One Schubertian "invention" consists of a new treatment of the chord of the (dominant) ninth: While composers before or after him considered it a strict rule that the uppermost note had to descend to the octave (Example 4.3a), Schubert "discovered” that the resolution of the dissonance could also occur by allowing the bass note to ascend (Example 4.3b). This novelty he tested in the first movement of D 279, measures 105-106.
A similar resolution in which the bass ascends can be seen in the first theme of the A-minor Sonata D 537, measures 8-9. And as late as in his great A-major Sonata D 959 he used a similar pattern, this time with the major seventh-see Example 4.4. But the most striking and dramatic use of a new kind of resolving a dissonant chord is heard in the so-called Reliquie Sonata in C major D 840. At a crucial point the dominant minor ninth resolves "incorrectly into a foreign key, so that instead of securing C minor we reach B minor! (See Example 4.5.)
Sonata No. 1 in E MAJOR D 157 (HENLE EDITION, VOL. III/1)
In classical fashion this youthful sonata starts with a typical “Mannheim rocket,” a rising triad. “Conventional,” one might say, were it not for the feature that Schubert's “rocket” rises through the range of three octaves! This kind of vitality is the hallmark of the first movement. As stated above, the second movement is a siciliano-like Andante in E minor in a melancholic mood. It is one of Schubert's earliest masterpieces for the piano (for the subject see Example 4.6). It is written in what became Schubert's favorite formal scheme for slow movements, a five-part rondo (Wilhelm Fischer called it “kleine Rondo-form') with subtle variations at the returns of the refrains, Pianists ought to be reminded that on a Viennese instrument of Schubert's time the fortissimo in measures 63ff. was not as thundering as it too easily sounds on a modern piano, especially a concert grand (particularly in the bass!).
The third movement, entitled “Menuetto," is in reality a scherzo. It is a fitting final movement—to which everybody would agree were it not for the "wrong” key of B major. The Trio section in G major foreshadows nearly note for note the Trio of the Scherzo in the D-major Sonata D 850, composed ten years later. Yet, here the Trio appears one octave higher than in D 850, sounding like a boy's soprano voice in comparison to the more manly register of the Gastein Sonata.
EXAMPLE 4.6. Schubert, Sonata in E major, D 157, Andante (mm. 1-8)
Sonata No. 2 in C MAJOR D 279/346/277A (HENLE EDITION III/2)
The opening movement, lively in character despite the tempo designation Allegro moderato, has symphonic proportions that draw freely on classical features in Mozart's and Beethoven's works (especially in the latter's Waldstein Sonata); yet, the bel canto subsidiary theme is typical Schubert. The harmonic surprises of the development section (see Example 4.3b) are supposed to shock the listener into recognizing that this is not just another imitation of a classical sonata movement. The gentle Andante movement has the effect of a soothing balm after the jolts of the first movement. The Menuetto in A minor (again, in character a Scherzo) with its delightful Trio in A major is a sublime masterpiece.
A stylistic feature shared by the Rondo D 346 and the opening movement of this sonata furnishes one more argument in favor of the theory that D 346 is the missing finale: In both movements there is a strong tendency toward contrapuntal play, a trait otherwise rare in Schubert's piano works. The imitating octaves in the Rondo (mm. 131-145) can be traced back to Haydn (cf. his C-major Sonata, Hob. XVI/48, final Presto).
SONATA No. 3 in E MAJOR D 459 (HENLE EDITION III/3)
This work appeared posthumously in an 1843 German edition by Klemm (Leipzig) as Fünf Klavierstücke. Even if Schubert would not have entitled the autograph fragment of the first two movements "Sonata," the formal layout leaves little doubt today that these five pieces belong together and were in fact perceived by Schubert as a sonata. However, five movements for a sonata of 1816 are unusual, indeed. Though one might recall that the Trout Quintet also consists of five movements, there is perhaps a slight possibility that originally these five movements were not planned to belong together. One may well ask whether during the compositional process Schubert intended to replace the second movement, a lengthy Scherzo in sonata form (!), with the more concise second Scherzo in A major, presently placed as the fourth movement. Since autographs survive for only the first two movements, the riddle remains unsolved. In my opinion this appealing work would only gain by the omission of the first Scherzo.
The charming first movement is related in its layout and expressiveness to the opening Allegro of the violin-piano Duo in A major D 574; so, too, is the Adagio to the Andantino of the same work. Both share a mood that fluctuates between the elegiac and the lilt of a slow waltz. The two Scherzos that frame the Adagio differ not only in form but also in character. The last movement is less "pathetic" than its title, Allegro patetico, might suggest. It is a brilliant concert piece, a "pathetic" experience only for incompetent players who fail to perform it with virtuosity and the suitable temperament.
SONATA No. 4 IN A MINOR D 537 (HENLE EDITION I/1)
This profound, tragic work was written in a new pianistic style, boldly original and certainly quite different from any previous piano composition. Like all Schubert piano sonatas up to the year 1823, D 537 is short and concise in form. A striking symphonic element in the first Allegro nearly cries out for an orchestral rendition. A passage like that shown in Example 4.7 is almost Brucknerian in style; note the progression from F major to the lower mediant D-flat major in measures 20-27 of Example 4.7. These harmonic blocks, later found not only in the works of Bruckner but also of Mahler, must have been considered a musical novelty in Schubert's time, though occasionally they appear also in Beethoven's works. The harmony assumes here a meaning for itself and is now of the greatest importance; it replaces somehow the thematic process in earlier sonatas. A performer must create a sense for the broad melodic line and should also give special attention to the beauty of sounds, should "indulge in sound.”
EXAMPLE 4.7. Schubert, Sonata in A minor, D 537, movt. 1 (mm. 20-27)
In the second theme we encounter for the first time another feature typical of Schubert, the expression of what has been termed “death's cradle song” (Example 4.8). Had Schubert's deadly disease set in already as early as age seventeen or eighteen? Was this stylistic feature a foreboding of it? His numerous songs dealing with the many aspects of death often use similar musical ideas, particularly in settings of poems in which death is considered a friend of man who liberates the soul from suffering. The second movement, based on the juxtaposition of a legato melody with staccato accompaniment, is a sublime march expressing serene resignation, with the wayfarer finally fading out of sight.
The third movement contrasts the anguished opening theme with an “innocent" dance melody. Remarkable is the virtuoso element in the codetta, a veritable reminiscence of Domenico Scarlatti. The mood of resignation prevails in the coda until a final fortissimo chord breaks the spell.
Sonata No. 5 IN A-FLAT MAJOR D 557 (HENLE EDITION III/4)
This delightful, unproblematic sonata might be used to introduce Schubert to children, unless a teacher prefers Schubert's dances for that purpose, which also abound in delightful ideas. Schubert conceived this three-movement Sonata in the style of a Sonata facile, obviously with Mozart in mind for the outer movements. We find reminiscences of Haydn in the Andante, for instance, the characteristic horn imitations. Still, it is impossible to draw direct parallels to Mozart's or Haydn's piano works; one might discover such parallels more easily in their symphonies.
One wonders whether Schubert originally intended to write a fourth movement, since not only the Andante but also the fast third movement is in the dominant key. From the musical point of view, however, this Allegro movement turns out to be a perfectly satisfying finale and, thus, nothing is missing. After all, Schubert was an innovator like Joseph Haydn who also broke "schoolmaster rules," for example, when inserting into the Sonata in E-flat major (Hob. XVI/52) a middle movement in E major.
SONATA No. 6 In E-MINOR D 566/506 (HENLE EDITION III/5)
The Rondo finale of this sonata was published posthumously together with the transposed and truncated) Adagio D 505 as op. 145. However, a manuscript copy of this movement in the library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna bears the title Sonate von Franz Schubert with Rondo underneath. Kathleen Dale was the first musicologist to combine this Rondo with the rest of the Sonata in E minor in a publication.
The Rondo fits perfectly into the sonata in terms of tonality, compositional style, and pianistic technique. There can be no doubt that the movements belong together.
This sonata has all the characteristics of a typical Schubert work without being overly demanding technically and musically. The slow movement is not slow at all but is rather a charming Allegretto that sounds like a young brother of the second movement of Beethoven's Sonata in E minor op. 90. Here Beethoven appears Schubertian rather than vice versa, even though his sonata preceded Schubert's by three years. The last movement of D 566 is sparkling and seems at times to be a harbinger of the closing movement of Chopin's E-minor Piano Concerto.
SONATA No. 7 in D-FLAT MAJOR D 567, AND IN E-FLAT MAJOR D 568 (HENLE EDITION III/6 AND I/2)
We now know that, despite the different keys of these two versions of the same sonata, the D-flat Sonata is essentially an earlier version of D 568. The two share the same thematic material, though D 568 treats it sometimes in a more elaborate way than D 567.
Why did Schubert transpose this sonata? Was it perhaps on the request of a publisher who considered a key of five flat signs to exceed the abilities of amateur sightreaders? As Hans Gál once pointed out, we may regret that Schubert did not retain the key of D flat for the final fair copy. The sonata would otherwise have been the only D-flat major Sonata of a great composer of the Viennese classic and the early romantic period.
The “missing” Scherzo of D 567 is undoubtedly the separately transmitted Scherzo in D flat D 593/2 from November 1817. It has the same Trio as the Minuet of the E-flat Sonata, though in a more primitive form. From this fact we may deduce that D 568 was finished not earlier than November 1817, probably even later. Thus, Maurice Brown rightly suggested reversing the old order of the E-minor Sonata and the D-flat major Sonata (see note to Table 4.1). Both works were composed during June 1817, but apparently the E-minor Sonata was finished first.
The D-flat Sonata is not completely invalidated by its later companion in E-flat, but it stands on its own as a youthful work, is easier to perform, and thus is useful for teaching purposes. But to count D 567 as a separate sonata because it differs somewhat from D 568 (it has shorter development sections in the outer movements) is certainly wrong.
The E-flat Sonata D 568 is perhaps the finest of Schubert's youthful sonatas, comparable in quality to the later "perfect" Sonata in A major D 664, which stands as a guidepost toward the works of the middle period. The first movement of this E-flat Sonata presents in the middle of the dominant theme group (m. 63) a new theme, first in D flat (prepared by B-flat minor) and immediately afterwards in C minor. In its complexity this harmonic scheme is of a kind with the exposition of the F-sharp minor Sonata D 571. According to Miriam Whaples (36), "the appearance at this point of both the relative major of the minor dominant and a Neapolitan key relationship (although D-flat and C minor are not here explicitly related as Neapolitan) is what connects the practice with Haydn. Schubert makes his indebtedness more obvious in the much simpler version of the device found in the finale of the A-flat Major Sonata (the movement is unaccountably in E-flat major). Playful here, as in Haydn, this passage (m. 35-43) nevertheless leads directly to the two anguished Neapolitan outbursts which serve the same articulating purpose in the C Major String Quintet of 1828 (m. 118-122).”
The wealth of musical ideas in the first movement of this E-flat sonata is balanced by an admirable use of such unifying motives as the ascending triad, which appears as a structural element of the main theme, in the transition (measures 28 onward), and in the closing theme (measures 88–98). The epilog theme, starting in measure 102, picks up the rhythm of the subsidiary theme, a Ländler in measures 41-58 (Example 4.9).
The second movement, a deeply moving lament, is based on a progression that Beethoven also repeatedly used (for example in the Adagio of his Sonata op. 10 no. 1; there, however, in the major key). Schubert sketched the first draft of this movement in D minor (and also the C-sharp minor Andante of the Sonata D 567) on the outer pages of a double sheet containing a Beethoven autograph of his song “Adelaide." (Later Brahms acquired this valuable double autograph and added his signature, thus creating a unique document in music history: the writings of three great composers on the same sheet of paper.)
Today, scholars concur that in the agitated second section of this slow movement all dotted notes are meant as triplets. This has been justly pointed out by Howard Ferguson in his edition of Schubert's sonatas.10 The engraver of the Henle edition (vol. I), however, unfortunately insists here on a “mathematical” arrangement which in measure 49 and measures 57-61 produces plain nonsense (Example 4.10). Even in the Menuetto-one of the few genuinely slower minuets in Schubert's output-most of the dotted rhythms should be rendered as triplets.
The last movement returns to the rising triadic motive of the opening Allegro and achieves miracles of beautiful sounds by combining it with the perpetuum mobile figure in sixteenth notes. The development of this movement introduces a new theme, a delightful Viennese waltz, and the sonata ends with a smile, as it were, fading away pianissimo. There is a strong resemblance to the ending of Beethoven's Sonata op. 7 in the same key. One is (anachronistically) inclined again to label Beethoven's closing “Schubertian” rather than to discover a Beethoven imitation in Schubert.
SONATA No. 8 in F-SHARP MINOR D 571/604/570 (HENLE EDITION III/7)
This sonata needs a truly “romantic" interpretation in order to convince and to move.
From the appearance of the autograph, the slow movement of the sonata would seem to be missing, but it is not. At the same time that Paul Badura-Skoda discovered that the movement D 604 belongs to this sonata, Maurice Brown wrote:
Here knowledge of Schubert's methods in 1817 points to the fact that the missing movement is an Andante in A, D 604. For reasons of economy, the composer used the blank pages from earlier manuscripts for his sketches and fair copies; the Andante is written on the back of an empty leaf found in sketches for the Overture in B flat, D 470. The overture was composed in September 1816, and the Andante must be of a later date presumably of the same period as the rest of the sonata, June 1817. In style and beauty the A-major Andante fits the other three movements like a glove; it is one of the loveliest inspirations of Schubert's early years, and I for one would willingly accept far flimsier reasons than these for its inclusion in the f-sharp minor Sonata, if thereby it can emerge from obscurity. Paul Badura-Skoda has completed the fragmentary first and last movements, which gives us the opportunity to hear this original and graceful example of an early Schubert sonata.
The Andante D 604 fits "like a glove" because it starts with an interrupted cadence in F-sharp minor, a passage that by itself makes little sense. Schubert used the same harmonic procedure to connect the last two movements of his Sonata in B-flat major for four hands D 617, a work also written in 1818.
In the history of the expansion of classical sonata form into its romantic sequel, Schubert's long harmonic routes to the dominant at the end of the exposition occupy a crucial position. Miriam Whaples writes:
But equally expansive, and equally important in the 1817-18 sonatas, is the practice, derived this time from Haydn, of articulating between the theme-groups within the dominant section by means of another tonal excursion. Nowhere is this more highly elaborated than in the F Minor Sonata, where, between the secondary and closing themes of the exposition, both in Aflat, appears a development-completely independent of the formal development section following the double bar—which introduces a strictly symmetrical arrangement of third-related keys as follows: C-flat, A-flat minor, F-flat (written as E). (Whaples, 35-36)
The F-sharp minor Sonata is Schubert's only solo piano sonata to begin with a lied-like opening, prepared by four measures of accompaniment to create “the atmosphere," as Schubert does so often in his songs. (A parallel can be found in Schubert's Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano D 574, dating from August 1817 and posthumously published as a “Duo” instead of "Sonata.") The dreamlike opening of the F-sharp minor Sonata, though undoubtably idiomatic, seems to foreshadow Schumann. The repeated C-sharp notes of the main theme reappear in the form of a Leitmotiv in the final Rondo, but here the motive is transformed into a sort of country dance.
The Scherzo is truly “Viennese." It was written (probably by error) on the back page of a double sheet of music paper. Therefore, Schubert had to write the final Allegro on the remaining pages 1-3, thus creating the false impression that the Scherzo came after the Allegro.
Sonata No. 9 in B MAJOR D 575 (HENLE EDITION 1/3)
For this sonata, first published in 1846 as op. 147, there survive a first incomplete draft in Schubert's hand and two copies of the finished version made by friends, one dated August 1817 (Vienna, Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde) and the other headed in Albert Stadler's writing "Franz Schubert, 1818, August" (University Library, Lund, Sweden, Taussig Estate). The autograph of the finished version is lost. There are quite a number of subtle differences between the first draft and the finished sonata. For instance, in the first incomplete draft the recapitulation starts in the tonic key B major and not in the subdominant E major as in the final version.
The first movement begins with a considerable impetus, with the widest (and wildest) leaps possible-and it ends with a gentle pianissimo murmur. In between are a serene march and a liedlike secondary theme. This diversity is matched by the unusual tonal scheme mentioned above. The first movement seems to re-create especially the various changing moods of adolescence that can be observed to a lesser degree also in the ensuing movements. Thus, the Andante in time changes to a time (mm. 77 onward) which is rather unusual in a "classic" sonata. The liedlike Scherzo is distinguished by its long rests and beautiful flowing Trio. The spirited last movement again has a Scherzo character, deepening the impression that this is an unusual sonata.
Sonata No. 10 IN C MAJOR D 613/612 (HENLE EDITION III/8)
There can hardly be any doubt that the Adagio D 612 belongs to this sonata. As in similar cases, this movement was published separately after Schubert's death, because the two outer movements had remained unfinished”; in both, however, Schubert had written out nearly the complete exposition and development sections before stopping work at the beginning of the recapitulation.
This sonata is a truly experimental work, introducing fast chromatic runs, odd modulations, and difficult chords, features one might rather associate with Weber or Chopin than with Schubert. The second subject of the first movement shows a typical polonaise rhythm. One of the "odd" passages in the third movement is progressive, indeed, even "futuristic" (see Example 4.11). Some other ideas (for example, the romantic modulation from C major to E minor at mm. 5-8 of the final Rondo) are very attractive (Example 4.12). They make even this least successful sonata of Schubert worth hearing.
SONATA No. 11 in F MINOR D 625/505 (HENLE EDITION III/9)
Even though the autograph of the Sonata D 625 is missing, the Adagio D 505 is listed as the second movement of this sonata in a thematic catalog of Schubert's works compiled after his death by his brother Ferdinand, thus confirming that D 505 belongs to D 625.
In his edition of this sonata (which contains his completion of the first movement), Paul Badura-Skoda suggests that the Adagio be played after the Scherzo as the third movement, notwithstanding the order given in Ferdinand's catalogue. He argues that otherwise a sequence of two quiet and two agitated movements would result, and he refers to the fact that Schubert himself had reversed the order of the inner movements in the two versions of his B-major sonata D 575. Also, in Schubert's "Duo" D 574 the Scherzo appears as the second movement.
This somber, tragic sonata is unique in many ways. The first and last movements seem to contain the germ of Chopin's Sonata in B-flat minor op. 35 (though, of course, Chopin could not possibly have known Schubert's sonata, which was not published until the end of the nineteenth century). Also, the unisono brooding beginning of the finale forecasts later romantic works; this time one is reminded of the last movement of Brahms's B-major Trio op. 8. The Scherzo, a wild piece in the unusual key of E major, goes up to the high G-sharp4, a note not found on pianos before about 1850! The Adagio (related to the Andante of D 575) is perhaps the least inspired movement of this sonata; yet, its presence provides a needed point of respite.
Sonata No. 12 IN A MAJOR D 664 (HENLE EDITION 1/4)
According to a letter by Albert Stadler, this sonata was composed in 1819. Schindler, who obviously had no idea of Schubert's style, placed it in 1825, a date that is quite impossible, for by that time Schubert had developed a completely different and more expansive piano style.
Gentle and unassuming, this A-major sonata is a masterpiece. Beneath its smooth surface lies a hidden depth that erupts occasionally in dramatic outbursts; nevertheless, it would be wrong to play the sonata in a "profound” manner with a heavy touch and too slow a tempo. (For the "innocent" Andante a proper tempo in Viennese style is .= 63).
The singing liedlike opening theme of the Allegro moderato sets the mood for the entire first movement. In the development section, after a passage in canonic initiation, an ascending triplet figure from the exposition (measure 20) is dramatically enlarged into octave runs in both hands. Here Schubert uses a "modern" device,"splitting" the G sharp into its two neighboring half steps G and A, a procedure repeated later by Chopin and Bruckner.
The two closing notes of the first movement, B and A, lead in a most natural way to the beginning of the Andante with the same two notes one octave higher. Still one octave higher--and we have the opening notes of the concluding Allegro (see Example 4.13).
The gentle singing Andante, which starts with a seven-measure phrase, is one of Schubert's most inspired movements. It breathes the pious religious atmosphere often encountered in Schubert's instrumental works, reminding us of the impression of Robert Schumann in his famous review of Schubert's C-major Symphony, in which he wrote of a "fine fragrance of incense” permeating the Austrian landscape with its many chapels. The Andante comes to a peaceful close after an outcry of anguish at the recapitulation of the theme.
The final Allegro is dancelike throughout, comparable in spirit to Mozart's finale movements in 9 meter. However, the second theme is a genuine Viennese waltz for which one does not find a parallel in the earlier works of the master. Its exuberant outburst near the close foreshadows passages in Schumann's Carnaval.
Sonatas of the Middle Period
Sonata No. 13 IN A MINOR D 784 (HENLE EDITION 1/5)
Few words justly convey the tragedy expressed in this sonata, which well deserves the epithet "The Tragic." The opening theme reminds the Schubert lover of the song "Der Zwerg' D 771 ( composed together with the song "Wehmut” D 772 during the winter of 1822-23, when Schubert must have realized that he would never be able to lead a healthy, normal life). The similarity--the song is also in the key of A minor-is better heard than described; it is the dark mood, the hopeless despair, that characterizes the song as well as the sonata. Schubert's own words written one year later to Leopold Kupelwieser (in a letter dated 31 March 1824) might perhaps depict best the suffering expressed in this work:
In a word, I feel myself to be the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again ... to whom the felicity of love and friendship has nothing to offer but pain... My peace is gone, my heart is sore, I shall find it never and nevermore. I may well sing every day now, for each night, on retiring to bed, I hope I may not wake again.
Schubert pushes all conventions aside in this sonata and develops a pianistic texture that finds its counterpart perhaps only in certain works by Modest Mussorgksy, another "unhappy creature.” Passages such as the one in Example 4.14 are unique in piano literature.
The first movement (one of the most densely constructed movements in the whole of piano literature) presents a succession and elaboration of sigh motives derived from measures 2 and 4 of the opening theme. A giant of a pianist with an iron rhythm is required to weld these innumerable sighs together into a whole. In contrast, the "orchestral" entry in E major leading to the second theme seems to express the words of the Te Deum, "Non confundar in aeternum" ("I shall not perish in eternity") see measures 53-54 of Example 4.14.
The Andante movement that follows impresses as a vain attempt by friends or by nature to console "the wretched soul." An uncanny pianissimo motive marked con sordini continually interrupts (and disrupts) a "springtime" melody (Example 4.15). In measures 7 and 8 Schubert invented a harmonic progression that, fifty years later, became a "property" of Brahms.
The beginning of the last movement evokes the impression of snowflakes gently covering a flowery spring landscape. Technically this opening foreshadows Smetana's symphonic poem Vltava (The Moldau). But the soft beginning only precedes an all-devastating storm. The second subject, given three times, recalls the "Death's cradle song" ("Todeswiegen"), already encountered in the earlier A-minor Sonata D 537(Example 4.16).
Sonata No. 14 in C MAJOR D 840 (RELIQUIE SONATA, HENLE EDITION III/10)
This sonata, composed in April 1825, was first published by F. Whistling (Leipzig) in 1861 with the mistaken title “Schubert's Last Sonata.” The publisher apparently wanted to explain why only its first two large-scaled movements are complete. Schubert, however, had nearly finished the third movement, a Menuetto with the tempo indication Allegretto. Only the final movement in sonata form, in which each theme appears as if part of a miniature rondo, breaks off in the middle of the development, thus being left incomplete, indeed. Evidently Schubert found the thematic material (related somewhat to the finale of Beethoven's Cmajor Sonata op. 2 no. 3) too trivial compared to that of the opening movements.
Of the several attempts to complete the work, those by Ernst Krenek (1921) and Paul Badura-Skoda (1976) deserve attention. Krenek uses the material in a free, romantic way, whereas Badura-Skoda remains far closer to Schubert's own musical style and pianistic idiom. For the completion of the Menuetto, which breaks off at the key of the lowered supertonic, he uses a procedure found in Schubert's sixth Moment Musical in the same key.
As in D 784, the first movement of this sonata sounds like a piano reduction of a symphony. Again, this composition somehow foreshadows Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, yet, strangely enough, as in the case of Mussorgsky, such a technique loses its impact if orchestrated (even if a master like Maurice Ravel is the orchestrator). Why is this so? Perhaps the piano evokes or suggests a “heavenly orchestra" that can exist only in the listener's imagination. Less orchestral and more pianistic is the utterly beautiful second movement of this sonata, which starts like a paraphrase of Pamina's aria in G minor, "Ach, ich fühls, es ist verschwunden," from Mozart's Magic Flute.
Sonata No. 15 IN A MINOR D 845 (HENLE EDITION 1/6)
During April and May of 1825, Schubert wrote another A-minor sonata, which was soon published in Vienna (March 1826) as his Première grande sonate with a dedication to the Archduke Rudolph. This was Schubert's first piano sonata to be published, and it met with immediate success: “In the matter of expression and technique, although it preserves a praiseworthy unity, it moves so freely and originally within its confines, and sometimes so boldly and curiously, that it might not unjustly have been called a Fantasy. In that respect it can probably be compared only with the greatest and freest of Beethoven's sonatas." So one reviewer reported in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on 1 March 1826.
This work is noted for its concentrated form and unity of thematic material. The first movement is based on only two rhythmic ideas; the subsidiary and closing subjects are derived from the opening theme. This return to a nearly monothematic sonata form (of course, the marchlike modulating section is in fact based on a different theme) can be seen also in Haydn's last sonatas and symphonies. Schubert thus returns here to a pre-Beethoven concept of unity to achieve a strong control of form. In the development, Schubert proved that he could write when he wished to a development à la Beethoven: We find a typical Beethovenian elaboration of the main theme with its fragmentation into small particles. And yet the work is as truly in Schubert's own language as is any of his other works. No one but Schubert could write the exciting coda, which, through a series of fantastic harmonic progressions, rises from the darkest register to a most powerful climax. The weldin together of the development and the recapitulation is another striking feature of this Allegro moderato. The Allabreve sign at its beginning should encourage performers not to play it too slowly.
The second movement, an Andante con mosso in the relative key of C major, is a variation movement that suggests a mood of comfort and relaxation. With its repeated G at the beginning, it bears a certain resemblance to the Arietta of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op. 111, which has the same meter and key. But whereas Beethoven seeks redemption from suffering through an exaltation of the spirit, turning his mind to the higher spheres, Schubert seems to find relaxation in the realm of nature, which is also eternal and divine. The last variation of the Andante bears witness to this.
The autograph of the sonata is lost. Paul Badura-Skoda was the first to discover that in this movement, apparently due to an engraver's oversight, four bars are missing in the first variation.2 No Viennese composer of the classical period would purposely shorten the first variation. Such engraving mistakes happened not infrequently and must be remedied, of course (Schumann once found a similar mistake in the first edition of Mozart's G-minor Symphony K.550). Paul Badura-Skoda's reconstruction of these bars is printed in the Henle edition. A slightly different solution for their reconstruction is suggested by Howard Ferguson in his Associated Board edition of Schubert's sonatas.
The energetic Scherzo is contrasted with a sublime unearthly Trio, which seems to symbolize the journey of the soul to faraway lands where neither joy nor sorrow can penetrate (Example 4.17).
The last movement, in rondo form, is one of Schubert's most elaborate movements. All its themes are based on a single melodic device, a diatonic four-note motive, either in descending or ascending order. The ascending version gains predominance in the central A-major section, which also provides a light contrast to the prevailing dark mood. After the return to the original key of A-minor, the two forms of the main motive, descending and ascending, are directly opposed to each other in strident contrapuntal clashes. From this point until the very end, these two themes are constantly interwoven; finally they are torn into small segments in a whirlwind, a kind of danse macabre, that brings the work to a shattering close.
SONATA No. 16 in D MAJOR D 850 (GASTEIN SONATA, HENLE EDITION I/7)
This sonata was composed during a holiday in August 1825 in Gastein, Austria (hence its name). It was published as Schubert's Seconde grande sonate in Vienna in April 1826 with the opus number 53 and was dedicated to Carl Maria von Bocklet, a professional pianist who became Schubert's friend (Bocklet later participated in the first performance of the E-flat major Piano Trio in the only public concert Schubert arranged himself).
The Gastein Sonata is perhaps Schubert's happiest piano work. If the exuberant first movement seems to depict a sunlit mountain landscape, the second movement, an Andante, evokes a feeling of pious meditation in the woods, a scene for which Thomas Merton might be the predestined author to find the proper description. Throughout this sonata an element of the "Austrian symphonic style" is prevalent: the mere joy of harmony. One is reminded of a Bruckner anecdote. As a friend recalled, Bruckner once played repeatedly a chord in D-flat major exclaiming: "Isn't it beautiful?” This parallel is significant: In works of this kind the mere beauty of harmonies and harmonic progressions assumes an importance similar to the thematic process in works by Beethoven. Often Schubert enriches the harmony through an unexpected, colorful modulation (Ausweichung) into a mediant tonality, or through just a touch of such a key in a subject (as for instance in measure 7 of the theme of the second movement). 14
The third movement, an extended Scherzo, is in fact, a Czech furiant, and its Trio is like a litany sung in church. As mentioned before, its melodic germ is derived from material of Schubert's first piano sonata, D 157.
The last movement, a Rondo, starts like a hiking song, depicting the serene wayfarer enjoying the marvels of wandering with new outlooks on a beautiful landscape at every turn of the road (Example 4.18; see also Illustration 4.la and 4.1b). The second episode might evoke the feeling of a boat ride on a lake, and the end seems to suggest joyful dancing. In this movement Schubert proves himself more typically Austrian than anywhere else in his sonatas. To a lover of that kind of music, Joseph Haydn's last symphony in D major, Hob. I/104, might come to mind.
SONATA No. 17 IN G MAJOR D 894 (HENLE EDITION II/8)
In the autograph Schubert entitled this sonata IV. Sonate für das Pianoforte allein and added the date "October 1826." Because of the Viennese publisher's reluctance to accept Schubert's idea of a sonata, it was published in Vienna in April 1827 as Fantasie, Andante, Menuetto und Allegretto op. 78 with a dedication to Joseph Edlen von Spaun. As for the number "IV," we do not know which sonata Schubert intended to publish as po III. Perhaps he had already given a manuscript of one of the earlier sona tas to a Viennese publisher who rejected it. But which one? Most likely, at this point in his career Schubert considered the unpublished Sonata in A minor D 784 as the contender for no. III, and, perhaps, he even intended to disown all his other sonatas.
There is an undeniable resemblance between the first movement, in sonata form (no fantasy at all!), and the opening movement of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. Both start with the same G-major triad, and both let the piano sing like "a lark in the sky." Yet the mere sound of Schubert's chord is even more beautiful than Beethoven's; Schubert does not double the third in the lower octave (Examples 4.19a-b). The contemplative mood of this opening gradually gives way to the dancelike subsidiary theme. Several gigantic outbursts of energy occur in the development before the movement ends in total calm.
After the extended first movement follows a rather fluid light Andante in, which more than once foreshadows Gustav Mahler in his idyllic mood. The conventional roles of the first and second movement are nearly reversed: the Andante sustains a more active motion throughout than the restrained first movement with its heading Molto moderato e cantabile, and the tranquility that marks its beginning and ending. (Interestingly enough, in the first edition of this Andante Schubert eliminated all the turns he had written in the autograph (e.g., measure 3]. In my opinion it is indeed a mistake to reinstate these turns in modern editions.)
The Menuetto became celebrated and something of a popular hit in the nineteenth century. Brahms paid a tribute to the Trio by imitating its harmonic progressions in his first Rhapsody op. 79 no. 1 in the same key of B major. The last movement is a “nature song” containing elements of the hurdy-gurdy and popular march music, the song "Frühlingssehnsucht” (D 957 No. 3), tears, and smiles. No one but Schubert could unite such a diversity of thoughts and moods!
Sonatas of the Late Period
The last three sonatas are well-known works. In spite of their “heavenly length" (Schumann) and their technical difficulty, by now they belong to the standard repertoire of pianists. Schubert habitually drafted compositions of this scope and importance but apparently did not always keep these drafts. Fortunately, in this case sketches of all three sonatas are extant, and recently they were published in a facsimile edition. A comparison between draft and fair copy gives interesting insights into Schubert's method of composition. As in the drafts of the E-flat major Trio D 929, Schubert invented more thematic material than necessary; thus, some musical ideas in the drafts were ultimately abandoned, while others appeared in slightly varied ways.
There is a striking resemblance between the circumstances surrounding the creation of Mozart's last three symphonies and Schubert's last three piano sonatas. Both cycles were created in an incredibly short period of time and represent the undisputed peak in the composers' symphonic and pianistic outputs. The creation of works of such magnitude in only a few weeks is miraculous. 13 Each group consists of one tragic work in a minor key and two more serene major-key works. But there are some differences: Mozart still had three years to live after having finished his cycle, whereas Schubert died only six weeks after completing these three sonatas. This accounts, perhaps, for the character of vigorous selfassertion in Mozart's Jupiter Symphony versus the serene resignation in Schubert's last sonata—the wayfarer bids farewell at the end of his life's journey.
By Schubert's lifetime the dualistic thematicism of the early classical - sonata had systematically been enlarged to accommodate the principle of ternary structure in sonata form. This process was developed mainly by Beethoven; it culminated in Bruckner's and Mahler's symphonies. In the last group of sonatas Schubert wrote three distinct themes or groups of themes in his sonata-form movements. Moreover, most of the subjects appear not only twice but three times. For a detailed analysis the interested reader is referred to Arthur Godel's book Schuberts letzte drei Klaviersonaten.
Sonata No. 18 in C MINOR D 958 (HENLE EDITION II/9)
The C-minor Sonata D 958 is one of Schubert's darkest works and is even more somber in content than the Death and the Maiden String Quartet. Despite an energetic powerful opening, its first movement ends as hopelessly as any music can. The main theme has been compared by some commentators with Beethoven's Thirty-two Variations in the same key. Though the rhythm of both works suggests that of a sarabande, other resemblances are rather superficial. While Beethoven's theme ascends only to the sixth above, Schubert's subject rises like a rocket over more than two octaves (Example 4.20). In one of his last songs ("Der Atlas" D 957/8), Schubert used a similar rhythm most effectively. The key to understanding the song as well as the sonata theme is the phrase "Die ganze Welt der Schmerzen muß ich tragen” (“I must carry the entire world of pain"; Example 4.21). The second subject enters after a general pause (measure 39). In total contrast to the energetic, detached first theme, it has a "feminine” character, tranquil and legato, based on a most beautiful melody in E-flat major. Everything seems to be peaceful until the uncanny shift from E flat to D flat creates the impression of unworldliness; time is interrupted, life faces death. If these two measures were left out, nothing harmonic would be missing; yet the essential message would be lost.
The Adagio, one of the few genuine Adagio movements Schubert wrote, is like a prayer over "De profundis." It is followed by a sad, melancholy minuet and a gigantic, powerful finale based on a tireless, sustained tarantella rhythm incidentally, this is the only external resemblance to the finale of Beethoven's op. 31 no. 3, with which the finale is often mistakenly compared). This movement suggests riding through a dark and never-ending night. Only at the center of the movement is the tarantella rhythm briefly interrupted by a magical B-major section that is like a dream of a distant past happiness, a dream gradually dispelled in one of the longest sustained crescendos in piano literature. The end of this movement, and thus of the sonata, recalls the haunted spirit of a danse macabre.
Sonata No. 19 IN A MAJOR D 959 (HENLE EDITION II/10)
Though the second sonata of the final group has always been overshadowed in popularity by her more gentle sister, no. 20 in B-flat major, it is in no way inferior. It is a lofty work that attains the highest peaks of expression. "Lofty" is indeed the term that comes to mind when we consider the powerful, awe-inspiring opening theme of the first movement. No other word can aptly describe the crystalline beauty and purity of the second subject or the “wanderings into distant countries” of the development. One more blissful moment of this movement needs to be mentioned: At the very end, the “lofty" theme is stated again, this time in a mysterious pianissimo. It is like a serene farewell.
If ever sadness was expressed in music, it was expressed in the Andantino movement where a sorrowful melody is “sung" in F-sharp minor and A major alternately. The new harmonization in A major, however, gives the melody such a different meaning that one barely recognizes ita striking example of the expressive power of harmony in classical music. The middle section of the Andantino, a “chromatic fantasy,” is one of Schubert's boldest pages, perhaps a stark vision of all the horrors of war and destruction, of the day of judgment, the dies irae. After this eruption, an equally dramatic recitative leads back to the immensely sad theme in the recapitulation. The contrast is comparable to the Andante movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major with its pleading “soloist” and the orchestra's firm answers: “No.”
After this visionary movement the Scherzo brings us “back to earth." But in such a context it would be too simple merely to write a charming Viennese dance movement. Behind Schubert's apparent ease there is a note of nostalgia, and a sudden descending scale in fortissimo reminds us of past horrors—it is, nota bene, the same C-sharp minor scale that had marked the climax of the second movement.
The Rondo finale contains one of Schubert's most beautiful liedlike themes, evoking the joys of spring and peace. It is nearly identical to the Allegretto quasi Andantino from the Sonata op. 164 D 537 of March 1817. But a lifetime of creative work lies between the movements. Promise becomes fulfillment, so that the later movement is in every respect fuller and richer. How exquisite is the counterpoint Schubert devises when the theme is quoted in the baritone register! Again, Schubert invites us to follow the wanderings of his soul. For a last time, in the development, the dark brooding region of C-sharp minor is reached again-and surpassed. For a last time, the mystery of another world touches the music and brings it to a standstill, as in the coda of the first movement. In a sense, the last pages summarize the whole musical and spiritual experience of this magnificent work. Thus it is only fitting that the very last chords recall the lofty theme with which the sonata began-from Eternity to Eternity.
SONATA No. 20 IN B-FLAT MAJOR D 960 (HENLE EDITION II/11)
The opening of Schubert's last sonata has the majesty and calm with which man should face his final moments. It closely resembles the opening stanza of Schubert's lied “Am Meer" (D 957/12) from the same year, 1828: “Das Meer erglänzte weit hinab im letzten Abendscheine” (“The sea was shining in the last glow of the sunset"). The last glow evokes an infinite sense of beauty, of nostalgia, of memories and regret; and precisely these emotions seem to be represented in the first movement, where the calm of the opening gives way to a process of intensification. In the development the Mozartian third subject is gradually transformed until it becomes nearly identical to the opening lines of the lied "Der Wanderer," expressing the grief of the homeless wayfarer. Schubert's quotation of his celebrated early song (D 489) leads to a powerful climax that symbolizes anguish and despair. Only gradually does the storm subside and the calm of the opening return.
The second movement, Andante sostenuto, is considered by many musicians to be the crown of Schubert's piano music. (See Illustration 4.2.) It is a lament in the distant key of C-sharp minor with a comforting middle section in A major related to the music of "Der Lindenbaum" from Die Winterreise, where nature (the tree) consoles the unhappy pilgrim: "... und seine Zweige rauschten, als riefen sie mir zu, 'Komm her zu mir, Geselle, hier findst Du deine Ruh'" ("... and its branches rustled, as if they called to me, 'Come here to me, lad, here you'll find peace"). The lament returns, but gradually the minor key gives way to the major (Cand C-sharp major), and the movement ends blissfully.
The sonata could very well end here, thus resembling somewhat Beethoven's last piano sonata, op. 111. However, Schubert intended to bring the listener back to earth, ever so gently and gradually. The unearthly Scherzo (con delicatezza) with its more somber, pensive, subdued Trio prepares the way for the Rondo.
This Rondo finale opens with a question mark in C minor, rather like a "false" entrance-which is, however, affirmatively answered by the cadence in B-flat major. The opening remarkably resembles that of Beethoven's last finished composition, the finale he wrote for the String Quartet in B-flat major op. 130 to replace the Grosse Fuge. The transcendent quality of Schubert's finale is indescribable. Again the eternal wayfarer is invoked, but here without any sense of resignation or bitterness. There are turbulent passages, too, and the interruptions at the end taste a little like death. But the sonata concludes positively, in a mood of happiness, with an exuberant presto outburst.
Three complete fantasies for piano solo by Schubert have survived: an early one in C minor D 2E (formerly D 993), a newly discovered one in C major D 605A (Grazer Fantasy), and the famous one in C major D 760, published in 1823 as op. 15, the so-called Wanderer Fantasy. There existed perhaps another Fantasy in E-flat major (D Anhang 1,10; described in 1923 by W. Pauker). Supposedly it was composed in 1825 in Gmunden; today it is lost.
The C-minor Fantasy D 2E is one of Schubert's earliest known compositions. It clearly shows the influence of Mozart studies yet looks ahead to Schubert's own pianistic style. Its first printed version appeared in an article by Jörg Demus (1978/79).