SCHUBERT: Piano Sonatas, D. 784 and D. 894 (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550730)
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Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Piano Sonata in A Minor, Op. Posth. 143, D. 784
Piano Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, D. 894
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, whosepath it seemed he might follow as an assistant teacher. He enjoyed a soundmusical training as a cathedral chorister and when his voice broke in 1812rejected the offered scholarship and further general education in favour of acareer that allowed him more time for music. In 1814 he embarked on a course asa primary school teacher and the following year joined his father, although heshowed no great aptitude for his new profession, which he was to practiseintermittently, as need arose, for a year or so. The greater part of theremaining years of his life were devoted to music and to the company of hisfriends. By the time of his death in 1828 some of his music had been publishedand there was increasing interest in his compositions. Nevertheless he neverheld any official position in the musical establishment in Vienna and much ofwhat he wrote was intended for the entertainment of his own circle, whichincluded both professional and amateur musicians, poets and painters. Inparticular he composed a very large number of songs, using his innate gift forapt melody and ability to express the dramatic or poignant in a miniature andconcentrated form. Schubert left fifteen complete piano sonatas, written between1815 and the year of his death. A number of other works in the same formremained unfinished in one way or another.
In 1823, the year in which he wrote the Sonata in A minor, D. 784,Schubert's health gave some cause for concern. The venereal infection that hehad contracted led to a period in hospital and to thoughts of inevitable death.
In February he had written the sonata, but he was able to work in the spring andearly summer on his opera Fierabras and even in hospital on the songcycle Die schone M??llerin. In February he had written the WandererFantasia and had also been concerned to arrange a performance of his operaAlfonso and Estrella. The preceding years had found Schubert experimenting withthe form of the piano sonata. In 1819 he had completed a Sonata in A major, inthree movements. The A minor Sonata, also in only three movements, opensominously enough, the descending intervals of the end of its opening phraseleading to a funereal first subject, to which the gentle E major second subjectprovides a marked contrast. The central development avoids reference to thissecond subject, which only re-appears in a delicately varied rhythm in thethird, recapitulatory section of the movement. The slow movement, markedAndante, is in F major and follows its opening phrase with muted comment, arhythmic element that makes later appearances, as the movement unfolds. Thereare shifts of key and mood in a movement generally dominated by the two elementsof the opening. The final movement has a principal subject in rapid tripletrhythm, contrasted with a lyrical secondary theme in F major. It re-appears in Cmajor, after the second appearance of the main subject, which on its third entryis taken into remoter keys, before the expected version of the secondary themein A major, followed by a brief and stormy return of the first subject toreassert the original minor mode.
The Sonata in G major, D. 894, is a work on a much larger scale. Itwas written in October 1826 and issued the following year by the publisherTobias Haslinger as Fantasie, Andante, Menuetto and Allegretto. Schubert hadagain been ill during part of the summer, and had also found occasion to writeto two well known publishers in Germany in an attempt to interest them in hiswork. His proposals to Breitkopf und Hartel and to Probst were both rejected onthis occasion. It is possible that the composer played the first movement ofthis sonata on 8th December at the house of his friend Josef von Spaun, thefounder of the Schubert circle and host of many musical evenings, Schubertiades,at which new compositions by the composer were performed. The sonata wasdedicated to Spaun.
Schumann described the G major Sonata as Schubert's most perfect inform and spirit. The chordal first subject, as always suggesting a Schubertsong, is followed by a lilting second subject, both of which are treated in thedramatic central development, before their final recapitulation in w hat, inspite of Haslinger, is in the expected tripartite sonata-form structure. Thegentle principal melody of the second movement punctuates episodes of strongerdynamic contrast, including an excursion from D major into D minor. Thismovement is followed by a B minor Minuet with a contrasting B major Trio, awhispered Landler. The last of the four movements has unusual formal features.
It is a Rondo, but included in it is a self-sufficient E flat major dance, withits own contrasted central section in C major. This diversion at the heart ofthe movement is, nevertheless, an essential part of the whole structure, towhich it is closely related.
The Hungarian pianist Jenoe Jando has won a number of piano competitions inHungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concoursand a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney InternationalPiano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos andsonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos ofGrieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and PaganiniRhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.