Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonatas (Fragments)
Tragedy and failure is suggested by the idea of 'fragment'in music and particularly in the case of Schubert. In addition to popularworks, such as the Symphony in B minor, D.759, Unfinished, the uncompletedstage oratorio Lazarus, D.689, or the String Quartet in C minor, D.703, thereare a large number of fragmentary piano sonatas. Most of these, of which fourare here included, come from the period between 1817 and 1823, Schubert'sso-called years of crisis. Much of what Schubert tackled at this time may bereckoned among his most daring and strange works and remained fragmentary,serving, as it were, as experiments in composition. Schubert wanted to preparethe way, through the intermediate stages of string quartet and piano sonatas,for the grand symphony. These sonata fragments, therefore, take on a particularvalue in Schubert's creative life, not least because of their relatively highnumber, with twelve unfinished sonatas against eleven completed now surviving.They document the composer's struggle over the formal pattern of an alreadystrongly traditional form, the sonata. Often models, Haydn, Mozart, Hummel,Carl Maria von Weber and above all Beethoven, are clearly perceptible in theseworks, yet at the same time Schubert's personal style is already stronglymarked. The use of keys with a higher number of sharps or flats (D flat major,D.567; B major, D.575; A flat major, D.557), which indicate a stronglyemotional expressive content, is an essential characteristic of the sonatasfrom this period. Generally two types of fragment may be distinguished,fragments of sonata expositions on the one hand, which break off in thedevelopment or, at the latest, with the start of the recapitulation, and on theother hand cycle fragments where independent movements were not completed. Thepiano sonata fragments allow a profound examination of Schubert's innercompositional procedures, yet do not answer the ever present question as to whySchubert broke off at this or that point in the work and did not take it up again.Is it the feeling that the thematic material is pushed to its limits or thatthe demands of the form could not be correctly met, or is it simply the innerpressure to change to a new, supposedly more exciting or more rewarding task? Adefinitive answer is not always possible through thorough analysis. In the end,therefore, the music itself must speak, music that in these cases always bringswith it a touch of the puzzle and mystery.
Leading pianists and Schubert scholars have attempted tocomplete the surviving fragments. For the present recording, however, it wasdecided to remain true exclusively to Schubert's original text and to workwithout the completions of others, thus to underline also the fragmentaryimpression of these pieces. In two places, however, movements are completedthrough analogy with parallel passages. In the Sonata in D flat major, D.567,for the last missing page of the finale it was possible to draw from the laterE flat major version of this work; in the Sonata in F minor, D.625/505, themissing harmonisation in the finale (bars 201 to 270) was completed by analogywith the similar passage at the beginning of the movement.
With the Sonata in A flat major, D.557, composed in May1817, we find a probable cycle fragment by Schubert. In spite of thecompleteness of all three surviving movements, this work presents a puzzle inregard to the grouping of keys. The first movement in A flat major and thesecond in the dominant key of E flat major follow the conventional sonata structure,but the third movement is again in E flat major. Since this movement has theevident character of a finale, the question arises as to whether Schubertintended to finish the work in E flat and not in A flat, or whether a fourthmovement is missing or has been lost. This question has not been definitelyanswered by modern research so that the sonata is still reckoned among sonatafragments. The simple piano writing of this sonata often recalls Haydn andMozart and the E flat minor central section of the second movement suggests theexample of Johann Sebastian Bach in its rhythmic strictness. The opening themeof the third movement presents an interesting parallel to the last movement ofthe Sonata in A major, D.664, written two years later. In this short workSchubert shows altogether his cheerful, happy, yet very classically influencedside.
With the Sonata in D flat major, D.567, written in June1817, Schubert engaged with particular intensity. It similarly survives as acycle fragment, lacking the last page of the third movement of the autographmanuscript. Schubert's friend Anselm H??ttenbrenner writes in his memoirs ofthis sonata: it 'was written with such difficulty that he [Schubert] could notplay it without encouragement. ... He ... sent it to a foreign publisher; but hehad it back with the indication that they would not risk publishing such aterribly difficult composition ...'. This objection induced Schubert a year laterto transpose the work into the easier key of E flat major and extend it by theaddition of a third movement Minuet and Trio. In this four-movement form it waspublished in Vienna in 1829 as Op.122 (D.568). The original version in D flatmajor is counted among the most ambitious and tricky of Schubert's sonatas. TheC sharp minor middle movement points in its strictness to the expressive worldof Beethoven, while in the outer movements extended lyrical themes of romanticalmost Biedermeier serenity predominate.
Beethoven's mighty shadow is evident most clearly of all inthe Sonata in C major, D.613/612, and the Sonata in F minor, D.625/505, of1818. The association with this great model occurs in these works with theshort quotation in the former in bars 13 to 19 of the first movement of theWaldstein Sonata and in the latter in the texture and technique suggesting thefirst movement of the Appassionata, with the strict adoption of the key scheme.As in the Appassionata Schubert follows the key progression F minor to D flatmajor (the slow movement) and F minor and adds (eventually, in place of theAdagio) a Scherzo in E major.
The Sonata in C major, D.613, is a cycle fragment. The workconsists of two unfinished movements, of which the second, without tempoindication, is of particular interest. It must here be a planned finalmovement, which suggests, with its lilting 6/8 metre an Allegretto tempo. Theclearly virtuoso and pianistically effectively conceived piano writing herefeels very strongly influenced by Carl Maria von Weber. On the basis ofresearch into the paper and the manuscript it seems that this fragment comes fromthe same time as the Adagio in E major, D.612, considered as a slow movement,which is harmonically and thematically directly related with the principalmovement.
Franz Schubert worked on his Sonata in F minor, D.625/505,in September 1818 in Zseliz (Hungary), where he spent the summer months of 1818and 1824 as music teacher to the daughters of Count Esterhazy. In particularthe first movement of this sonata shows, with the influence of Beethoven,Schubert's attempts to find a new path. In the exposition he no longercontrasts two themes, but derives one from the other, thus the greatest part ofthe exposition turns into a kind of development with breathtaking modulationsand the unrelentingly recurrent trill motif (almost an anticipation of thedemonic use of the trill in Schubert's last Sonata in B flat major, D.960). Themovement breaks off at the beginning of the recapitulation. The Scherzo in Emajor, and the Adagio in D flat major published earlier in a separate form asD.505 and in the light of modern research regarded as belonging to the Sonatain F minor, are both