SCHUBERT: Piano Trios in E Flat Major, D. 929 and D. 897 (Gunter Appenheimer/ Stuttgart Piano Trio) (Naxos: 8.550132)
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Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Piano Trio No.2 in E Flat Major, Opus 100 (D. 929)
Piano Trio Movement in E Flat Major
(Notturno) Opus 48 (D. 897)
Of the great composers associated with Vienna in the late eighteenthand early nineteenth centuries, Schubert alone was Viennese by birth. Haydn hadbeen born in Rohrau, a village a few miles from Pressburg, better known asBratislava, the principal city of Slovakia, but had spent his last years ofretirement in the capital, after a career that had passed largely in Eisenstadtand at the great palace of Esterhaz in Hungary. Mozart was a product ofprovincial Salzburg, and had only escaped from there to spend the lastprecarious ten years of his life in Vienna, while Beethoven, a native of Sonn, was 22 before he finally settled there.
Franz Schubert's parents, it was true, were not Viennese. His fatherhad left Neudorf, in Moravia, to follow his brother to Vienna to pursue hisvocation as a schoolmaster. His mother had come to the city from Silesia. Thecomposer, however, was born in a schoolhouse in the Himmelpfortgrund in 1797,the fourth surviving child of his parents. As a child he learned the piano andthe violin and had further lessons in theory, before being accepted at the ageof eleven into the Imperial Chapel Choir.
Service as a chorister under Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, from whomhe was later to receive instruction in the setting of words, brought with itthe privilege of attending the Staatskonvikt. It was at school that Schubertacquired experience in the orchestral repertoire of the time, while at home thefamily quartet, in which his father played the cello, offered furtheropportunities. At the same time he w rote music of all kinds, the earliestsurviving examples of which come from 1810, his fourteenth year.
By the age of 16 Schubert was presented with a choice. He could haveremained at school, with a scholarship, the award being conditional on aconcentration on academic subjects at the expense of music. Only one course waspossible, and Schubert left school to enter, in 1814, for a one-year course oftraining as an elementary school teacher, a career on which he embarked, in hisfather's schoolroom, the following year. During these years Schubert continuedto write music, songs in profusion, chamber music, Masses, symphonies, evenoperas. By 1816 he had given up teaching, at least for the moment, and had goneto live with a friend, Franz von Schober. The following years were to be spentlargely in the company of a changing circle of friends, whose loyalty andadmiration did much to stimulate his genius, providing at the very least adomestic audience for his songs and chamber music.
It is ironical that only towards the end of Schubert's life were signsapparent of a wider public recognition. He had not been unknown in Vienna, atleast as a song composer, but he lacked the resources that rich patrons orofficial appointments might have provided. 1828 brought the first publicconcert dedicated to his works, a successful occasion, and at the same timepublishers had begun to show greater interest in his music. This promise ofmaterial success was cut short by his sudden death in November, 1828, after anillness resulting from the debilitation of a syphilitic infection that hadbrought intermittent suffering during the last six years of his life and hadoffered him the ever-present spectre of certain death.
The two works for piano trio, the PianoTrios in E flat and the Nottumo,were probably written late in 1827. It has been suggested that the singlemovement Adagio, known as the Nottumo,was originally intended as a slow movement for the first Piano Trio, and thedating of the paper used for the surviving autograph of this movement has beenused as evidence of the date of composition of the trio to which it has beensupposed to belong. The Andante un pocomosso in E flat that forms the present slow movement starts with agentle theme for the cello, followed by the violin, and the piano in a changedkey, leading into further chromatic exploration. There is a Scherzo andcontrasting Trio of great charm, and a final movement of amiable brilliance.
The Piano Trio in E flat
a work that Schumann found more spirited, masculine and dramatic in tone thanthe earlier work, for which he expressed a general preference, was firstperformed at the private party in January 1828 to celebrate the engagement ofSchubert's school-friend Josef von Spaun and formed part of the later publicconcert in March. The first movement starts with an immediate call to our attentionand a first subject of dramatic outline is followed by a more lyrical secondtheme, introduced by the cello, closely followed by the violin. Longer than themovement that had introduced the earlier piano trio, and of greater harmoniccomplexity, this opening is followed by a C minor slow movement with a melodythat Schubert's friend Sonnleithner identified as a Swedish folk-song Se solen sjunker. (The sun is down.) Theuse of canon in the Scherzo, as violin and cello enter in imitation of thepiano, has its precedents, not least in Haydn. The movement includes a Trio ofdynamic contrasts. The final Allegro moderato is introduced by the piano with alilting melody, in a movement that is to include contrasting episodes and eventhe suggestion of a Turkish element as well as a reminiscence of the folk-songof the slow movement, in a sonata-rondo that moves to a brilliant conclusion.
Stuttgart Piano Trio
Since its foundation in 1968 the Stuttgart Piano Trio has won aconsiderable reputation for itself. In 1969 the Trio won the MendelssohnCompetition in Berlin and the International Radio Competition in Munich andsince then has appeared in many of the leading cities of the world and at majorfestivals. The violinist Rainer Kussmaul was born in Mannheim in 1952 andtrained in Stuttgart, later winning prizes in Montreal, Bucharest and Leipzig.
He plays a violin made by Andrea Guarnerius in Cremona in 1692. The cellistClaus Kanngiesser joined the Trio in 1971, after study in Harnburg, where histeachers included Zara Nelsova, and masterclasses with Gaspar Cassado and PabloCasals. He plays an instrument made in 1841 by Gian Francesco Pressenda. Thepianist Monika Leonhard includes among her teachers Michelangeli and AlfredBrendel and completed her studies in Stuttgart in 1969.