SCHUBERT: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 6 (Failoni Chamber Orchestra/ Michael Halasz) (Naxos: 8.553094)
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Franz Schubert (1797 -1828)
Symphony No.3 in D Major, D. 200
Symphony No.6 in C Major, D. 589
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster who had settled in the city some fourteen years before. He showed early musical ability, exercised in the family quartet with his father and older brothers, and in 1808 was successful in winning a place as a chorister in the Imperial Chapel, enabling him to continue his general education at the Staatskonvikt, a school of the highest prestige. It was here that he was exposed to a wider musical world and began to compose. At the Konvikt he could profit from the presence of the old Kapellmeister Salieri and broaden his practical experience by playing the violin in the student orchestra, which he sometimes led. His voice broke in 1812 and he rejected the offer of a scholarship for further study, instead entering the Normal School of St. Anna to train as an elementary teacher. In this capacity he joined his father in the school-room in 1815. The following year he was unsuccessful in an application for a position as music teacher at the Normal School in Laibach (Ljubljana) but left home to lodge instead with his friend Franz von Schober.
The remaining years of Schubert's life were spent predominantly in Vienna, more often than not in the company of friends. There were occasions when he returned briefly to teaching at his father's school, but as a composer he proved increasingly prolific, particularly in the writing of songs, welcomed among his own circle and winning him gradually a wider reputation. Some of his songs proved immediately successful, particularly through the advocacy of his friend, the singer Michael Vogl, and there were commissions for the theatre and publication of piano pieces and songs well suited to the new domestic market. His last years, however, were clouded by illness. A syphilitic infection, in those days incurable, took its intermittent course, and he died in November 1828, twenty months after the death of Beethoven. While the latter had from the first enjoyed distinguished patronage and had had an early career as a virtuoso pianist, Schubert had occupied a different position, part, rather, of the society of Biedermeier Vienna.
Lacking the esteem and patronage from which Beethoven had profited, Schubert published relatively little and consequently left a great deal of music to be rediscovered posthumously. His orchestral writing was clearly influenced by the repertoire of the Staatskonvikt orchestra, which included symphonies by Mozart and Haydn, as well as the earlier Beethoven symphonies. The family quartet tackled four-part versions of Haydn symphonies and the ensemble grew so that by 1815, under the leadership of the violinist Otto Hatwig, it could muster some twenty string players, as well as double woodwind and percussion, providing an orchestra for which Schubert, who played viola, wrote his earlier symphonies and overtures.
Alternative numbering for Schubert's symphonies has led to occasional confusion. After an early sketch for a first movement in or about 1811, Schubert had tackled the form seriously by 1813, completing his Symphony No.1 in D major by 28th October that year. His Symphony No.2 in B flat major was written between 10th December 1814 and 24th March 1815. Problems of numbering arise, however, with the symphonies written after 1821, which include a sketched score for an E major Symphony in August that year, sometimes described as No.7, the two movements of the so-called Unfinished Symphony, sometimes described as No.8, and the final Great C major Symphony, consequently known, with this numbering, as No.9. Clearly, if the E major and Unfinished symphonies are not counted, then the last great symphony becomes No.7, with a further adjustment of numeration if the sketched E major Symphony is disregarded.
Schubert began his Symphony No.3 in D major in May 1815, writing only a small part of the first movement. He composed the rest of the work in the space of nine days, between 11th and 19th July in the same year. Scored for an orchestra with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, it opens with a slow introduction, followed by an Allegro con brio in which a clarinet announces the first subject and an oboe the second, joined by a bassoon, the intervening transition echoing the introduction. The material is imaginatively developed, before the clarinet returns to introduce the recapitulation. The G major second movement Allegretto is started by the strings with a gentle melody, to be joined by the flute and the other woodwind instruments. A clarinet in C offers a second theme, before the return of the first section. The third movement, more of a scherzo than a Minuet is reinforced by the whole wind section. It frames a Ländler Trio, with oboe, bassoon and strings. This leads to a final movement with all the energy and in the characteristic rhythm of a tarantella, an opera buffa ensemble conclusion.
It seems that Schubert's Symphony No.6 in C major was written between October 1817, the date at the head of the manuscript, and February 1818, the date at the end of finale. This is the period of the two overtures in the Italian style, and it is not surprising that there are traces of Rossini in the symphony as well, coupled with the profounder influence of Beethoven. While the third symphony had to wait 66 years for its first performance, the sixth was apparently played for the first time at Otto Hatwig's in the year of its composition and was given a public performance by the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde on 14th December 1828, the so-called 'Little' C major Symphony taking the place of the 'Great' C major Symphony, which was apparently too difficult. It is scored for an orchestra of similar composition to that used for the first three symphonies and again starts with a slow introduction, after which the flutes first take charge of the principal subject of the Allegretto. Flutes and clarinets introduce the second subject and the central development, with its interplay between the wind instruments, has a false return to the first subject, before the original key is restored in the recapitulation. The strings introduce the F major Andante, joined by flute and clarinet. There is a middle section of greater drama, with something more of Beethoven about it, and this is used to modify the original melodic material when it returns in the final section of the movement. The spirit of Beethoven is heard again in the Scherzo, with its continuing skilful use of wind instruments and subtle shifts of key. The Trio, marked più lento, is in E major, but brings its own surprises of harmony and mood, before the return of the Scherzo. The strings introduce the principal subject of the last movement, a return to Rossini in a movement rich in invention, with contrasts of material and keys before the eventual return of the first subject.
Failoni Orchestra, Budapest
The Failoni Orchestra was founded in 1981 by members of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership of the violinist Béla Nagy, the orchestra has taken part in a number of important international festivals. The orchestra takes its name from the distinguished Italian conductor Sergio Failoni, conductor of the Hungarian State Opera from 1928 until his death twenty years later.
Michael Halász's first engagement as a conductor was at the Munich Gärtnerplatz Theater, where, from 1972 to