Archive for Franz Schubert

Llŷr Williams plays Schubert

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve been away from blogging for a few days, so I thought I’d begin the process of catching up with a short review of the concert I went to on Thursday evening (9th November) at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff featuring acclaimed Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams playing music by Franz Schubert. Llŷr Williams recently completed a series of concerts in which he performed all the works for keyboard by Beethoven, and now he has embarking on another journey, this time of Schubert. The concert was recorded and will, I believe, be released commercially.

The first half of the recital consisted of the Sonata in G Major D894 (Op. 78) which was written in 1826, just two years before the composer’s death. Although Schubert was already ill when he wrote this piece it is generally optimistic in tone.    The first and third movements introduce  dance-like elements, and the final movement is a light and breezy Allegretto in the form of a rondo. The piece is tempestuous in places but  generally resolves into a more tranquil mood. It’s a well-balanced and  enjoyable piece, wonderfully played.

To close the first half we had three transcriptions for solo piano by Franz Liszt of Schubert songs:  Ständchen, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, and Ave Maria.  The last of these (Ellens Gesang III) is probably the most famous as a song but also the least successful as a solo piano piece. On the other hand, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, works well. I’m not a huge fan of Liszt and although it was interesting to hear these works in this form I much prefer them sung by a human voice with a piano accompaniment.

After the interval  wine break we had a later Piano Sonata (in C Minor D 958), written during the last year of Schubert’s life. In four movements like the piece we heard in the first half, this piece has a much greater depth and sense of drama to it (at least to my ears), at least partly because it is clearly influenced in structure and tonality by Beethoven. Perhaps it was for that reason that this work inspired Llŷr Williams to a performance of great intensity as well as virtuosity, especially in the final Allegro movement which is extremely agitated, even frenzied. As he introduced the piece, Llŷr Williams spoke of this as being like a `dance of death’. Schubert probably knew he was dying when he wrote this piece, but it’s not as bleak as some of his other late works.  It seems to me to be characterised by a sense of determination,  to get as much done as possible before his life came to an end.

Schubert died before his 32nd birthday, but he was astonishingly prolific, especially towards the end of his life, and he left a huge legacy of wonderful music. I’m very much looking forward to the next concert in this series of explorations of his piano music.




Der Doppelgänger

Posted in Mental Health, Music with tags , , on July 12, 2017 by telescoper

Writing yesterday about depersonalisation for some reason brought this song by Franz Schubert to mind. I heard it on the radio recently and found it profoundly moving. Der Doppelgänger is a setting of a poem by Heinrich Heine that Schubert composed in 1828 near the end of his life; it was published posthumously in 1929 as part of Schwanengesang.t’s relevance to the topic of depersonalisation lies in the middle verse, in which the poet describes seeing a tormented figure only to realise that the figure is he (the last line says `The Moon shows me my own form’):

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,
Und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzensgewalt;
Mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe –
Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.

It’s a very bleak piece, its desolate atmosphere underlined by the inexorable piano accompaniment which consists mostly of block chords. I think you can tell that this is written by a man who knows his days are numbered, but the simplicity and beauty of the composition and pervading sense of loneliness and desolation mark it as a work of genius, which Schubert undoubtedly was.

The singer is the late great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Horowitz plays Schubert

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 9, 2016 by telescoper

This was doing the rounds on Facebook earlier this summer and I meant to post it on here, but forgot. Anyway, better late than never.  This is the great Vladimir Horowitz playing the Impromptu No. 3  in G flat major D899  by Franz Schubert. It’s a stunning performance to watch as well as listen to, despite – or maybe because of – the fact that he was an old man at the time and this was to be his last concert in Vienna. I love the way he takes his time to settle at the start, and then all of a sudden, his hands apparently almost still, he starts to caress the keyboard with his fingers and this beautiful music comes to life, almost as if it’s coming directly from another world. Take a few minutes off, and let some beauty into your heart..



Talking about Winterreise

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 18, 2012 by telescoper

Well, here’s a find! A fascinating bit of film featuring Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears discussing and performing Franz Schubert‘s great song cycle, Winterreise.

R.I.P Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Posted in Music with tags , , , on May 19, 2012 by telescoper

I was very sad to hear, first thing this morning, of the death at the age of 86 of legendary singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. I can’t add anything to the host of tributes that have already appeared, except to say that his voice will always be very special to me because his recording of Schubert’s Winterreise (with Gerald Moore on piano) was the first I ever heard of any Schubert Lieder.

Instead of trying to write an appreciation which couldn’t possibly to justice to the man and his musical legacy, I’ll just post this video and let it speak for itself. This is Winterreise in its entirety, performed in 1979 by Fischer-Dieskau with Alfred Brendel on piano.

Rest in peace, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012).

Im Frühling

Posted in Music with tags , , on March 25, 2012 by telescoper

We’re enjoying a spell of perfect weather at the moment, so I’m going to be out most of the afternoon enjoying the flowers and trees in Bute Park. I assume  I’m not in danger of being run over by a lorry speeding along the paths, since I don’t think they work on Sundays. Anyway, BBC Radio 3 is devoting the period until the end of March to a “Spirit of Schubert” festival, so I thought I’d join in by posting an appropriately seasonal ditty. This is Im Frühling (D. 882) (“In Spring”), sung by Peter Pears with piano accompaniment by Benjamin Britten way back in 1950. Gives me a lovely glow inside listening to this. I hope you feel the same..