Monday, February 27, 2006

War of the Romantics, Part II: Franz Schubert (1797-1828)


Though he only lived one year longer than his hero Beethoven, he conservatively used classical forms, and he held Mozart in high regard, Franz Schubert is generally considered a Romantic composer, one of the first. He was only 31 when he died but had already made a great impact in the fledgling Romantic world. In his later works, Schubert's harmonic innovations- modulating to seemingly unrelated keys and using more experimental harmonies- paved the way for later Romantics. But Schubert's most important contribution was the concept of thematically linking a piece or a set of pieces together; in other words, going beyond the idea that each piece was a seperate entity that existed independently of anything else. Wagner and Liszt will pick up on this... more on that later, though. His Wanderer-Fantasie (1820) for piano is an example of this; it is a virtuostic sonata in cyclic form, based on an earlier song of Schubert's, with the theme recurring throughout the piece. The Wanderer is a character found in various Schubert pieces who can never seem to find happiness; perhaps it represents Schubert himself.

Schubert was most prolific in his songwriting for voice and piano, and Franz Liszt famously transcribed many of his songs for solo piano. This disc also includes four Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs, showing the brilliance of both composers.

A late-period fantasy by Brahms is also on this CD, but I won't talk about that. Much more on Brahms soon.

Evgeny Kissin- Schubert, Liszt, Brahms
(Kissin was still in his teens when he recorded this, but he is excellent)

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