The Schubertiades

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Franz Schubert's songs and small piano pieces, with their lyrical melodies and poignant harmonies, mark him as the first truly sensuously romantic musician. Schubert's work coincided with the mature development of the piano and its dissemination into the homes of the new rising middle class. On this episode, compositions by music's first lyric genius of romanticism: Franz Schubert.

Schubert lived to compose. His many friends formed a network to help him achieve this dream, meeting regularly at their various homes for what they called Schubertiades. These consisted of poetry readings, charades, dancing, as well as performances of Schubert's newest works. After considerable drinking and high spirits, Schubert usually stumbled back to his room quite drunk, and keeping his spectacles on while he slept so to begin composing immediately upon awakening, as a new song was usually forming.

Very little is known of Schubert's inner world. In fact, we know less about him than any other master of the romantic age. He was never married, seldom wrote letters, was painfully shy, and was self-conscious about being extremely short at five-foot-one-inch tall. At the Schubertiades, he never danced, but sat at the piano improvising dances for his friends. Many of his compositions are imbued with a love of the beautiful Austrian countryside, evoking a rustic quality. Others are loveable waltzes and lyrical beauties filled with the song and dance of the Austrian people, or of his own personal suffering.

Playlist

Schubert: Minuetto from Sonata, Op. 78 D894 / Arthur Rubinstein

Schubert: Sonata in A minor, D845 IV: Rondo, Allegro Vivace / Wilhelm Kempff

Schubert: Hungarian Melody / Frank Levy

Schubert: Three Waltzes / David Dubal

Schubert: Selection from Twelve Landler, D. 790, Op. posth 171 / Matthew Graybil

Schubert: Sonata in A D959 II: Andantino / Arthur Schnabel

Schubert/Liszt: Erlkonig / Jorge Bolet

Schubert: Sonata in D Major D850 I: Allegro vivace / Emil Gilels

Schubert: Allegro from "Wanderer" D760 / Claudio Arrau