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Variations on an Original Theme in A flat major D.813

Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)

Cedric Pescia (photo credit: Uwe Neumann)

Cedric Pescia (photo credit: Uwe Neumann)

Composer
Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Composition Year
1824
Artists
Philippe Cassard [piano], Cédric Pescia [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

This attractive work, considered by some authorities as Schubert's finest four-hand creation, is, like the Fantasie, linked to the Esterhazy family. It was composed at their Castle in Zseliz during Schubert's summer stay there probably in May 1824. As a visiting music master he was expected to provide music for the family to play, as well as teaching the daughters, Karoline and Marie who were 19 and 22 respectively. Writing home to a friend in August, Schubert enthused that the Variations: have been particularly well received here, but since I do not wholly trust the Hungarians' taste, I leave it to you and the Viennese to pass judgement on them. The work was published in February 1825 with a dedication to the French Count Anton Berchtold, who sponsored the cost of printing.

The theme itself has a grave charm, Allegretto, and its two upbeats give it a classical gravity; Schubert's friend Schober described it as grandiose and languid. However Schubert soon stretches its simple origins in a set of eight splendid variations.  The first two maintain the mood of the Theme itself; it is the third (un poco lento - con delicatezza) that brings the first major development of the material with the material in canonic imitation. The fourth variation is lively and dramatic. The only key-shift occurs for the fifth variation, the pivotal sequence in the work. Here A flat minor is used and the theme is given a gentle variant over repeated chords. The sixth, Maestoso, brings back the lively mood while the seventh - più lento - has a special poignancy. The lead player (Primo) is given a short cadenza, leading into the vibrant dotted rhythms of the final Variation, a vigorous Siciliano in 6/8, bringing the work to a cheerful and attractive close, with the lead player providing a concerto-like display of virtuosity.

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Variations on an Original Theme in A flat major D.813

Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Performance date: Saturday 28th June 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Work Title Variations on an Original Theme in A flat major D.813
Composition Year 1824
Artist(s) Philippe Cassard [piano], Cédric Pescia [piano]
Performance Date Saturday 28th June 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Crespo Recital Series
Duration 00:17:45
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation 2pf
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

This attractive work, considered by some authorities as Schubert's finest four-hand creation, is, like the Fantasie, linked to the Esterhazy family. It was composed at their Castle in Zseliz during Schubert's summer stay there probably in May 1824. As a visiting music master he was expected to provide music for the family to play, as well as teaching the daughters, Karoline and Marie who were 19 and 22 respectively. Writing home to a friend in August, Schubert enthused that the Variations: have been particularly well received here, but since I do not wholly trust the Hungarians' taste, I leave it to you and the Viennese to pass judgement on them. The work was published in February 1825 with a dedication to the French Count Anton Berchtold, who sponsored the cost of printing.

The theme itself has a grave charm, Allegretto, and its two upbeats give it a classical gravity; Schubert's friend Schober described it as grandiose and languid. However Schubert soon stretches its simple origins in a set of eight splendid variations.  The first two maintain the mood of the Theme itself; it is the third (un poco lento - con delicatezza) that brings the first major development of the material with the material in canonic imitation. The fourth variation is lively and dramatic. The only key-shift occurs for the fifth variation, the pivotal sequence in the work. Here A flat minor is used and the theme is given a gentle variant over repeated chords. The sixth, Maestoso, brings back the lively mood while the seventh - più lento - has a special poignancy. The lead player (Primo) is given a short cadenza, leading into the vibrant dotted rhythms of the final Variation, a vigorous Siciliano in 6/8, bringing the work to a cheerful and attractive close, with the lead player providing a concerto-like display of virtuosity.