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String Quintet in C major D956

Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)

Adrian Brendel (photo credit: Emile Holba)

Adrian Brendel (photo credit: Emile Holba)

Composer
Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Composition Year
1828
Work Movements
1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo, Presto - Trio, Andante sostenuto
4. Allegretto
Artists
Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]), Adrian Brendel [cello]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

This Sonata stands at the summit. It is as though Schubert here achieves everything he has been striving for – perfection of form, especially the last movement; perfection of utterance, every emotion is given its moment; and a glorious fusion of his lyrical songmaster’s voice with his inner demons. It is a work of massive power and outstanding stature, it is also an enormous work lasting over forty minutes but with not a note wasted. There is a regal majesty surrounding this work that marks it out from the first bar as one of the peaks of the piano literature.

The opening speaks of thunder, controlled majestic power, with cascades of subservient strains dancing attendance. These attendant ideas in triplets and chords then take over before being worked into the restatement of the theme, a remarkable fusion so early in the movement. Schubert is no longer content to hold back the development of his ideas until the traditional development section. The noble second subject does not reveal itself immediately, slipping gently into the debate before establishing itself so forcefully that Schubert finds it necessary to cool the temperature by recalling its earlier peacefulness before the repeat calls up the voice of thunder again. The development section is taken over by a jaunty new idea that marvellously explores itself before handing us back to the recapitulation. The coda is extraordinary, no more thunder, hesitant, broken phrases are all that is left of the main theme before the magical close is ushered in by sweeping arpeggios.

The contrast between raw power and gentle nobility is taken even further in the heart-stopping Andantino. The main theme is a wistful strain of quiet melancholy over an incessant walking accompaniment, recalling the sad wanderers of the song cycles. The key remains doggedly in F sharp minor, the tread in the left hand goes on and on, the wary will recognise the calm before the storm. Gradually we are led into the dramatic central section, but nothing we have heard so far prepares us for the wild outburst of despair that follows. This deluge of torrential scales and shock harmonies culminates in terrible silences and terror-filled stabbing chords. Gradually calm is restored and the main theme returns, but utterly changed, shorn of its innocence and melancholy, bearing its visionary burden of horror.

The Scherzo needs to be bright and airy after such a vision but at times one cannot but feel that Schubert is not convinced by this attempt at cheerfulness, a feeling confirmed by the solemnity of the Trio.

The Finale is an immense sonata-rondo of extraordinary lyricism. The themes sing with a beauty that verges on the heartbreaking, they sing and sing, long spinning cantabile lines, seemingly untroubled by any cares, as if his only purpose is to melt our hearts with melody. And he had this incredible confidence in his power – the music just pours out and it seems as if nothing can stop him, we are held, helplessly mesmerised as the notes flow past. Eventually it has to end, long pauses warn us the coda is imminent and it arrives in a tempestuous presto, a world flashes by and in a final masterstroke we are brought full circle back to the voice of thunder that opened the sonata.

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String Quintet in C major D956

Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Performance date: Saturday 9th July 2016
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Work Title String Quintet in C major D956
Composition Year 1828
Work Movements 1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo, Presto - Trio, Andante sostenuto
4. Allegretto
Artist(s) Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]), Adrian Brendel [cello]
Performance Date Saturday 9th July 2016
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Finale
Duration 00:54:18
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, 2vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

This Sonata stands at the summit. It is as though Schubert here achieves everything he has been striving for – perfection of form, especially the last movement; perfection of utterance, every emotion is given its moment; and a glorious fusion of his lyrical songmaster’s voice with his inner demons. It is a work of massive power and outstanding stature, it is also an enormous work lasting over forty minutes but with not a note wasted. There is a regal majesty surrounding this work that marks it out from the first bar as one of the peaks of the piano literature.

The opening speaks of thunder, controlled majestic power, with cascades of subservient strains dancing attendance. These attendant ideas in triplets and chords then take over before being worked into the restatement of the theme, a remarkable fusion so early in the movement. Schubert is no longer content to hold back the development of his ideas until the traditional development section. The noble second subject does not reveal itself immediately, slipping gently into the debate before establishing itself so forcefully that Schubert finds it necessary to cool the temperature by recalling its earlier peacefulness before the repeat calls up the voice of thunder again. The development section is taken over by a jaunty new idea that marvellously explores itself before handing us back to the recapitulation. The coda is extraordinary, no more thunder, hesitant, broken phrases are all that is left of the main theme before the magical close is ushered in by sweeping arpeggios.

The contrast between raw power and gentle nobility is taken even further in the heart-stopping Andantino. The main theme is a wistful strain of quiet melancholy over an incessant walking accompaniment, recalling the sad wanderers of the song cycles. The key remains doggedly in F sharp minor, the tread in the left hand goes on and on, the wary will recognise the calm before the storm. Gradually we are led into the dramatic central section, but nothing we have heard so far prepares us for the wild outburst of despair that follows. This deluge of torrential scales and shock harmonies culminates in terrible silences and terror-filled stabbing chords. Gradually calm is restored and the main theme returns, but utterly changed, shorn of its innocence and melancholy, bearing its visionary burden of horror.

The Scherzo needs to be bright and airy after such a vision but at times one cannot but feel that Schubert is not convinced by this attempt at cheerfulness, a feeling confirmed by the solemnity of the Trio.

The Finale is an immense sonata-rondo of extraordinary lyricism. The themes sing with a beauty that verges on the heartbreaking, they sing and sing, long spinning cantabile lines, seemingly untroubled by any cares, as if his only purpose is to melt our hearts with melody. And he had this incredible confidence in his power – the music just pours out and it seems as if nothing can stop him, we are held, helplessly mesmerised as the notes flow past. Eventually it has to end, long pauses warn us the coda is imminent and it arrives in a tempestuous presto, a world flashes by and in a final masterstroke we are brought full circle back to the voice of thunder that opened the sonata.