COMPLETE ALBUM NOTES
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1997 commemorated the 200th anniversary of Franz Schubert’s birth. In his short life of thirty-one years he composed numerous songs, dances, chamber works, operas, masses, and nine symphonies. Anyone who has listened to his music cannot help but be impressed by his gift for melodic invention. Unlike his contemporary, Ludwig van Beethoven, whose instrumental works display a very clear musical blueprint, Schubert’s works live for the musical moment, carried aloft by melodic beauty and harmonic riches. The selections presented here are based upon traditional classical forms but are united in their fantasy or improvisational nature.
The Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15 (D 760), titled Wanderer, written in 1822, is a large scale work, and quite orchestral in nature. Its four connected sections bear the tempi of a sonata without adhering to a strict sonata formula. The composition is based upon a single theme, from the song, Der Wanderer, first published in 1821 (Op. 4, No.1, D 493). The passage quoted, in the original key of C# minor, appears in the Adagio with a few minor modifications. Using the fantasy form, Schubert gains more freedom of expression. He dissects the theme into three melodic figures from which derive the other sections. The later Romantics, such as Liszt, would use the same techniques in their works, especially in their symphonic tone poems.
The Grazer Fantasy, also in C Major, thought to have been written in 1818, has the distinction of having been discovered in 1962, in a chest that was in the estate of the composer and cathedral choirmaster, Rudolf von Weis-Ostborn, of Graz, Austria. The contents of this chest had at one time belonged to Josef Hüttenbrenner, a friend of Schubert. Hüttenbrenner, being an admirer of Schubert, had copied out a number of his works. The actual musical text of this work was done by a copyist, but we know that Hüttenbrenner himself created the title page. This fantasy also grows from a single theme, but not in the same manner as the Wanderer. The thematic material of the Grazer, revealed at the opening, is recalled from time to time rather than being transformed. And being a fantasy, it too does not adhere to a strict sonata pattern; sections simply flow into other sections. Like Beethoven, Schubert uses higher registers, and he anticipated later Chopin nocturnes with his widely spaced accompaniment.
193 dances were published during Schubert’s lifetime. Unlike Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, Schubert’s dances were written as piano pieces and were likely created, for the most part, during improvisations performed by Schubert at parties in private homes known as Schubertiads. This recording presents a selection of waltzes known as Ländler, the Deutsche Tänze (German Dances), and the Valses Nobles. Ländler are waltzes that had their origin in the Austrian Alps and are somewhat slower than the typical waltz. Because these waltzes were created by improvisation they continue to have a certain spontaneity to them. At the same time, they allow us to glimpse the Viennese society they so embody through the ever resourceful and talented heart and soul of one who was there - Franz Schubert.
©1997, 2005 John DesMarteau