Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
Performance date: 28/06/2014
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1824
Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Other: 2pf
Philippe Cassard -
Cédric Pescia - [piano]
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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