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Schubert -- Sonata in E-flat Major (D. 568 or Op. 122)

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by jlr43, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello all,

    Been working on a lot of Schubert of late. At this point in my life, I would say almost unequivocally that Schubert is my favorite composer (perhaps analogously to how Chris feels about Bach :p ). In addition to containing some of the greatest melodies ever written, Schubert's music IMO displays great harmonic subtlety as well as a certain classical precision (the perfect bridge of the classic into the romantic).

    This particular sonata (1817) is the longest and probably greatest of Schubert's earlier essays in the form. It surprises me that it isn't played more often. While lacking in gravity compared with the tripartite cycle of three late sonatas, it exhibits a carefree elegance and wistfulness.

    Anyway, hope you find this a good addition to the site (especially since there aren't any other performances yet). Comments welcome.

    Joe

    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, I: Allegro Moderato
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, II:Andante Molto
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, III: Menuetto-Allegretto
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, IV: Allegro Moderato
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The late Schubert sonatas, and perhaps the Gasteiner, are staple fare these days. But the earlier sonatas, which may be not as great but still very good, are woefully underrated. In the not so dim past, the sonatas were hardly known at all. I believe Rachmaninov once confessed not being aware that Schubert had written any sonatas at all....

    So it's good to have one of the lesser-known ones on the site. I know this one well and I can say you give a thoughtful and polished performance of it. There are many good things and not really any bad, certainly no technical faults that I could detect. You add a bit more romantic inflection than I would, but that's a valid choice.

    There's really only one thing I can pick on and that is that it seems a bit earthbound. Schubert can be earnest, sad, soulful, lyrical, melancholic, but he can also be fleeting, unpredictable, defiant, mercurial, and exuberant (thought I'd throw in some nice adjectives, as is my style :lol: ), and that combination is what makes Schubert so unique and appealing. And that last aspect I miss a bit here, especially in the outer movements which could be a tad faster and livelier, more dancing and (in places) more impulsive. One example is the passage in mvt IV from 6:00 onwards which does not take flight as it should, but sounds rather cautious (this is a tricky bit alright). Part of this overall impression is maybe that your accompaniments are a bit heavy and prominent. Schubert uses a lot of accompaniment figures, Alberti basses, repeated/alternating chords, and variations on these, and they should never get in the way of the melody.

    Despite the slight reservation, this is a quality performance. I liked the Menuet best. If you do more Schubert I hope my comments are of some use to make it even better. Roll on the Viennese charm :p
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is up, Joe. Sorry, I can't critique you because I don't know the piece, plus I'm not into long sonatas so I really only listened to bits and pieces just to make sure everything is intact. What I heard sounded nice, though.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Something I forgot to mention. In the first mvt there are a couple of appogiaturas which are played too prominently, and thus hang in the air, unresolved. I though that sounded a bit strange. Taking them a bit lighter and more casual would resolve that. A very minor niggle, I admit :)
     
  5. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Yes, I'd heard that about Rachmaninoff too. I think the impromptus were the main, and perhaps, only major works of Schubert studied at the conservatories in those days.

    Thanks for this.

    Yes, definitely. Some of these need to be lighter.

    You make interesting points here, but I'm not in agreement on some of them, particularly regarding tempo. I know some people play the outer movements faster but, after all, they're marked "Allegro Moderato" (IMO probably halfway in between an Allegretto and an Allegro). I think the moderato indicates that everything should be moderate, tempowise, character-wise, dynamics-wise, etc. Liveliness does not seem appropriate to me here (seems better applied to prestos in, e.g., Haydn). "Graceful" and "elegant" seem more appropriate to me (and I do think I need to do more here). Like Mozart, Schubert also displays elements of classical precision, particularly in these early works. It is for this reason that besides the application of subtle rubati in places, the overall tempo should, ideally, be exactly in time. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "taking flight," but I don't think this passage in Mvt. IV should gush or sound overly "exuberant." Schubert IMO hardly ever should. It's ever subtle and beneath the surface. One (and admittedly I could work even more on this) IMO makes one's points though subtle dynamic contrasts and attention to the harmonic variety and changes. Also, it's not that fleeting and mercurial can't be applied to Schubert, but they certainly aren't what I think of. They seem like more immediate descriptors of, e.g., Scriabin.

    Yes, I agree they are too prominent, but I'm not sure what you mean by "hang in the air, unresolved."

    Thanks again for the feedback. Interesting that you liked the Menuet best; frankly, I liked it least, but that's why it's always interesting to get another listener's perspective :p

    Joe
     
  6. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Monica, and no worries. I'll be doing some Chopin down the road, which should be up your alley for a critique :wink:
     
  7. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Of course this performance will already have been posted, because it is masterful. I'll make my case for this claim in simple terms: what is it, inter alia, that makes Schubert piano music so fantastically difficult to play?

    In my view, it's seeing the whole, seeing the forest, and not just all the trees, which are particularly beautiful and distracting in the case of Schubert.

    Take the last movement of this extraordinary piece (which it's hard to believe Schubert wrote at the grand age of 20!). I don't have the sheet music before me, but there have to be at least 5 distinct melodies or "themes" happening here, and they are ingeniously interwoven in a way that makes it difficult for anyone but the gifted musician to pull together. Schubert is of course a song-writer par excellence, and when we hear him the first thing many of us start to do, instinctively, is to hum along--at the very least in our heads, if not also out loud.

    But for all that, which is plenty enough, there is Bach-like complexity in Schubert's capacity to string together the themes: and THAT is the part of interpreting and performing Schubert that makes him (again, this is only my view) more difficult to interpret than, say, Beethoven. (Them's fight'n words.) So many Schubert piano recordings, however technically stunning they may be--adorned in beautiful renderings of melody, which is ineluctable in Schubert--lack the basic ingredient: showing us the whole.

    Richter was able to do it, on occasion at least, which is partly what puts the Schubert he recorded above many others. This performance is rare, because it manages to do the same. That is a VERY rare commodity. I'm now going back for a second and third hearing of movements 2, 3, and 4, especially the last, the extraordinary beauty of which this performance brings fully alive. Could it be the relatively strict tempi observed here? That's it in part. But there's more going on, which makes this listening a real learning experience for me.

    Let me end somewhat abruptly be saying that whoever this pianist is, you've made my day. Now back to your performance, because I want to listen to it again!

    I should append a stock advisory: I'm tying these comments off very quickly; so you'll have to excuse all inconsistencies and grammatical faux.

    JG
     
  8. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist

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    I just listened at the first movement. I may have never listened to this sonata before. It's too good for me criticizing anything. This music is rather far from the shadows of the further sonatas. Reminiscent to J. Haydn music. Perfect for this sunny day. Thank you much. :)
     
  9. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    John,

    Thanks for the review and for your intelligent comments.

    I couldn't agree more about the comparison with Bach. I'm a great Bach enthusiast too (well, I suppose I'm an enthusiast of almost everything besides modern music :p ). This last movement, which for me is also the greatest of the four, reveals Schubert as a great contrapuntist with an ear for complex polyphonic texture. Unfortunately, similarly to Wagner's premature dismissal of Chopin as a "composer for the right hand," all too many performances of Schubert's music do seem rather awash in pedal with dangling basses below a mooned-over treble. I'm glad you were convinced by the voicing/clarity aspect of my performance, for this was my goal.

    I agree as well about your comparison with Beethoven. Personally, I don't dislike Beethoven, but I have always vastly preferred Schubert. Part of the greater difficulty, I think, in interpreting Schubert compared with Beethoven is Schubert's far greater harmonic and rhythmic subtlety. I know that a good portion of the world would disagree with me about this, but Beethoven's music just seems so overdeveloped and repetitive after a while (Captain Obvious in an expression).

    These are high compliments indeed. :D I love Richter's Schubert playing (his expansive playing of the G Major sonata comes to mind). Incidentally, I think Schubert and Rachmaninoff are the two composers Richter did best.

    I'm glad you liked the last movement the best, since in listening back it was my favorite of the four as well. I'm also glad you noticed the tempi. I think as in Bach, the overall tempi need to be strict (with a few relaxations for rubati and phrasing purposes of course), so that one can focus on the clarity of the voices. This movement is indeed heavenly beautiful, but it also exhibits a razor-sharp classical edge.

    Again, thanks for listening to my performance! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    -- Joe Renouf
     
  10. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for listening, Didier! I agree that there's a certain Haydnesque carefree ambience to this sonata, though IMHO even in these early works of Schubert there is a far greater depth and subtlety than Haydn ever attained.
     
  11. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Sorry to ask you to do this so soon, but could you replace this sonata?

    Overall, I discovered one thing I hadn't done in the post phase was to equalize the left and right channels, which resulted in a more balanced sound. I agreed with Chris overall about this aspect, but was a bit puzzled since some of the accompaniments didn't sound as loud when I was playing (not trying to excuse my own shortcomings though, but I think this sound brings it out better now).

    Also, although the originals were continuous takes, I chose to edit in one different passage each in the first and last movements in response to Chris's comments (one involving a few rather awkward-sounding appogiaturas in the recapitulation :p ). Since I was fairly satisfied with the original takes, this seemed to make more sense.

    Thanks in advance for your help. I think it's only fair I make a second donation to the site now :p

    Joe


    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, I: Allegro Moderato
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, II:Andante Molto
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, III: Menuetto-Allegretto
    Schubert - Piano Sonata in E-flat Major D.568, IV: Allegro Moderato
     
  12. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ok, these are replaced. I'll listen to them later to see if I can spot the improved balance.

    You certainly don't have to make a massive donation (thanks for that !) whenever you want something replaced.... But we won't stop you :lol:
    Actually, it would perhaps not be a bad idea to ask people for a (small) donation every time they submit a recording or ask us to change something.
    Although it's of course the listeners who should be chipping in more than the pianists... but we can't make them.
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Chris.

    I know. It's something I had intended to do for a long time, so it made sense to me cumulatively :p
     

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