Franz Peter Schubert - Life and Music

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Franz Schubert Piano Works - Introduction

Music > Piano Music

Unlike Mozart or Beethoven, Schubert was not a virtuoso and rarely appeared in public as a pianist. But those who were fortunate enough to hear him perform, in the intimate gatherings which he preferred, agreed that he was a very competent and highly sensitive player who laid great store by beauty of tone. His fascination with the expressive power of the pianoforte remained with him throughout his short creative life from the earliest duet-fantasias, written as a boy, to the three final sonatas, which confirmed him once and for all as Beethoven's legitimate heir.

In a succession of masterpieces for solo piano and piano duet, in chamber music, and not least in his song accompaniments, Schubert explored and exploited the potential of the latest instruments.

If one counts every little waltz, march or ländler, Schubert wrote well over 400 piano pieces. These are mostly in sets, some of which can be regarded as masterworks. Almost every one of them is at least charming, and a goodly number are quite hauntingly beautiful, or thrillingly poignant and dramatic by turns. The most frequently heard and played piano works are the two sets of Impromptus, D. 899 and 935, along with the six well-known Moments musicaux, D. 780, also from his final phase.

The real heart of Schubert’s piano works, however, lie in his sonatas, which we can follow as a kind of diary of his creative journey from the age of eighteen to the very end of his life. At the beginning, curiously enough, we find little sign of the precocious genius found in his earliest songs. Then again, the sonata is a large-scale structure, requiring far more in the organising, linking and developing of materials than any song.

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