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Franz Schubert - Sonata in A major, D. 664

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Schubert's Sonata in A major, D. 664, published posthumously in 1829 as Opus 120, has been plausibly dated to 1819, which would place it in proximity with the 'Trout' Quintet in the same key of A major, and with a similar air of relaxation. In the summer of that year Schubert had accompanied Vogl on his annual excursion to his native Steyr. There his acquaintance with Sylvester Paumgartner led to the composition of the quintet, making use of Schubert's song Die Forelle (The Trout).

It has been suggested that the sonata, which reflects much the same mood of delight in the Styrian countryside, is to be identified with a sonata written for the pianist Josefine von Koller, whom Schubert met on the occasion of this first visit to Steyr. The first movement, with its song-like principal theme, breathes the air of the country, its serenity only briefly broken in the central development. The D major Andante opens with some harmonic ambiguity, implicit in the principal theme, but any passing sadness is dispelled in the final Allegro.

Schubert's cantabile style of playing would have stood him in particularly good stead in the A major Sonata, D. 664. It has always been one of his most popular piano sonatas, no doubt in view of its genial songlike nature. No less characteristic than the first movement's lyrical opening theme is its second subject, which features the dactylic rhythm Schubert used on so many occasions throughout his life. This is one of the very rare movements in which he indicated that the second half was to be repeated, in addition to the first. The piece is then rounded off with a resigned coda based on the opening subject.

The sighing phrases of the slow movement's theme carry with them a uniquely ambiguous emotional effect, one of both warmth and melancholy. Schubert echoed them in a song he wrote in January 1821, to a poem by his friend Caroline von Pichler, Der Ungluckliche, where they are associated with the comfort of death. Much more carefree is the finale, a glittering piece in which Schubert manages to provide a virtuoso conclusion to the Sonata as a whole. without ever losing sight of its amiable character.

I. Allegro moderato
II. Andante
III. Allegro

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