Ignat Solzhenitsyn | Solzhenitsyn Plays Schubert

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Solzhenitsyn Plays Schubert

by Ignat Solzhenitsyn

This disc contains two sonatas, written close together in the middle months of 1825, which represent the first fully mature piano writing to emerge from Schubert’s pen.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sonata in C Major, D. 840: I. Moderato
19:52 $2.99
2. Sonata in C Major, D. 840: II. Andante
9:44 $0.99
3. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: I. Allegro vivace
9:23 $0.99
4. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: II. Con moto
13:39 $1.99
5. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
10:46 $1.99
6. Sonata in D Major, D. 850: IV. Allegro moderato
8:50 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

This disc contains two sonatas, written close together in the middle months of 1825, which represent the first fully mature piano writing to emerge from Schubert’s pen.
The C-major Sonata, D. 840, is nonetheless a hugely problematic work, abandoned as it was by the composer after he completed only the first two movements. The first movement presents extreme challenges to the interpreter, both musically and pianistically. From the musical point of view, the uncompromising sparseness of texture, the unhurried tempo Moderato, the long passages in piano and pianissimo, the gigantic scope of design—perhaps Schubert’s longest sonata-form opening movement—are strongly indicative of a work of pure, almost theoretical, music. In the perceptive words of Cody Franchetti, this work “is not really meant for the performance hall: its ethos belongs to the realm of private ruminations.” (Perhaps it is precisely in the undisturbed one-on-one intimacy of a recorded version that this most personal of all music is best experienced.) Meanwhile, from the pianistic perspective, awkward chord voicings and register spacings, an abundance of repeated notes, layers of mixed articulation, treacherous pedalings—all conspire to bedevil the performer at every step.
The vast canvas of the sonata-form first movement is unusual—or, by this stage in Schubert’s development, typical?…—in its treatment of tonality and key. Where we might expect the second subject to occur in the relative minor (A), it unfolds instead in the incomprehensibly distant key of B minor (bar 53), which then also dominates the central section of the development (bars 127-149). The recapitulation appears to arrive in B major, only to “correct” itself down to F major (bar 169). When the second subject returns, it is in A minor—a key long ago expected, but now seemingly out of place and exotic. Where the development began in A major, the coda starts out yet another half-step down, in the lowered submediant, A-flat major (bar 275). The payoff for all this displacement, of course, lies in the shattering, triumphant, long-awaited entrance of the home key of C major at the only tonic cadence of the entire movement (bar 304). After thunderingly asserting the tonal truth, the movement dies away in the gentle wisp of an uncertain plagal cadence.
The C-minor second movement, as so often with Schubert, presents a release from the complex argument of the first. Designed as a sonata without development, it is hard to say which of its ideas is the more heartbreaking—the plangent nine-bar first theme, the melancholy second theme (bar 23), or their masterful fusion at the recapitulation (bar 53). Of special note is the life-altering E-natural that appears in the alto voice at each restatement of the first theme (e.g. bar 5). At once consolatory and unspeakably painful, it is a masterstroke that epitomizes Schubert’s unparalleled sensitivity to light and shadow.
The D-major Sonata, D. 850—one of only three that Schubert saw published in his brief lifetime—is a brilliant, joyful creation of a youthful but fully formed composer, brimming with bold ideas and imaginative confidence. The opening Allegro vivace, a tour de force of virtually perpetual triplet motion, is worthy of Beethoven in its utterly organic clarity of construction. Like Beethoven, too, is the rhythmic drive that acquires a life of its own and gloriously sweeps its way to a blinding conclusion. It is one of those rare big movements that seem sustained on one breath.
The Con moto second movement—as in D. 840, a sonata without development—contains some of the most exquisite pages in all of Schubert. Nominally in 3/4 meter, much of the first-subject material masquerades as 6/8; in fact, no incontrovertible proof of triple meter emerges until the eleventh bar. Then comes the second subject (bar 42), with its imitative syncopations and halting accents, an arresting dance quite unlike any other in Schubert’s output. It gives way, by means of a miraculous sliding progression, to a recapitulation that arrives bedecked with bewitching, infinitely subtle decorations of the kind that Schubert would deploy with ever-increasing sophistication in the slow movements of several of his final masterpieces (most memorably, perhaps, in the C-major Symphony D. 944, the Cello Quintet D. 956, and the A-major Sonata D. 959). All this is topped off by a splendid coda (bar 170) that combines elements of both subjects in a finely judged farewell.
The third movement, like the second, preys upon the listener’s inability to discern, at least until the ninth bar, the printed triple meter. In fact, of the main section’s 118 bars, it is only in 24 that the 3/4 meter can be said to prevail. By contrast, the trio section is a longing, graceful minuet whose sense of rhythmic identity is never in question. Yet the harmonic progressions are strikingly bold, and serve consciously to undermine any sense of temporary respite into which we are at first lulled. After a full da capo restatement, an effervescent coda bids us gentle adieu.
As in many a masterpiece by Beethoven before and Brahms after, it is the superb quality of the finale that elevates this work to a rarefied plane. On its surface a simple ABACA rondo with a beguilingly innocuous toy-march theme to match, this movement grows increasingly elaborate, yet frail, as the theme returns a second and third time. It is here, in the third and final statement of the rondo theme (bar 172)—a decelerated, hypnotizing meditation of whispered sixteenths—that the catharsis of leave-taking, adumbrated in the endings of both the middle movements, finds its most refined and profound expression, an irrevocable winding-down of a heartbeat slowing, faint, and at last extinguished.

Copyright © 2013 Ignat Solzhenitsyn



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