Date: 29 September 2021
Venue: Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
An evening of favourite songs & best loved piano pieces by Franz Schubert including Erlkönig, Serenade, Marche Militaire & Impromptus.
Four Impromptus D 935
no 1 in F minor
Drei Klavierstücke - Three Piano Pieces D 946
no 1 in Eb minor
Schubert arr. Liszt
12 Lieder von Franz Schubert S 558
no 1 Sei mir gegrüẞt - I greet you
no 2 Auf dem Wasser zu singen - To be sung on the water
no 3 Du bist die Ruh - You are peace
no 4 Erlkönig - The Erlking
Four Impromptus D 935
no 2 in Ab Major
Schubert arr. Liszt
Schwanenegesang - Swansong 14 Lieder von Franz Schubert S 560
no 10 Liebesbotschaft - Love's Message
no 7 Ständchen - Serenade
no 3 Aufenthalt - Resting place
Four Impromptus D 899
no 3 in Gb major
Schubert arr. Tausig
Marche militaire D 733, no 1
Million thanks to our sponsors and supporting organizations:
Österreichisches Generalkonsulat Hongkong
Austrian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong & Macau
Department for International Trade
The Oxford and Cambridge Society of Hong Kong
British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
Tom Lee Music
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)
Lachen und Weinen - laughter and tears - is the title of one of over 600 songs and vocal works Schubert composed in his all too brief lifetime. It neatly sums up the character of much of his music, indeed of Schubert himself. Like Janus, the two-headed god of gates and transitions of Roman mythology, his art often seems to point in opposing directions simultaneously. Or rather, it presents different emotional takes on the same themes, often in rapid succession.
Schubert suffered from cyclothymia, a form of manic depression, and the works of his maturity, inevitably early for someone who did not live to see 32, are peppered with major/minor alternations of the same music. Indeed, this musical "bipolarity" became something of a hallmark of Schubert’s late works. In tonight's programme alone, you can hear it in the central sections of Impromptus in F minor and A flat, the Klavierstück no 1 in Eb minor, and in the songs Ständchen, and Sei mir gegrüẞt.
Although Schubert's music is often remembered for the melancholy and consolatory moods it evokes, we shouldn't forget the radiant joy exuded in songs like Der Musensohn and Mein!, the exuberant Octet in F and Trout Quintet, and the youthful insouciance of the 3rd and 5th Symphonies. An introvert by nature, especially perhaps in his youth, he regularly shunned the limelight later on, and retreated from promoting his own work.
So prodigious was his output – he composed more works in 15 years than either Bach or Handel did in 50 – that he even sometimes failed to recognise his own music. Once one piece was completed, he immediately started out on the next. In one famous instance the great baritone of the day Johann Vogl, an ardent admirer, got him to run through one of his many songs. Schubert's response after they finished was "Not bad, who wrote it?"
Along with the alternation of major and minor, two other signature strokes of Schubert's mature works should be mentioned here: While he was capable, both in his music and in real life, of expressing anger and even violence, long sections of his late piano music rarely rise above a whisper - p, pp and even ppp, giving rise to one of the biggest technical challenges to the modern-day pianist performing it on powerful contemporary instruments.
Perhaps the most poignant feature of his later works is the sudden cutting dead of a phrase just before its conclusion, such as happens several times in the Klavierstück no.1, the Moment Musical in C# minor D 780, no 4, and just about everywhere in the late B flat major sonata. Schubert takes you right to the brink and then, suddenly, nothing! For the last five years of his life, Schubert suffered from what was then almost certainly terminal illness. He knew it would take his life prematurely, as indeed it did. Is it too fanciful to see these sudden silences as a musical portrayal of this pitiful predicament?
If Schubert was a bit of a loner in earlier life, his friendships blossomed in his late teens. and it is the almost universal recollection of his close circle of friends, bar the odd outburst in the local tavern, how generally amiable and well-liked he was. As writer and broadcaster Jeremy Siepmann puts it: "there is no composer in history whose life story is rooted so deeply, richly and pervasively in the experience of friendship as Schubert’s".
Indeed, it was his friends who carried him through his life promoting, often at their own expense, the publication of his music, and writing off his debts. In particular, the introduction made by Schober, a rakishly handsome aristocrat, to that already mentioned star of both opera and Lied Johann Vogl, was supremely significant in putting Schubert on the map as a song writer while he was still alive.
Notwithstanding the enormous amount of time taken up to create at breakneck speed so much music in such a short life, Schubert was often to be found with friends at the local coffee house or tavern. And of course, what could be more Schubertian than the Schubertiade, "an informal, unadvertised gathering held at a private home, sponsored by one of Schubert's wealthier friends or aficionados of his music. It served as a literary-musical salon, and often included poetry recitations, dancing, and other sociable pastimes".