Dear Friends and Members of the Sydney Schubert Society,
Our next Schubertiade 361on August 10 2014 (commencing at 2.30pm at St. Peters Presbyterian Church in North Sydney) is dedicated to the complex question of Schubert and the guitar. Given some evidence that Schubert may have owned perhaps one-or even two guitars, some intriguing questions emerge: Did Schubert play the guitar or even use it to compose? Did he envisage versions for some of his Lieder or piano works involving guitar as some of the traditional and flexible musical practice of his time suggests? Anton Stadler, Schubert’s classmate at the seminary, confirms that Schubert composed using neither guitar nor piano. However, a historical guitar made by Johann Georg Stauffer contains a note from 1870 by one Anton Schmid as follows: “This guitar was given to me in 1858 by my music teacher Ferdinand Schubert, being inherited from his brother Franz, Vienna, June 1870.” Why would Schubert own a guitar and not attempt to play it? After all, many of his friends (Hüttenbrenner, Mayrhofer and Vogl) evidently did so. A 19th century picture reproduced in the 1938 Oxford Companion to Music even shows Schubert playing a guitar–this is rejected by scholars as a fictional circumstance, though.
Whatever our view might be on whether Schubert played the guitar or not,the facts are that the guitar was a popular and convenient instrument in the Vienna of the Biedermeier. Composers such as Giuliani, Matiegka, Molitor (and later Mertz) added to its popularity in Vienna and progressed technical innovation and artistic imagination in Schubert’s realm. In addition the Viennese guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer plays an important role in this question: He invented the Arpeggione, a bowed guitar-violoncello with frets, around 1823. Schubert wrote his important Sonata in A major D 821 as a commission by a friend, Vincent Schuster for this instrument and it appears that Stauffer, Schubert and Schuster were closely acquainted. Schuster wrote a method for this instrument in 1825. To compose for the “cello-guitar”, Schubert would have needed to be familiar with the instrument and its guitar-like tuning and chromatic fingering possibilities.
Our Schubertiade on August 10 will try to tell more of the intriguing story of Schubert and the guitar: the program features the guitarist Bradley Kunda who performswith soprano Rebecca McCallion and members of the Sydney Schubert Ensemble original works by Giuliani and Mertz, three 19th century arrangements of Schubert Lieder by Coste, Schuberts early arrangement of Wenzel Matiegka’s quartet for guitar, flute, viola and cello (D 96) and Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata in an arrangement for viola and guitar.
A reminder at this point, that our Schubertiade will be followed by the Schubert Society’s Annual General Meeting for 2014. Current financial members of the Schubert Society are warmly invited to attend.
I look forward to welcoming you and your friends to our next Schubertiade 361 with its fascinating focus on Franz Schubert and the guitar,
With cordial, Schubertian greetings,
Goetz Richter President,
Sydney Schubert Society Inc.