47 Arnott Rd Marayong NSW 2148

© 2018 by Sydney Schubert Society Inc. Images courtesy of Ranui Young Photography

 

November 2013

 

Dear Members and Friends of the Sydney Schubert Society,

I  am  very  excited  about our final  Schubertiade  for  2013:  not  only  are  we  able  to  present  a  wonderful, distinguished pianist (Geoffrey Saba, www.geoffreysaba.com) but we will also feature an all Schubert program including one of Schubert’s unfinished works (Sonata in C, Reliquie) edited and completed recently by Mr. Saba himself. An insightful scholar and distinguished pianist, Mr.  Saba  writes  about  this intriguing work  below.  

 

I  urge  you  not  to  miss  this exciting finish  to  our  year  on December  1  at  the Goethe Institute, commencing at 2.30 pm. Please invite a friend to join you as we are looking to fill the hall.

 

With cordial greetings,

Goetz Richter

President, Sydney Schubert Society Inc.

 

Schubert’s Sonata in C (“Reliquie”) (1825)

It  is  tempting  to  regard  work on  completing  a  composer’s  unfinished thoughts as another Massacre of the Innocents. While there will always be good reasons for leaving unfinished works unfinished, torsos are not necessarily intrinsically satisfying, even when they contain as much fine music  as  do  these  opening  two  movements. As  Schubert  has  left tantalizingly  substantial  sections  of  the  unfinished  third  and  fourth movements,  a  special  need  exists  to  find  a  completion  of  the  material which  places  the  monumental  opening  two  movements  firmly  within  a four-movement sonata perspective.

The   C   major   Sonata   first   appeared   in   print   in   1861,   when   the publisher,  F.  Whistling  of  Leipzig,  believed  that  it  was  the  composer’s last  sonata  and  gave  it  its  ‘Reliquie’  title.  It  was the  first  of  three expansive  sonatas  written  in  1825,  followed  by  the  A  minor  Sonata D845 and the D major Sonata D850. The dramatic opening movement in  particular  demonstrates  Schubert’s  harmonic  inventiveness,  with  the second  subject  first  appearing  in  B minor,  and  no  less  than  sixteen other  keys  appearing  in  the  course  of  the  movement.  Its  epic  and narrative   character   is   something   new   in   Schubert’s   piano   music, reminiscent perhaps of his opera “Fierrabras” written two years earlier but   particularly   so   of the   almost   contemporary   ‘Great’   C   major Symphony D944 of 1825/6.

 

After  meeting  Ernst  Krenekin  1922,  Alma  Mahler  asked  him  to complete her late husband’s 10th Symphony. Krenek assisted in editing the  first  and  third  movements  but  went  no  further.  More fruitful  was Krenek’s  response  to  a  request  at  the  same  time  from  his  pianist  and composer  friend  Eduard  Erdmann,  who  wished  to  add  the  Reliquie Sonata  to  his  repertoire,  for  completions  of  the  work’s  unfinished movements.  In  his  notes  to  the  1947  recording  by  Ray  Lev,  Krenek offered  insights  into  the  challenges  of  completing  another  composer’s works   in   general   and   this   sonata   in   particular:   “Completing   the unfinished work of a great master is a very delicate task. In my opinion it  can  honestly  be  undertaken  only  if  the  original  fragment  contains  allof  the  main  ideas  of  the  unfinished  work.  In  such  a  case  a  respectful craftsman may attempt, after an absorbing study of the master’s style, to elaborate  on  those  ideas  in  a  way  which  to  the  best  of  his  knowledge might  have  been  the  way  of  the  master  himself.  The  work  in  question will  probably  have  analogies  among  other,  completed  works  of  the master, and careful investigation of his methods in similar situations will indicate  possible  solutions  of  the  problems posed  by  the  unfinished work.  Even  then  the  artist  who  goes  about  the  ticklish  task  will  feel slightly  uneasy,  knowing  from  his  own  experience  as  a  composer  that the  creative  mind  does  not  always  follow  its  own  precedents.  He  is more  conscious  of  the  fact that  unpredictability  is  one  of  the  most jealously  guarded  prerogatives  of  genius.  ...However,  scruples  of  this kind  may  be  set  aside  once  we  are  certain  that  the  author  of  the fragment has put forth the essential thematic material that was expected to go into the work. If this is not the case, I feel that no one, not even the  greatest  genius,  should  dare  to  complete  the  fragments  left  by another genius.” As an example, Krenek explains that a careful student of  Rembrandt’s style  might  be  able  to  complete  a painting  lacking one or  two  corners,  but  could  never  supply  two  entirely  missing  paintings from a four-painting series; such an attempt would result only in “more or  less  successful  fakes”.  Turning  to  a  musical  example,  Krenek, evidently  unaware  of  the  surviving  sketch  of  a  third  movement,  avers that Schubert’s own “Unfinished” Symphony was left by its creator with only  two  of  its  four  movements  written;  of  the  other  two  there  is  no trace.  “It  would  be  possible  to  write  two  or  more  movements  to  the symphony in the manner of Schubert, but it would not be Schubert”.

 

Although the Menuet, in A flat and strangely reminiscent of Bruckner, seems  fairly  far  advanced,  it  is  more  rambling  in  its  construction  and wanderings  through  remote  keys  than  any  other  Schubert  Menuet  or Scherzo. The fact that he  broke  off after introducing a variation of the initial  subject  could  be  taken  as  a  cue  for  continuing  as  if  it  were  the opening,  modulating  back  to  A  flat  on  the  way  and  concluding  there. But Schubert left no indication of the length he intended for either the repeated  section  from  bar  35  or  the  accelerando  at  this  point. If  he intended  the  repeat  to  last  the  balance  of  the  Menuet,  there  is  the didactic  problem  in  linking  the  A  flat  conclusion  to  the  G  flat  repeat; alternatively,  the  repeat  could  have  been  intended  for  only  the  middle part  of  the  Menuet.  Krenek  shows  the  possibility  of  completing  themovement  in  A  flat  using  Schubert’s  material,  and  keeping  the  option of  a  modulation  back  to  G  flat  in  case  the  performer plays  the  repeat. The   Trio   is,   fortunately,   complete   and   one   of   Schubert’s   most haunting.

 

The warm-hearted and virtuosic Finale presents an altogether different and  more puzzling  situation.  After  the  repeat  sign  at  the  end  of  the exposition,   Schubert   commences   an   intense   development   of   the opening Rondo subject and the movement then breaks off in mid-flight. We  do  not  know  whether  an  extensive middle  section  of  contrasting character was  planned,  to justify fully  the Rondo title (c.f.  the D major Sonata D850 or Mozart’s E flat Piano Trio). Only such an addition, in truth, would round out the movement on a fitting scale. I am indebted to  W  A  Dullo,  whose  fine  and  scholarly  completions  of  the  F  minor and  F  sharp  minor  sonatas  from  1818  and  1817  I  have  played  often and recorded, for pointing me in the direction of Ernst Krenek’s work. I am also indebted to the American scholar Michael Benson for placing many  completions  at  my  disposal  and  for  sharing  his considered thoughts on this work in its various completed forms. It is to be hoped that this new completion arouses discussion which leads to further ideas on the unfinished material.

 

Geoffrey Saba

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