Alexander Scriabin and the Piano Concerto in f#m

     Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (January 6, 1872 –April 27, 1915) was a Russian composer and pianist who was born into an aristocratic family in Moscow. His father and all of his uncles had military careers. When he was only a year old, his mother, a concert pianist and former pupil of Theodor Leschetizky, died of tuberculosis.   His aunt Lyubov, his father’s unmarried sister, was an amateur pianist. As a child, Scriabin was frequently exposed to piano playing.  Apparently precocious, Scriabin began building pianos after being fascinated with piano mechanisms. He studied the piano from an early age, taking lessons with Nikolai Zverev, a strict disciplinarian, who was teaching Sergei Rachmaninoff and a number of other prodigies at the same time.

     In 1882 Scriabin enlisted in the Second Moscow Cadet Corps. As a student, he won his peers’ approval at a concert in which he played the piano.  He ranked generally first of his class in academics, but was exempt from drilling due to his physique and was given time each day to practice at the piano.  Scriabin later studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Anton Arensky, Sergei Taneyev, and Vasily Safonov. He became a noted pianist despite his small hands, which could barely grasp a ninth. Feeling challenged by Josef Lhévinne, he damaged his right hand while practicing Franz Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan and Mily Balakirev’s Islamey. His doctor said he would never recover, and he wrote his first large-scale masterpiece, his Piano Sonata No. 1 in f minor, as a “cry against God, against fate.”  He eventually regained the use of his hand.

     In 1892, Scriabin graduated with the Little Gold Medal in piano performance, but did not complete a composition degree because of strong differences in personality and musical opinion with Arensky, whose faculty signature is the only one absent from Scriabin’s graduation certificate, and an unwillingness to compose pieces in forms that did not interest him.  In 1894, Scriabin made his debut as a pianist in St. Petersburg, performing his own works to positive reviews. During the same year, Mitrofan Belyayev agreed to pay Scriabin to compose for his publishing company.  In August 1897, Scriabin married the young pianist Vera Ivanovna Isakovich, and then toured in Russia and abroad, culminating in a successful 1898 concert in Paris. That year he became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, and began attempting to establish his reputation as a composer. During this period he composed his cycle of études, Op. 8, several sets of preludes, his first three piano sonatas, and his only piano concerto, among other works, mostly for piano.

     For a period of five years Scriabin was based in Moscow, during which time the first two of his symphonies were conducted by his old teacher Safonov. According to later reports, between 1901 and 1903 Scriabin envisioned writing an opera. By the winter of 1904, Scriabin and his wife had relocated to Switzerland, where he began work on the composition of his Symphony No. 3, “Divine Poem,” which was performed in Paris during 1905.  With the financial assistance of a wealthy sponsor, he spent several years traveling in Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and United States, working on more orchestral pieces, including several symphonies.  In 1907 he settled in Paris with his family and relocated subsequently to Brussels, Belgium.

     In 1909 Scriabin returned to Russia permanently, where he continued to compose, working on increasingly grandiose projects. For some time before his death he had planned a multi-media work to be performed in the Himalayas Mountains, that would cause a so-called “armageddon”, “a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world.”  He left only sketches for this piece, which he called Mysterium.  At the age of 43, he died in Moscow from septicemia, contracted as a result of either an infected boil on his lip or shaving cut.

     Scriabin was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. Most of his works are written for the piano. The earliest pieces are characterized by a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language influenced by Frédéric Chopin’s style, but his music gradually evolved over the course of his life, and later in his career, independent of Arnold Schoenberg, Scriabin developed a substantially atonal and much more dissonant musical system. He is considered by some to be the main Russian Symbolist composer.

     Some of Scriabin’s more accessible orchestral works include the following:

                Piano Concerto in f#m, op. 20 (1892). 

                Symphony No. 4, op. 54, Poem of Ecstasy (1908). 

                Symphony No. 5, op. 60, Poem of Fire: Prometheus (1910).

Erik Satie and the ballet “Parade”

     Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (May 17 ,1866 –July 1, 1925, Paris) was a French composer and pianist, a colorful figure in the early twentiethth century Parisian avant-garde, who was born at Honfleur in Normandy to Alfred Satie and his wife Jane Leslie (née Anton).  When Satie was four years old, his family moved to Paris, but after his mother’s death in 1872, he was sent, together with his younger brother, Conrad, back to Honfleur, to live with his paternal grandparents. There, he received his first music lessons from a local organist. When his grandmother died in 1878, the two brothers were reunited with their father in Paris, who remarried a piano teacher shortly afterwards. From the early 1880s onwards, Satie started publishing salon compositions by his step-mother and himself, among others.

     In 1879, Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was soon labelled untalented by his teachers. Georges Mathias and Émile Descombes.  After being sent home for two-and-a-half years, he was readmitted to the Conservatoire at the end of 1885, but was unable to make a much more favorable impression on his teachers than he had before, and, as a result, resolved to take up military service a year later. However, Satie’s military career did not last very long; within a few months he was discharged after deliberately infecting himself with bronchitis.  Satie moved from his father’s residence to lodgings in Montmartre in 1887. By this time he had started what was to be an enduring friendship with the romantic poet Patrice Contamine, and had had his first compositions published by his father.

     Satie soon integrated with the artistic clientele of the Le Chat Noir Café-cabaret, and started publishing his Gymnopédies. Publication of compositions in the same vein (Ogives, Gnossiennes, etc.) followed. In the same period he befriended Claude Debussy and moved to a smaller room, still in Montmartre in 1890. By 1891 he was the official composer and chapel-master of the Rosicrucian Order By mid-1892, Satie had composed the first pieces in a compositional system of his own making, had provided incidental music to a chivalric esoteric play, had had his first hoax published, and had started with the Uspud project, a “Christian Ballet.”  In 1893, Satie met the young Maurice Ravel for the first time. One of Satie’s own compositions of that period, the Vexations, was to remain undisclosed until after his death. By the end of the year he started to compose a Grande messe (later to become known as the Messe des pauvres. 

     By mid-1896, all of Satie’s financial means had vanished, and he had to move to cheaper and much smaller lodgings in Arcueil, a suburb some five kilometres from the centre of Paris. From 1899 on, Satie started making money as a cabaret pianist, adapting over a hundred compositions of popular music for piano or piano and voice, adding some of his own.   Only a few compositions that Satie took seriously remain from this period such as Jack in the Box. music to a pantomime by Jules Depaquit; Geneviève de Brabant, a short comic opera on a serious theme; The Dreamy Fish, piano music to accompany a lost tale by Lord Cheminot, and a few others.  In October 1905, Satie enrolled in Vincent d’Indy’s Schola Cantorum de Paris to study classical counterpoint while still continuing his cabaret work.

     In 1910 the “Jeunes Ravêlites”, a group of young musicians around Ravel, proclaimed their preference for Satie’s earlier work from before the Schola period, reinforcing the idea that Satie had been a precursor of Debussy.  At first Satie was pleased that at least some of his works were receiving public attention, but when he realized that this meant that his more recent work was overlooked or dismissed, he looked for other young artists who related better to his more recent ideas.  Starting in 1912, Satie’s new humorous miniatures for piano became very successful, and he wrote and published many of these over the next few years. 

     With Jean Cocteau, whom he had first met in 1915, Satie started work on incidental music for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (resulting in the Cinq grimaces). From 1916, he and Cocteau worked on the ballet Parade, which was premiered in 1917 by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with sets and costumes by Pablo Picasso, and choreography by Léonide Massine.   With Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, and Germaine Tailleferre Satie formed the Nouveaux jeunes, shortly after writing Parade. Later the group was joined by Francis Poulenc and Darius Milhaud. In September 1918, Satie – giving little or no explanation – withdrew from the Nouveaux jeunes. Jean Cocteau gathered the six remaining members, forming the Groupe des six (to which Satie would later have access).

     From 1919, Satie was in contact with Tristan Tzara, the initiator of the Dada movement. He became acquainted with other artists involved in the movement, such as Francis Picabia, and he composed an “instantaneist” ballet Relâche in collaboration with Picabia, for the Ballets Suédois of Rolf de Maré. In a simultaneous project, Satie added music to the surrealist film Entr’acte by René Clair, which was given as an intermezzo for Relâche.  After years of heavy drinking. Satie died in Paris on July 1, 1925 from cirrhosis of the liver.  After his death, Satie’s friends discovered compositions that were totally unknown or thought to have been lost. They included the orchestral score to Parade which was thought by Satie to have been left on a bus years before. These were found behind the piano, in the pockets of his velvet suits, and in other odd places.

     The best-known of Satie’s orchestral works include:

                Mercure, Poses plastiques en trois tableaux (1924). 

                Parade, Ballet realist en un tableau (1917). 

                Relache, Ballet instantanteiste en deux actes, un entracte cinematographique (1924). 

                Trois Gymnopedies (1888).

William Schuman and the “New England Tryptich”

     William Howard Schuman (August 4, 1910 – February 15, 1992) was an American composer and music administrator who was born in Manhattan in New York City to Jewish parents Samuel and Rachel Schuman and  named after the twenty-seventh U.S. president, William Howard Taft, though his family preferred to call him Bill. Schuman played the violin and banjo as a child and while still in high school formed a dance band, “Billy Schuman and his Alamo Society Orchestra”, that played local weddings and bar mitzvahs in which Schuman played string bass.

     In 1928 he entered New York University’s School of Commerce to pursue a business degree, at the same time working for an advertising agency but also wrote popular songs with E. B. Marks, Jr., a friend he had met long before at summer camp. About then Schuman met lyricist Frank Loesser and wrote some forty songs with him. Loesser’s first published song, “In Love with a Memory of You”, credits the music to William H. Schuman.  On April 13, 1930, Schuman went with his older sister, Audrey, to a Carnegie Hall concert of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Arturo Toscanini.

     Schuman dropped out of school and quit his part-time job to study music at the Malkin Conservatory with Max Persin and Charles Haubiel. From 1933 to 1938 he studied privately with Roy Harris. In 1935, Schuman received his B.S. degree in Music Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Harris brought Schuman to the attention of the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, who championed many of his works. Koussevitzky conducted Schuman’s Symphony No. 2 in 1939. Possibly Schuman’s best known symphony, the Symphony for Strings, was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation, dedicated to the memory of Natalie Koussevitzky, and was first performed under Koussevitzky on November 12, 1943.

     In 1943 Schuman won the inaugural Pulitzer Prize for Music for his cantata A Free Song, adapted from poems by Walt Whitman. From 1935 to 1945, he taught composition at Sarah Lawrence College. In 1945, he became president of the Juilliard School, founding the Juilliard String Quartet while there. He left in 1961 to become the first president of Lincoln Center, a position he held until 1969. In 1987, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.   He died in New York City at age 81, leaving a substantial body of work including eight symphonies, a concerto for violin (1947, rev. 1959) , the New England Triptych (1956, based on melodies by William Billings), the American Festival Overture (1939), the ballets Undertow (1945) and Judith (1949), the Mail Order Madrigals (1972), George Washington Bridge (1950) for concert band, and two operas, The Mighty Casey (1953, based on Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat”), and A Question of Taste (1989, after a short story by Roald Dahl).

     Perhaps his best-known works are as follows:

                New England Tryptich: Three Pieces for Orchestra after William Billings. 

                Symphony No. 3 (1941).

                Violin Concerto (1959).

Robert Schumann and the “Spring” Symphony

     Robert Alexander Schumann (June 8, 1810 –July 29, 1856) was a German composer  and influential music critic who was born in Zwickau, Saxony, the fifth and last child in the family of August Schumann, a bookseller, publisher, and novelist.   Robert began to compose before the age of seven and began receiving general musical and piano instruction at the age of seven from Baccalaureus Kuntzsch, a teacher at the Zwickau high school. The boy immediately developed a love of music and worked at creating musical compositions himself, without the aid of Kuntzsch. Even though he often disregarded the principles of musical composition, he created works regarded as admirable for his age.

     At age fourteen, Schumann wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music and also contributed to a volume, edited by his father, titled Portraits of Famous Men.   Schumann’s interest in music was sparked by seeing a performance of Ignaz Moscheles playing at Karlsbad, and he later developed an interest in the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Felix Mendelssohn. His father, who had encouraged the boy’s musical aspirations, died in 1826 when Schumann was sixteen. Neither his mother nor his guardian thereafter encouraged a career in music. In 1828 Schumann left school and went to Leipzig to study law to meet the terms of his inheritance. In 1829 his law studies continued in Heidelberg.

     During Eastertide of 1830 he heard the Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer Niccolò Paganini play in Frankfurt.  By Christmas he was back in Leipzig, at age twenty taking piano lessons from his old master Frederich Wieck, who assured him that he would be a successful concert pianist after a few years’ study with him.  During his studies with Wieck, Schumann permanently injured his right hand. The most suggested cause of this injury is that he damaged his finger by the use of a mechanical device designed to strengthen the fourth finger.  Schumann abandoned ideas of a concert career and devoted himself instead to composition. To this end he began a study of music theory under Heinrich Dorn, a German composer six years his senior and, at that time, conductor of the Leipzig Opera. About this time Schumann considered composing an opera on the subject of Hamlet.  His fusion of literary ideas with musical ones – known as program music – may be said to have first taken shape in Papillons, Op. 2 (Butterflies).

     In the winter of 1832, Schumann, 22 at the time, visited relatives in Zwickau and Schneeberg, where he performed the first movement of his Symphony in G minor (without opus number, known as the “Zwickauer”). In Zwickau, the music was performed at a concert given by the daughter of his teacher Friedrich, Clara Wieck, who was then just  years old.  The 1833 deaths of Schumann’s brother Julius and his sister-in-law Rosalie in the worldwide cholera pandemic brought on a severe depressive episode. The composer made his first apparent attempt at suicide.  By spring 1834, Schumann had sufficiently recovered to inaugurate Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (“New Journal for Music).

       Schumann developed a growing attraction to 15-year-old Clara Wieck. They made mutual declarations of love in December in Zwickau, where Clara appeared in concert.   Carnaval, Op. 9 (1834) is one of Schumann’s most characteristic piano works.   In 1835, Schumann met Felix Mendelssohn at Wieck’s house in Leipzig.  Despite the opposition of her father, Clara and Robert continued a clandestine relationship which matured into a full-blown romance. In 1837, he asked her father’s consent to their marriage, but was refused.   However, after a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, Schumann married Clara on  September 12, 1840, at Schönefeld.

     In the years 1832–1839, Schumann had written almost exclusively for the piano, but in 1840 alone he wrote 168 songs.   Robert and Clara had eight children, Emil (who died in infancy in 1847); Marie (1841–1929); Elise (1843–1928); Julie (1845–1872); Ludwig (1848–1899); Ferdinand (1849–1891); Eugenie (1851–1938); and Felix (1854–1879).  In 1841 he wrote two of his four symphonies, No. 1 in B flat, Op. 38, “Spring” and No. 4 in D minor (first published in one movement, but later revised extensively and published as Op. 120). He devoted 1842 to composing chamber music.  In 1844 he suffered from persistent “nervous prostration.”  His state of unease and neurasthenia is reflected in his Symphony in C, numbered second, but third in order of composition. Also published in 1845 was his Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, originally published as a one-movement Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra.  

     In 1846, he felt he had recovered.   His only opera, Genoveva, Op. 81, was written in 1848.   The music to Byron’s Manfred was written in 1849, the overture of which is one of Schumann’s most frequently performed orchestral works.   From 1850 to 1854, Schumann composed in a wide variety of genres.  In 1851 he completed his Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish,” a work containing five movements, but he began to suffer a renewal of the symptoms that had threatened him earlier.  In late February 1854, Schumann’s symptoms increased. On  February 27, 1854, he attempted suicide by throwing himself from a bridge into the Rhine River.  Rescued by boatmen and taken home, he asked to be taken to an asylum for the insane. He entered Dr. Franz Richarz’s sanatorium in Endenich, a quarter of Bonn, and remained there until he died on July 29, 1856 at the age of 46.

     Schumann wrote four symphonies:

                Symphony No. 1 in BbM, op. 38, Spring (1840).

                Symphony No. 2 in CM, op. 61 (1846). 

                Symphony No. 3 in EbM, op. 97, Rhenish (1850). 

                Symphony No. 4 in dm, op. 120 (1841/1851). 

     He also wrote three concertos, one each for cello, piano, and violin, and several other concerted works for various instruments:

                Cello Concerto in am, op. 129 (1850).  Sudwestfalische Philharmonie, Florian Merz, Julius Berger cello; Schumann concertos #1, trs. 1-3

                Piano Concerto in am, op. 54 (1841-5). 

                Violin Concerto in dm, op. Posth. (1853). 

Introduction and Concert Allegro for Piano and Orchestra in dm, op. 134 (1853). 

                Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in CM, op. 131 (1853). 

                Introduction and Allegro Appassionato for Piano and Orchestra in GM, op. 92 (1849). 

                Konzertstuck for 4 Horns and Orchestra in FM, op. 86 (1849).

Gaspar Cassado and the Cello Concerto based on Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata

     Gaspar Cassadó (September 30, 1897 –December 24,  1966) was a Spanish cellist and composer of the early 20th century. He was born in Barcelona to a church musician father.  His father started teaching him music when he was five, and at the age of seven he began cello lessons with a prominent Barcelona cellist, who worked at the Mercedes Chapel with his father.  When he was nine, Gaspar played in a recital where Pablo Casals was in the audience; Casals immediately offered to teach him. The city of Barcelona awarded him a scholarship so that he could study with Casals in Paris. In fact, he may have been Casal’s youngest pupil, when he studied with him in Paris in 1910.  He also studied composition with Manuel de Falla and Maurice Ravel.

      At the end of World War I, Cassado started touring internationally, and became a world famous cellist. He played under most of the leading conductors of his time, including such greats as Furtwangler, Beecham and Weingartner. His performance of the Brahms Double Concerto with Joseph Szigeti was especially appreciated.   Cassado loved Italy, and settled in Florence, where he lived for over thirty years. As a cellist he was more austere and noble, than flamboyant in his approach. He was a good composer, and his pieces are still played today, in particular his Requiebros, and his Concerto in D Minor (1926), which he dedicated to Casals and is influenced by Spanish and Oriental folk music, and Impressionism.  Since Cassado studied composition with Maurice Ravel, a Ravel-influenced “carnival music” appears in the second theme of the first movement. The second movement is a theme and variations which leads directly to a pentatonic Rondo

     In 1964 Cassado premiered six unpublished cello sonatas of Boccherini, and performed them on a Strad cello that was once owned by the composer. Eve Barsham, his accompanist, had discovered the manuscripts in the archives of the Duke of Hamilton in Scotland. Cassado died in 1966 of a heart attack, after a strenuous tour of a flood stricken area of Florence where he was raising funds for those who had been devastated by the natural catastrophe.

     In addition to his own original Cello Concerto, Cassado arranged and performed a number of concerto transcriptions such as the Cello Concerto in F major, based on C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto No. 3 in A major, Wq.172; the Cello Concerto in D major, based on Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, K.44; the Cello Concerto in E major, based on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Pieces, Op. 72 (1940, in which he transformed nine of Tchaikovsky’s pieces into a concerto; he used No. 18 Scene dansante (Invitation au trepak), No. 3 Tendres Reproches and No. 14 Chant Elegiaque in the first movement; No. 5 Meditation and No. 8 Dialogue in the second and No. 4 Danse Caracteristique, No. 2 Berceuse, No. 17 Passe Lointain and No. 1 Impromptu in the third); the Cello Concerto in D major, based on Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op.74; the Cello Concerto in E minor, based on Vivaldi’s Cello Sonata No. 5, RV.40; and the Guitar Concerto in E major, based on Boccherini’s Concerto No. 2 in D major, G.479 (which he completely rewrote for his colleague Andrés Segovia).

    Perhaps the best known today of these transcription concertos is:

Concerto in am for Cello and Orchestra Adapted from Schubert’s Arpeggionne Sonata (1929).

Franz Schubert and the “Unfinished” Symphony

     Franz Peter Schubert (January 31, 1797 –November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer was born in Himmelpfortgrund, now a part of Alsergrund, Vienna, on  January 31, 1797. His father, Franz Theodor Schubert, the son of a Moravian peasant, was a parish schoolmaster; his mother, Elisabeth (Vietz), was the daughter of a Silesian master locksmith, and had also been a housemaid for a Viennese family prior to her marriage. The father was not a musician of fame or with formal training, but he taught his son some elements of music, and his brother Ignaz gave him piano lessons. At the age of seven, Schubert began receiving lessons from Michael Holzer, the local church organist and choirmaster.  He also played the viola in the family string quartet, with brothers Ferdinand and Ignaz on violin and his father on the cello. Schubert wrote many of his early string quartets for this ensemble.

     Schubert first came to the attention of Antonio Salieri, then Vienna’s leading musical authority, in 1804, when his vocal talent was recognized.  In October 1808, he became a pupil at the Stadtkonvikt (Imperial seminary) through a choir scholarship. At the Stadtkonvikt, Schubert was introduced to the overtures and symphonies of Mozart.  His genius began to show in his compositions. Schubert was occasionally permitted to lead the Stadtkonvikt’s orchestra, and Salieri decided to begin training him privately in musical composition and theory in these years. During his time at the Stadtkonvikt he wrote a good deal of chamber music, several songs, some miscellaneous pieces for the pianoforte and, among his more ambitious efforts, a Kyrie (D. 31) and Salve Regina (D. 27), an octet for wind instruments (D. 72/72a, said to commemorate the 1812 death of his mother), a cantata for guitar and male voices (D. 110, in honor of his father’s birthday in 1813), and his first symphony (D. 82).

     At the end of 1813, Schubert left the Stadtkonvikt, and returned home for studies at the Normalhauptschule to train as a teacher. In 1814, he entered his father’s school as teacher of the youngest students.  He continued to receive private lessons in composition from Salieri, who did more for Schubert’s musical training than any of his other teachers.  Also in 1814, Schubert met a young soprano named Therese Grob, the daughter of a local silk manufacturer. Several of his songs (e.g., “Salve Regina” and “Tantum Ergo”) were composed for her voice.  One of Schubert’s most prolific years was 1815. He composed over 20,000 bars of music, more than half of which was for orchestra, including nine church works, a symphony, and about 140 Lieder. Significant changes happened in 1816. Schober, a student of good family and some means, invited Schubert to room with him at his mother’s house.  For a time, he attempted to increase the household resources by giving music lessons, but they were soon abandoned, and he devoted himself to composition. ”

     In late 1817, Schubert’s father gained a new position at a school in Rossau, not far from Lichtental, and. Schubert rejoined his father, reluctantly taking up teaching duties there.   However, he began to gain more notice in the press, and the first public performance of a secular work, an overture performed in February 1818, received praise from the press in Vienna and abroad.  Schubert spent the summer of 1818 as music teacher to the family of Count Johann Karl Esterházy at their château in Zseliz (then in Hungary, now in Slovakia). H e happily continued to compose during this time. It may have been at this time that he wrote one of his now world-famous compositions, the Marche militaire No. 1 in D major. On his return from Zseliz, he took up residence with his friend Mayrhofer.  The respite at Zseliz led to a succession of compositions for piano duet.[31]

     During the early 1820s, Schubert was part of a close-knit circle of artists and students who had social gatherings together that became known as “Schubertiaden”.   His compositions of 1819 and 1820 show a marked advance in development and maturity of style. The unfinished oratorio “Lazarus” (D. 689) was begun in February; later followed, amid a number of smaller works, by the 23rd Psalm (D. 706), the Gesang der Geister (D. 705/714), the Quartettsatz in C minor (D. 703), and the “Wanderer Fantasy” for piano (D. 760). Of most notable interest is the staging in 1820 of two of Schubert’s operas: Die Zwillingsbrüder (D. 647) appeared at the Theater am Kärntnertor on June 14, and Die Zauberharfe (D. 644) appeared at the Theater an der Wien on  August 21.  Hitherto, his larger compositions had been restricted to the amateur orchestra at the Gundelhof, a society which grew out of the quartet-parties at his home.  Publishers, however, remained distant, with Anton Diabelli hesitantly agreeing to print some of his works on commission.  The first seven opus numbers (all songs) appeared on these terms. The situation improved somewhat in March of 1821 when Vogl sang “Der Erlkönig” at a concert that was extremely well received.  That month, Schubert composed a variation on a waltz by Anton Diabelli (D. 718), being one of the fifty composers who contributed to Vaterländischer Künstlerverein.

     The production of the two operas turned Schubert’s attention more firmly than ever in the direction of the stage, where, for a variety of reasons, he was almost completely unsuccessful. All in all, he produced seventeen stage works, each of them failures which were quickly forgotten. In 1822, Alfonso und Estrella was refused, partly owing to its libretto.   Fierrabras (D. 796) was rejected in the fall of 1823, but this was largely due to the popularity of Rossini and the Italian operatic style.  Die Verschworenen (The Conspirators, D. 787) was prohibited by the censor (apparently on the grounds of its title), and Rosamunde (D. 797) was withdrawn after two nights, owing to the poor quality of the play for which Schubert had written incidental music.

     Despite his preoccupation with the stage, and later with his official duties, Schubert found time during his last years for a significant amount of composition. He completed the Mass in A flat (D. 678) and, in 1822, embarked suddenly on a work which more decisively than almost any other in those years showed his maturing personal vision, the “Unfinished Symphony” in B minor. The reason he left it unfinished after two movements and sketches some way into a third remains an enigma, and it is also remarkable that he did not mention it to any of his friends even though . The reasons have been debated endlessly without resolution.  He, also wrote his first song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795), setting poems by Wilhelm Müller. This series, together with the later cycle “Winterreise” (D. 911, also setting texts of Müller in 1827) is widely considered one of the pinnacles of Lieder.   He also composed the song Du bist die Ruh (“You are stillness/peace”) D. 776 during this year.

     In 1824, he wrote the variations for flute and piano on “Trockne Blumen”, from the cycle Die schöne Müllerin, and several string quartets. He also wrote the Arpeggione Sonata (D. 821), at a time when there was a minor craze over that instrument.  In the spring of that year he wrote the Octet in F (D. 803); which some have thought was “A Sketch for a Grand Symphony;”  the Divertissement à la hongroise (D. 818) for piano duet; and the String Quartet in A minor (D. 804).   The setbacks of previous years were compensated for by the prosperity and happiness of 1825.  It was during this time that he produced his “Songs from Sir Walter Scott”. This cycle contains Ellens dritter Gesang (D. 839), a setting of Adam Storck’s German translation of Scott’s hymn from The Lady of the Lake, which is widely, though mistakenly, referred to as “Schubert’s Ave Maria”.  In 1825, Schubert also wrote the Piano Sonata in A minor (Op. 42, D. 845), and began the “Great” C major Symphony (Symphony No. 9, D. 944), which was completed the following year.

     From 1826 to 1828, Schubert resided continuously in Vienna, except for a brief visit to Graz in 1827. The history of his life during these three years was comparatively uninteresting, and is little more than a record of his compositions. In 1826, he dedicated a symphony (D. 944) that later came to be known as the “Great” to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and received an honorarium in return.  In 1827, Schubert wrote the song cycle Winterreise (D. 911), a colossal peak in art song, and the collection of songs published posthumously as Schwanengesang (“Swan-song”, D. 957).  The Symphony No. 9 (D. 944) is dated 1828, but Schubert scholars believe that this symphony was largely written in 1825–1826.  In the last weeks of his life, he began to sketch three movements for a new Symphony in D (D. 936A). In the midst of this creative activity, his health deteriorated. The cause of his death in Vienna, at age 31, on  November 19, 1828, at the apartment of his brother Ferdinand. was officially diagnosed as typhoid fever, though other theories have been proposed, including the tertiary stage of syphilis.

     In a short lifespan of less than 32 years, Schubert was a prolific composer, writing some 600 Lieder, nine to ten symphonies (including the famous “Unfinished Symphony”), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of Schubert’s music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death, and today, Schubert is seen as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.

     The main body of Schubert’s orchestral work is his symphonies:

                Symphony No. 1 in DM, D. 82. 

                Symphony No. 2 in BbM, D. 125. 

                Symphony No. 3 in DM, D. 200. 

                Symphony No. 4 in cm, D. 417, Tragic. 

                Symphony No. 5 in BbM, D. 485. 

                Symphony No. 6 in CM, D. 589, Little C Major. 

                Symphony No. 8 in bm, D. 759, Unfinished (1824). 

                Symphony No. 9 (formerly No. 7) in CM, Great (1826/1828).

     However, he wrote a number of shorter pieces such as:

                German Dance in CM, op. 33. 

     His operas are seldom performed, but his incidental music for a play is still remembered:

                Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus, D. 797 (1823): Excerpts.

     One of the overtures that he borrowed to accompany Rosamunde actually came from one of his operas:

The Magic Harp (1820): Overture “to Rosamunde.”

Arnold Schoenberg and “Verklarte Nacht”

     Arnold Schoenberg (September 13, 1874 –July 13, 1951) was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School, who was born into a lower middle-class Jewish family in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna. His father Samuel, a native of Bratislava, was a shopkeeper. Although his mother Pauline, a native of Prague, was a piano teacher, Arnold was largely self-taught. He took only counterpoint lessons with the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, who was to become his brother-in-law.   In his twenties, Schoenberg earned a living by orchestrating operettas, while composing his own works, such as the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night,” 1899). He later made an orchestral version of this, which became one of his most popular pieces. Both Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler recognized Schoenberg’s significance as a composer; Strauss when he encountered Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder, and Mahler after hearing several of Schoenberg’s early works.

     In October 1901, Schoenbert married Mathilde Zemlinsky. Mathilde bore him two children, Gertrud (1902–1947) and Georg (1906–1974). Gertrud would marry Schoenberg’s pupil Felix Greissle in 1921.  The summer of 1908 marked a distinct change in Schoenberg’s work.  He composed “You lean against a silver-willow” (German: Du lehnest wider eine Silberweide), the thirteenth song in the cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten, Op. 15, based on the collection of the same name by the German mystical poet Stefan George. This was the first composition without any reference at all to a key. Also in this year, he completed one of his most revolutionary compositions, the String Quartet No. 2, whose first two movements, though chromatic in color, use traditional key signatures, yet whose final two movements, also settings of George, daringly weaken the links with traditional tonality. Both movements end on tonic chords, and the work is not fully non-tonal. Breaking with previous string-quartet practice, it incorporates a soprano vocal line.

     During the summer of 1910, Schoenberg wrote his Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony, Schoenberg 1922), which remains one of the most influential music-theory books.  Another of his most important works from this atonal or pantonal period is the highly influential Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21, of 1912, a novel cycle of expressionist songs set to a German translation of poems by the Belgian-French poet Albert Giraud. Utilizing the technique of Sprechstimme, or melodramatically spoken recitation, the work pairs a female vocalist with a small ensemble of five musicians.  Schoenberg went on to develop the most influential version of the dodecaphonic or twelve-tone method of composition, which is given the alternative name serialism. This technique was taken up by many of his students, who constituted the so-called Second Viennese School, including Anton Webern, Alban Berg, and Hanns Eisler, all of whom were profoundly influenced by Schoenberg.

       Schoenberg’s first wife died in October 1923, and in August of the next year  he married Gertrud Kolisch (1898–1967), sister of his pupil, the violinist Rudolf Kolisch . She wrote the libretto for Schoenberg’s one-act opera Von heute auf morgen.  Following the 1924 death of composer Ferruccio Busoni, who had served as Director of a Master Class in Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, Schoenberg was appointed to this post.  Among his notable students during this period were the composers Roberto Gerhard, Nikos Skalkottas, and Josef Rufer.   Schoenberg continued in his post until the election of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933. While vacationing in France, he was warned that returning to Germany would be dangerous. Schoenberg traveled with his family to the United States. His first teaching position in the United States was at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston. He moved to Los Angeles, where he taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, both of which later named a music building on their respective campuses Schoenberg Hall.

     During this final period, Schoenberg composed several notable works, including the difficult Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (1934/36), the Kol Nidre, Op. 39, for chorus and orchestra (1938), the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41 (1942), the haunting Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942), and his memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46 (1947). He was unable to complete his opera Moses und Aron (1932/33), which was one of the first works of its genre to be written completely using dodecaphonic composition. In 1941, he became a citizen of the United States. During this period, his notable students included John Cage, Lou Harrison, and H. Owen Reed.  He died on Friday, July 13, 1951, shortly before midnight.

     Schoenberg was widely known early in his career for his success in simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify pioneering innovations in atonality that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music.  His twelve-tone technique is a widely influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. As his approach, both in terms of harmony and development, is among the major landmarks of 20th-century musical thought, at least three generations of composers in the European and American traditions have consciously extended his thinking or, in some cases, passionately reacted against it.

     Two of Schoenberg’s early orchestral works which are sometimes heard are:

                Pelleas et Melisande, Symphonic poem for orchestra after the drama by Maurice Maeterlinck, op. 5.

                Verklarte Nacht, after the poem by Richard Dehmel, for string orchestra, op. 4 (1943).