Franz Schubert’s personal tragedy becomes palpable from the first bars on. The Romantic melancholy does not creep slowly under you skin, no, it hits you like a hammer. Schubert’s inner tension, his disarray – in his letters he is quite straightforward about it – and his String Quartet No. 15 in G minor (D.887) is no less straightforward. It is a brutal piece, just like its predecessor, the quartet “Death and the Maiden.” It is a marvelous piece, just like its predecessor, the quartet “Death and the Maiden.” It is one of my favourites.
Art nurturing art – glorious moments. In 1890 Johannes Brahms heard the German clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, widely acclaimed for his musical sensitivity and his expressive way to play his instrument. The composer was deeply impressed by Mühlfeld’s talent. Mühlfeld had suggested to Brahms to write a piece of chamber music for the clarinet and the composer gladly took up the idea. Inspiration had struck. Between May and June 1891 he wrote the Trio in A minor for piano, clarinet and cello (Op. 114) while spending the summer in the Austrian resort of Ischl.
The year is drawing to its end and I remember a singular scene in connection with classical music. It must have been over a year ago that I sat in an airport terminal waiting for my gate to open – and I was alone. I was like half an hour before boarding time at the gate – it was the right one – and the whole terminal was empty. A bizarre atmosphere. It gave my departure a solemn touch; I felt like being the last one ever to leave this place. Very strange. And since I had nothing to do, I put on my earphones and listened to a charming piece of chamber music: Julius Röntgen’s String Trio No. 5, performed by the Lendvai Trio.
Did Franz Schubert believe in God? Most likely. Did he believe in the supremacy of the Catholic church? Most likely not. He wrote six masses and each time he would jump certain parts of the traditional liturgy and omit the Latin words “et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam”, a central part of the creed stating that the prayer believes “in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. It underlines the Catholic claim that it represents the true church as opposed to the followers of Martin Luther. Schubert would not take any sides, but neither would he rally to the Vatican’s pretension.