Whenever I go for a walk in the woods, I bring back at least a couple of pictures I label “natural beauty”. The grass above grows on an Alpine mountain in Austria and it struck me by its symmetry, its delicate aspect and its actual robustness. The afternoon sun’s reflection on its polished straws gave it a kind of shimmering halo – truly beautiful. These attributes match a work written by Franz Schubert towards the end of his career, in December 1827, eleven months before his death: the Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major, Op. 159 D. 934.
Where to begin? With the incredibly sad introduction of the first movement? With the death of the composer’s mother? With the inexplicable lightness and dynamics of the last two movements, so diametrically opposed to the introduction? In March 1813, Franz Schubert wrote one of his very first string quartets, String Quartet No. 4 in C major, D.46. C major is often associated with a joyous or solemn mood, but this first movement has no joy and no solemnity, it exudes darkness, fear and heaviness, a broken soul, a wretched state of mind, the few glimmers of light appear like pure cynicism.
A cold morning. The sun about to rise. The river almost motionless. The first bars zen-like. A meditation. A look at the present – the positive, the negative aspects. Incrementally melancholy creeps into the melody. The inevitable look back. The look forward. Forced optimism. Life has to go on, but it feels like dancing with a reluctant partner. The first three of Franz Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux”, D.780 grant us a look into the composer’s soul and testify of his musical genius. Schubert managed to achieve maximal expressiveness with minimal means: lean melodies, a subtle play with dissonance to introduce the languishing moment, the slight flicker of pain, the heavy sigh.
Impatience. That’s most likely one of my most characteristic traits. Impatience is one of the traits of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet in B flat major (D.112, Op. posth. 168). Perhaps that is why like it so much. Interestingly I become rather relaxed when I listen to it, just as if Schubert’s impatience is neutralizing my own impatience.