Barbaric words not worth to be set to music – such was the judgment of Antonio Salieri about the German language in general and German poems more specifically. He tried very hard to dissuade his pupil Franz Schubert from composing songs and did all he could to encourage Schubert to study the old Italian masters of the opera. In vain. While Salieri had recognized Schubert talent, he saw the composing of songs as a waste of precisely this talent. But Schubert persisted and he became the German Liederfürst (Prince of Songs). Among the many poems he set to music are eleven poems from Friedrich Schlegel’s work “Abendröte” (Evening Afterglow).
Endless progress. Perpetual Extension. A certain idea of the vastness of space, to be filled with music. Solemn, grandiose music. Those keywords kept coming back while I read Wolfram Steinbeck’s study on Franz Schubert’s symphonies and more specifically about Schubert’s Symphony No. 2 in B flat, D. 125. Schubert wrote this early symphony between December 1814 and March 1815. The short time span shows Schubert’s determination to master a form considered to be the purest art form in Romanticism. The writer E. T. A. Hoffmann who so strongly inspired Robert Schumann, wrote: “[This kind of music] is the key to a realm unknown to humans; a world that has nothing in common with the exterior world that we perceive with our senses […] where all feelings, that could be described by words, are left behind and fade into the indescribable.”
Where do you stand? Where do I stand? I just read a piece about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish girl who inspires millions of children to demonstrate against their parents’ generation. Their humble request: not to gamble away their future by actively curbing the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The vision that my generation could be accused of failing to act against climate change – be it at the personal or at the political level – I find it disturbing, distressing. Do I not wish to do anything I can to guarantee my daughter the best chances of survival? I thought I did. But I do not act accordingly.
Schubert. An early work. The composer’s first string quartet ever! Interesting dynamics, changing keys, a main theme developed in several steps – a young man is searching his way to express himself, not afraid to make errors, keen to try stuff that’s not in the books. If Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 1 (D 18) lacks thematic coherence, it has an abundance of surprises and remarkable Romantic passages.