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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Franz Schubert


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biography
Schubert's musical genius went well beyond his incomparable gift for melody
by Thomas May

During Beethoven's funeral in 1827, one of the torchbearers was a young composer who would himself die the following year. There's a poignant irony in this image of Franz Schubert (1797-1828) paying homage to the master, for the extent of Schubert's own accomplishment was to remain one of music's best-kept secrets for decades after his death. He had indeed struck out on a uniquely personal creative path, however intense his hero worship of Beethoven was. As often happens in such periods of transition--in this case, the evolution in style and attitude from classical balance toward romantic experimentation--Schubert simply slipped through the cracks, not easily fitting into his contemporaries' sense of the direction music was taking.

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recommended recordings
  Schubert: Trout Quintet, Adagio & Rondo / Jando, Kodaly Qt

Composer: Franz Schubert
Performer: Jénö Jandó, István Tóth
Ensemble: Kodály String Quartet
Naxos - #550658 / April 5, 1993

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This is a good, solid version of these pieces, and the Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F is hard to find and worth hearing. At the price, it's hard to resist. The recorded sound is excellent.

Schubert: Symphonies 8 & 9 / Szell, Cleveland Orchestra
Composer: Franz Schubert
Conductor: George Szell
Ensemble: Cleveland Orchestra
Sony Classics - #48268 / November 17, 1992

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Schubert's two greatest orchestral works on one CD at budget price--if the performances were indifferent this would be no bargain at all, but they are superb. In fact, these versions may have been equaled, but they have never been surpassed. George Szell understood intuitively how to balance Romantic passion with intellectual discipline. In difficult pieces like the Schubert Ninth, he rose to the challenge like an Olympic athlete after a new world record. The recordings he made in his prime with...Read more


Schubert: Piano Sonata D 960, etc / Mitsuko Uchida

Composer: Franz Schubert
Performer: Mitsuko Uchida
Uni/Philips - #456572 / August 11, 1998

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This is a marvelous musical coupling: Schubert's overwhelmingly moving last Piano Sonata and the visionary set of pieces written a few months earlier. There are several outstanding performances of the Sonata currently available, including those of Schnabel, Lupu, and Curzon. For the Piano Pieces, the only performance of comparable stature in the current catalogs seems to be one by Kyoko Tabe (Denon), which has the same Sonata for coupling. Neither pianist is very heart-on-sleeve in any of this...Read more


Schubert: String Quintet / Emerson Quartet, Rostropovich
Composer: Franz Schubert
Performer: Mstislav Rostropovich
Ensemble: Emerson String Quartet
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #31792 / August 11, 1992

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When not composing songs, Franz Schubert was most at home with chamber music, not because he was a miniaturist, but because his most profound thoughts were most readily contained by smaller, more concentrated ensembles. His Quintet in C--by far the great work ever written for a string quartet with an extra cello--shows him at his summit with an ethereal second movement that often communicates the sense of spiritual suspended animation that the minimalists strive for but don't often achieve. The...Read more


Schubert: Die Winterreise / Fischer-Dieskau, Demus
Composer: Franz Schubert
Performer: Jörg Demus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #47421 / February 13, 1996

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Any great concert singer is likely to have a lifelong obsession with Schubert's greatest song cycle, which tracks the winter journey of a jilted lover wandering into the snow finding ever-greater depths of alienation. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau seemed to record the piece every 10 years or so, but this 1966 outing is said to be his favorite, and it's easy to understand why. All of his customary intelligence is in full evidence, but the voice is particularly resplendent. While this carries an...Read more


works & recordings

  • Chamber Music
    Trios, Quartets, Quintets

  • Choral
    Secular and sacred choral music. Oratorios, Masses, Partsongs, Hymns, Carols

  • Instrumental
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  • Orchestra
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  • Theatrical Works
    Ballet, Stage, Incidental Music, Film Scores
  • Vocal and Opera
    Opera, Operetta, Song, Lieder, Musical Theater

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