Franz Schubert’s melodies are capable of concentrating many nuanced and very deep feelings within a single design. The phrasing’s regularity, the tendency to move by tones and semitones, the tune’s bending within a well-defined texture seem to indicate a vocal imprint. This is found also in many themes of Sonatas and Quartets, of Trios and Symphonies. This applies not only to the use of specific references, as in the Forellenquintett D 667, in the Wandererfantasie D 760, in the Variations D 802 on Trockne Blumen or in the Quartet D 810, Der Tod und das Mädchen. Beyond the undebatable centrality of vocal music in Schubert’s oeuvre (more than 600 Lieder written between 1811 and 1828), instrumental music in turn absorbs inspiration from the vocal, establishing an osmosis between these two genres which will be adopted by Mahler. Beyond all precise programmatic intentions, it is possible to find, also in the instrumental works, some figurations which Schubert associates, in his Lieder, to the recurring symbols of his poetic world. These include, for instance, water as life’s generating power, but also as mutability and destruction; spring as a comforting mirage within life’s winter; march, associated to the meaningless itinerary of existence; dance as an image of seduction and ebriety. It is interesting to observe their persistence also in the performances presented here, of twelve songs played as Lieder ohne Worte, with the melodies transferred from the voice to the viola.
Frühlingsglaube (Spring faith), from 1820, is the only piece Schubert wrote on lyrics by Ludwig Uhland. It celebrates the blossoming of spring as the illusory hope in a better life. Lachen und Weinen (Laughter and tears) belongs in a group of five Lieder on lyrics by Friedrich Rückert, written in 1823. A piano ritornello frames and connects its two parts, whereby the outpouring of opposing emotional states is evoked through symmetrical fluctuations in the mode. In Die Forelle (The Trout), on lyrics by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, a carefree tone underlies the bitter metaphor of the traps disseminated throughout life. A trout swims in the stream, unworried by the line thrown by the fisherman, until he makes the water turbid and the cheated fish bites. The regularity of the first stanzas, over the piano’s crystal-clear flow, associated to the trout’s swimming, is troubled in the third stanza by the water’s muddling. The accompaniment is turned into a dark harmonic stirring; the repeated chords underscore the catch of the fish, whilst the concluding partial reprise, associated to the trout’s wriggling, hung on the hook, assumes a tone of mocking cynicism.
Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden), written in February 1817 on lyrics by Matthias Claudius, takes the form of a tragic dialogue between the two characters. It opposes the girl’s desperate terror, in the dramatic central episode, to Death’s ruling composedness. At the beginning, this is evoked by the piano alone on a solemn dactylic rhythm, and later by the voice, in the consoling sweetness of the final lethal embrace. Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), of 1814, customarily marks the beginning of the German Romantic Lied. The text, in eight stanzas, is excerpted from Goethe’s Faust. It is grouped into three sections, separated by the repetition of the first stanza in the fashion of a refrain. It is almost entirely accompanied by an ostinato, picturing the monotonous rotation of the spinning wheel, but also the obsession of love. The voice part follows the protagonist’s psychological changes in a crescendo of emotions, culminating in the memory of the lover’s kiss, which briefly suspends the motion. The melody then expands again in the exaltation of desire. At the end, it bends itself to a state of prostration, on the murmured repetition of the first lines.
Lob der Tränen (In praise of tears), of 1818, on lyrics by August Wilhelm von Schlegel, constitutes an example of a strophic Lied whereby the attention is entirely concentrated on the grace of the melodic line, sustained by the piano, with a flowing motion of triplets or repeated chords. In such a simplicity, the master’s touch is not missing, as for example in the modal ambivalence of the piano’s introduction. Auf dem Wasser zu singen (To sing on the water), written in 1823 on lyrics by Friedrich Leopold Stolberg is a fairy Wassermusik, combining a salon-like lightness and the scent of death on a constant accompaniment, representing the flowing of water and, at the same time, the inexorable flow of time. The three stanzas, intoned all on the same music, propose a similitude starting by a naturalistic vision. The soul glides like a boat on a river, while, all around, a red sunset dances, and time vanishes in rocking waves. The minor mode prevails, but each stanza closes in the major mode, highlighting the fullness of a fulfillment which, in the first two stanzas, is bound to the flames of sunset, and in the last indicates the landing of death.
Gute Nacht (Good Night) and Die Wetterfahne (The weather vane) are the first two Lieder of the twenty-four contained within the cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey) on lyrics by Wilhelm Müller, which occupied Schubert between February and October of 1827. In his last moments of lucidity, he kept correcting the proofs, without however being able to see the entire collection in print. The reduction of the narrative elements, whereby even the cause of the journey finally becomes devoid of meaning (just as happens to the indistinct features of the faceless wanderer, who has not a defined psychological contour) reveals the Liederkreis’ symbolic nature and influences its structure. The wanderer’s itinerary is defined already at the beginning: Gute Nacht is a painful and ironic good-bye to the unfaithful lover, but also to earth, to life, to reality. Its firs lines (“A foreigner I came, A foreigner I leave again”) act as an epigraph to the entire cycle. They anticipate the anguished meaning of the journey, whereby every landing becomes a new starting point. If the march rhythm of Gute Nacht is the very symbol for a goalless journey, the jagged rhythm of the Wetterfahne represents the senseless turning of the weather vane, associated to the lover’s capricious inconstancy.
Ständchen (Serenade), on lyrics by Ludwig Rellstab, belongs in the group of Schubert’s last fourteen Lieder on lyrics by three different poets, posthumously published by Haslinger in May 1829 under the title of Schwanengesang (Swan’s Song). It is a night song of the desire, where sensuousness and irony get mixed. The accompaniment seems to evoke a mandolin or a guitar; the minor mode imparts an even exceedingly sad tone. The five stanzas are grouped into two parts, the second of which is amplified through a contrasting section laden with pleading emphasis, with final cadences by the piano ending in the major mode, suggesting the persuasion of the reluctant lover. Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister Lehrjahre provided the lyrics for many works by Schubert. Already in a Lied written in 1815 the character of Mignon appears. She is a young street artist who seems to live outside the rules of society. In particular, among the stupendous and disquieting lines sung by Mignon, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only he who knows nostalgia) received no less than six versions, the last two of which are included in the Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister of 1826, published as op. 62. In the collection’s first piece the lyrics are set as a duet for soprano and tenor, whilst the fourth is for solo voice. This Lied, framed by a touching cantilena by the piano, constitutes a fascinating portrait of the feminine soul: at first with desolate melancholy, then with sad resignation, and then with anguished tremor, re-establishing, in the end, the initial situation as the unconquerable persistence of grief. Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen (Litany for the feast of All Saints) is a strophic Lied of 1816 on lyrics by Johann Georg Jacobi. It is a prayer for the deceased’s souls, whereby every stanza is closed by the same words (“Let all souls rest in peace!”), whilst the rocking sweetness of the melody and the uniform accompaniment by the piano evoke the serene calm of a berceuse.
The arpeggione is a curious hybrid between a cello and a guitar, invented in 1823 by the Viennese luthier Johann Georg Staufer, and already fallen into disuse a decade later. It took the shape of its body, as well as the style of the six-stringed board, from the guitar. It took from the cello the traits of being held between the knees and played with the bow. It enjoyed some success within a small circle of amateurs, and obtained the support of Vincenz Schuster who, in 1825, had the only known method for this instrument published by Diabelli, and, in November 1824, commissioned to Schubert the famous A-minor Sonata, which would be published only in 1871. This work is now performed normally on the cello or on the viola, even though in the second half of the twentieth century there have been attempts to recover the forgotten original instrument. In spite of its seeming formal simplicity, in this Sonata it is not difficult to notice the distinctive traits of the musician’s mature style. This applies especially to the ambiguity of the harmonic plane, with its pronounced tendency to deviate toward distant keys. This is already evident in the variegation of the lowered second grade, which adorns the melancholic initial theme proposed by the piano and immediately re-presented by the bowed instrument. Another example is the deviation toward the lowered fourth degree, constituting the extreme modulating landing in the central development. The short Adagio in E major, hinging on a luminous hymn-like melody by the arpeggione, has actually the function of an introduction to the final Allegretto in A major. This is structured as a rondo-sonata, rich in harmonic surprises and formal anomalies, starting with the first episode, which is presented in D minor, and comes back in the reprise in A minor, before the triumphal recovery of the main key.
Giuseppe Rossi © 2022
Translation: Chiara Bertoglio
She began studying piano with Giovanna Lorieri and, at age 12, with Gianluca Luisi at the Incontri col Maestro of Imola Academy.
She studied with Riccardo Risaliti and Vincenzo Balzani, at the Milan Conservatory graduating with full marks.
She graduated at the Conservatory of Ferrara, level II Academic Diploma with honors and special mention. She studied at the Fiesole Music School with Andrea Lucchesini, Bruno Canino and the Trio di Parma.
She won numerous national and international competitions and studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 2012 she won the prestigious national competition Nuova Coppa Pianisti d’Italia and she ranked third in the International Competition City of Osimo, then joining its jury in the 2014 edition.
She carries out an intense concert activity as a soloist, in various chamber ensembles and orchestras.
From 2006 to 2008 she was the pianist of the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana.
She has performed with the Cherubini Orchestra directed by Riccardo Muti and Wayne Marshall in Italy and abroad.
From 2007 to 2011 she was part of the Trio Botero, winning the scholarship dedicated to Ildebrando Pizzetti for three consecutive years and playing for the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna and at the Pergola in Florence.
She has played for many concert associations, including the Walton Foundation of Ischia, the Milan Concerts Society, the Trieste Concerts Society, the Lucchese Music Association, the Bari Chamber Music Academy, the Italian Institute of Culture of Vienna.
She has collaborated with Enrico Bronzi, Gabriele Mirabassi, Francesco Dillon, W. Chiquito Henao, Erica Piccotti, Fabiola Tedesco, Sara Pastine, Patrizio Serino, Tommaso Vannucci and the Quartetto Guadagnini
Besides her concert activity, she devotes herself to teaching as well as to the artistic direction of the High Altitude Festival Musica sulle Apuane, a project she founded with the Italian Alpine Club, joining in 2021 the network of Italian Mountain Music Festivals together with I Suoni delle Dolomiti (Trentino), MusicaStelle Outdoor (Valle d'Aosta) , Paesaggi Sonori (Abruzzo), RisorgiMarche (Marche), Suoni Controvento (Umbria), Suoni della Murgia (Puglia), and Time in Jazz (Sardinia). These events represent an important practice towards sustainable and experiential tourism, using music to teach environmental education.
From 2021 she plays in "Duo Caravaggio" (viola and piano) with Tommaso Valenti.
Tommaso Valenti: Born il Lucca he studied Viola at G.Puccini Conservatory in La Spezia where he graduated with honour under the gudance of Fabrizio Merlini. He perfected himself at Lugano Conservatory with Danilo Rossi, at Konservatorium Wien Privatuniversitat with Alexander Zemtsov and with his father Claudio Valenti. In 2014 he obtained “Diploma Superiore di Viola” at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome with Massimo Paris. He collaborates with several Orchestras and ensemble including Malta Philarmonic Orchestra, Orchestra Filarmonica Pucciniana and ensemble 900 of Italian Swiss. Always attentive to the enhancementand rediscovery of the literature inherent in its instrument has recorded as a soloist in 2017 for the prestigious TACTUS label the unpublished concert BI552 written by Alessandro Rolla, after a careful revision and reconstruction work together with his father Claudio Valenti. As a chamber Musician he collaborated and played with important musicians such as Kate Hamilton, Milton Masciadri, Enrico Bronzi, Richard Galliano, Alexander Zemtsov.
Franz Schubert: (b Vienna, 31 Jan 1797; d Vienna, 19 Nov 1828). Austrian composer. The only canonic Viennese composer native to Vienna, he made seminal contributions in the areas of orchestral music, chamber music, piano music and, most especially, the German lied. The richness and subtlety of his melodic and harmonic language, the originality of his accompaniments, his elevation of marginal genres and the enigmatic nature of his uneventful life have invited a wide range of readings of both man and music that remain among the most hotly debated in musical circles.