In most Western countries, young people come of age at eighteen. They acquire a series of rights – virtually all those connected with adulthood – and are expected to be responsible for a series of duties and responsibilities. Yet, especially nowadays, it is rare for a boy or girl of eighteen to be thought of, or to think of themselves as “adults”. So slow has now become the process of growth, so long the time spent in higher education, so delayed marriage and childbirth, that the actual coming of age happens at the end of one’s twenties, rather than of one’s teens.
It was not always thus, however. For the past generations, whose life expectancy was much shorter than ours, eighteen was already a time of autonomous choices, of responsibility and of relative independence.
Still, in the artistic domain, the full development of an artist, albeit precocious, was not expected to happen before his or her twenties. (Here, too, we may muse on the fact that this age limit has in turn been delayed by a decade, approximately, in our post-modern age). Very few musical geniuses reached full maturity before turning twenty. Normally, the prototype of the musical enfant prodige is Mozart, who wrote his first compositions as a young child, and had composed works in virtually all genres, from opera to sacred music to symphonies by his early teens. With all due respect for Mozart (who, incidentally, was also Schubert’s idol and model), when thinking of a musical child prodigy my personal thoughts go rather to Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. For, though impressive and admirable enough, none of the works of a teenager Mozart reaches the heights of an absolute masterpiece, of one which can worthily sit among the handful immortal pieces of all musical literature. On the other hand, Mendelssohn’s Overture to the stage music for Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Schubert’s Erlkönig are simply perfect. They are not just anticipations of what their more mature composer will do, nor works whose greatness requires specifying the age of their composer. They are masterpieces, full stop.
In 1816, Schubert was in his late teens. It was a special year for this exceedingly talented and rather introverted boy. Alfred Einstein, one of the major scholars who studied Schubert’s life and works, defined it as the “year of indecision”. Which is hardly surprising, for a young man of that age. As happens to many young people of nineteen, it was time for him to leave the family nest. This, in his case, meant to leave all certainties behind. Some of them were pleasant: for instance, the possibility of playing string quartets with the members of his family. Others, much less so: first and foremost, the task of teaching at the Liechtenthal school, where his father had practically forced him to join the faculty. Schubert frankly detested the job; he found it unrewarding and time-consuming, as this prevented him from dedicating his energies, concentration, and creativity to the composition of music. He did not dislike teaching per se. Indeed, in that very year he had applied for a job as music master at the Normal School of Laibach. His disappointment, when his application was unsuccessful, was tangible. His choices were now drastically reduced: either remain at his father’s school, or venture into the unknown.
The young man’s interior labour is palpable in the journal he used to keep in that year. The annotations we read speak volumes about his anguish and torments, which are also revealed by the tortured mood of his fourth Symphony. Its subtitle, by Schubert, leaves us in no doubt as concerns its overall style: a “Tragic” symphony is not the work of a careless boy in his late teens.
Among these doubts and crises, a light shone bright: that of Mozart’s music. As Schubert wrote in his journal, recalling a performance of a string Quintet by the great Wolfgang, “As from afar, the magic notes of Mozart’s music still gently haunt me. They show us in the darkness of this life a bright, clear, lovely distance. O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many comforting glimpses of a brighter, better life have you brought into our souls”.
Schubert did nothing to conceal his unwavering admiration for Mozart in his Sonatas recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album. Critics and scholars seem to have felt in duty bound to acknowledge all debts Schubert had towards Mozart in these works. For instance, the opening motif of the D major Sonata seems to recall the beginning of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E minor, KV 304. The last movement of this same Sonata seems to quote the first movement of Mozart’s A-major Sonata KV 526. The C-major theme in the first movement of the A-minor Sonata hints at Dove sono i bei momenti, from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. In its second movement, instead, there seem to be recollections after Mozart’s Violin Sonata KV 377, while the slow movement of the G-minor Sonata is reminiscent of that from Mozart’s Horn Concerto KV 447. Its opening movement, in turn, alludes to Mozart’s Symphony KV 543, or at least so has been suggested.
Are all of these quotations explicit, are they all conscious? Arguably not. Schubert was so exposed to music, and particularly to the music of his beloved Mozart, that in all likelihood the themes and motifs he heard inadvertently blended with those he had personally devised. Certainly, Schubert needed no promptings as concerns the structure and shape of melodies. His own creativity was perhaps unsurpassed and unrivalled in the field. The enormous number of Lieder he wrote, at times on the spur of the moment, bears abundant witness to this. But beautiful, or at least extremely charming melodies, are found everywhere in his oeuvre. And they came to him with the same ease. Though not as large and as magnificent as the repertoire of his Lieder, the collection of short dances he authored is a further demonstration of this spontaneity in devising delightful tunes. We can get an impression of this flow of musical ideas in the short dances found as the opening of this album. We have also a curious anecdote – whose reliability can be disputed, but which is also not to be simplistically discarded – according to which Schubert would have written the Six Ecossaises D 421 for solo piano, recorded here, in order to win a bet with his friends. He had been visiting his friend Josef von Spaun, and had been jokingly locked inside a room until he wrote and completed a composition. Schubert himself testified to this rather unusual circumstance of composition, by penning the words “Composed while confined to my room ad Erdberg, May 1816” on the title page. If he could write such a pleasant set of six dances in one breath, it is easy to imagine how his musical imagination worked.
Along with Ecossaises such as the ones just mentioned, another kind of dances which Schubert wrote by the dozen was Ländler. These dances, typical for the Austrian and Viennese context, can rightfully be considered as the direct ancestors of the Viennese Waltz, though they lack its refinement, suaveness, and sensuousness. They are more spontaneous, robust, and immediate, and Schubert is carefully to differentiate between these two genres, both in triple time, but which have each a style of its own.
This album comprises three sets of Ländler, all for solo violin. Indeed, works for solo violin were not that common at Schubert’s time. Obviously, they are by no means in the same line as Bach’s Solos, neither in terms of spiritual and intellectual depth, nor as concerns length or technique. They are carefree pieces, easy enough to be played by amateurs, and with a charming and pleasant style. The question is, of course, whether they had been conceived as they now stand, i.e. as pieces for solo violin, or rather as provided with piano accompaniment. What is certain is that no piano accompaniment currently exists. Has it been lost? Were the dances conceived for solo violin from the outset? Or would perhaps Schubert himself have sat at the piano, accompanying with free improvisations the violin part? (Personally, the last hypothesis is the one which convinces me most). In all cases, they lose nothing when played by the violin alone, since their harmonic itinerary is so clear and evident that it leaves no doubts as concerns its development. In one case, moreover, we can check whether our harmonic surmises are correct or not: some of the 11 Ländler D 374 also exist in a piano version by Schubert himself, against which they can be tested.
The major undertaking of 1816, or at least of its first months, was the composition and completion of the Three Violin Sonatas. That they had been intended as a set from the very beginning is shown by their number (three sonatas made a good size for a joint publication) and by their tonal relationships. Schubert himself highlighted their unified concept in the title he gave to the set. Incidentally, he used for them the title of Sonata, not of Sonatina: the diminutive form had been devised by the eventual publisher of the set, Anton Diabelli, who printed it approximately twenty years after Schubert’s death. Under some viewpoints, the name of “Sonatina” can be justified: they are certainly shorter than most Sonatas by Beethoven (but there too we must take into account the difference in personality and age between the two composers), and their difficulty, either technical or musical, is generally rather manageable by skilled amateurs. Certainly, in comparison with, for instance, Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata, these pieces can justifiably be called Sonatinas; but with respect to countless Biedermeier Sonatas, they fully deserve the complete form of their name.
In them, we find quintessential Schubert. There is tenderness, irony, good humour, and melancholy (plenty of melancholy, in fact). The two instruments enter a dialogue similar to that of multi-voiced Lieder, even though Schubert followed an old fashion by calling them “for Piano Forte with Violin accompaniment”. There is some virtuosity, but always determined by musical needs, and never too extreme. There is, above all, the touching, beautiful expression of Schubert’s soul, where nostalgia and hope, longing and tenderness went always together.
This longing and this tenderness are perfectly embodied by the two opening Lieder, both setting the same text by Goethe. The immortal poetry of the Weimar genius found no better partner than Schubert, who really managed to convey the acute feeling of loneliness and solitude he was in turn experiencing, without thereby losing the concrete embodiment of his musical thoughts.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
David Scaroni: Born in Rovigo in 1984, he graduated at Conservatory of Vicenza under the guidance of G. Bertagnin. He has participated in several masterclasses following lessons by I. Grubert, S. Tchakerian, L. Spierer and he perfected his musical skills with master players R. Ranfaldi at the Accademia "L. Perosi" in Biella and M. Rogliano at the "Accademia Musicale" in Pavia and "Accademia Steinway Society" in Verona.
He has collaborated with many Italian Orchestras such as the "Orchestra d'Archi Italiana", "Orchestra Leonore", "Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento", "Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna", "Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto", "Filarmonica Toscanini di Parma", "Orchestra Nazionale della RAI di Torino" and has collaborated with important conductors like U. Benedetti Michelangeli, G. Kuhn, W. Marshall, D. Renzetti, K. Nagano, Sir N. Marriner, A. Ceccato, V. Fedoseev, R. Muti and many soloists like J. Pratt, P. Domingo, U. Ughi, P. Zuckerman, K. Zimerman, M. Argherich, D. Geringas, G. Sollima, A. S. Mutter.
He has performed on tour in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Emirates, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Argentina and in many prestigious theaters like Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Teatro Real in Madrid, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Musikverein in Vienna.
He recorded for many record labels: Tactus, Decca, Stradivarius, Velut Luna, Ducale, Universal Music, Amadeus, A Simple Lunch, Azzurra Music, Da Vinci Classics.
His review of Six Violin Duos op.4 by G. Cambini has been published for Da Vinci Edition.
He has always had a great passion for chamber music and in 2012 he founded the Trio Hegel (www.triohegel.com) with which he won national and international competitions and performed on tours around the world.
Gerardo Felisatti, piano
Gerardo Felisatti, graduated in Piano under the guidance of Gianna Giorgetti, in Vocal Chamber Music under the guidance of Elisabetta Andreani at "F. Venezze” Conservatorio of Rovigo; in Conducting under the guidance of Giancarlo Andretta at “A. Pedrollo” Conservatorio of Vicenza. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Répétituership with the highest honors from “S. Cecilia” Conservatorio in Rome under the guidance of Ida Iannuzzi and his Master's Degree in Musicology at the University "Ca 'Foscari" of Venice under the guidance of Giovanni Morelli. He attended the International Academy of Pinerolo (TO) under the guidance of Franco Scala and musical specialization courses and master classes held by Franco Scala, Andrea Carcano, Leslie Howard, Irwin Gage, Erik Battaglia and Ulrich Eisenlohr. Winner of the Erasmus Project Scholarship, Mr. Felisatti specialized in German Vocal Chamber Music Repertoire at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Mannheim, Germany under the guidance of Ulrich Eisenlohr.
He worked as Principal/Vocal Coach at Teatro Sociale in Rovigo, Teatro Comunale of Treviso, Teatro Verdi in Padua. He was Principal Coach at Houston Grand Opera USA (2014-2017). He has been working as Vocal Coach at Teatru Manoel of Malta (2017-2021). He played at Arena of Verona for the “Andrea Bocelli Gala” (2018). Mr. Felisatti accompanied the singing classes at the “G. Verdi” Conservatorio in Milan (2016), and he taught in the Master for vocal Coaches at Teatro Comunale in Treviso (2017). He has been working as teacher in the Conducting and Classical voice Department of Conservatorium van Amsterdam for two years (2020-2022).
As accompanist he worked with well known singers like Katia Ricciarelli, Cecilia Gasdia, June Anderson, Francesca Dotto, Marina De Liso, Alessandro Corbelli, Mariella Devia, Paola Gardina, Luciana D’Intino, Fabio Sartori, Jessica Pratt, Mara Zampieri, Walter Fraccaro, Riccardo Zanellato. As conductor, he worked with the Regional Veneto Orchestra ORFV, Orchestra del Teatro Olimpico di Vicenza OTO, LaVerdi Orchestra Verdi di Milano; during the RovigoCelloCity2019 Festival he conducted the 1st cello of Wiener Philarmoniker, Peter Somodari. www.gerardofelisatti.com
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.