It was one of those moments. One of those moments when you hear music for which you would climb down a ladder; one of those moments when you are driving and you hear something on the radio which keeps you in the car, listening, long after you have arrived at your destination.
The piece was the second of Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke D946. Written in 1828, the pieces were not published until 1868 – and edited by Brahms. So yet another link for The Lunch That Never Happened.
Each of the pieces is characterful and full of interest, but it is the second of the three which caught my ear. and necessitated a quick call to Forwards to get a copy.
In the warm key of E flat major, the piece opens simply and quietly, and sublimely, with one of Schubert’s lovely melodies, accompanied by a flowing LH. It expands and blossoms, as if sung as a duet by two sopranos, while the LH bass reaches for lower notes, extending the range of the musical landscape.
One of the arresting features of the piece is the contrast given by two new, different sections, giving a Rondo form: ABACA.
The ‘B’ section modulates to C minor, and above a menacing LH tremolando figure, the RH mutters darkly in double thirds. Loud chords in a cross-rhythm end the phrases emphatically, and there are sinister key changes. The LH takes the melody while the RH continues the accompaniment – rotary movement needed here, by the way – and the music builds to a climax, then subsides to a murmur, now in C major with touches of anxiety as the foreign-to-the-key A flat sometimes interjects. Give a little ease to the tempo during the modulatory turn of phrase at the end of the section, ushering in the return to the first theme, theme ‘A’.
The ‘C’ section is different again, at first in a disquieting A flat minor with a change of metre away from a swaying compound duple to a more cut and dried simple duple, with two minims per bar. The repeated quaver chords which now appear as part of the theme and accompaniment need to be played neatly.
Into B minor for a more martial flavour – how ever did we get into that key – then back into A flat minor, and finally to the blessed relief of E flat major for the final ‘A’ section. Play it lovingly.
Here is Brendel: