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Schubert/Prokofiev/Schumann

It is a great pleasure for me to perform the following Recital Programme for you consisting of works by Schubert, Prokofiev and Schumann. I would like to share some thoughts about the pieces I am performing and am looking forward to playing them for you.

After two sets of “Impromptus”, Op. 90 and Op. 142, Schubert decided to compose another cycle of four Impromptus. He started to work on them in 1828 just a few months before his death so only three of them were finished. The “Three Piano Pieces” were first published in 1868 and edited by Johannes Brahms, although his name does not appear in the publication. It is not clear whether these pieces were indeed intended as a cycle or whether Brahms united them as they are written on the different sheets of paper. Regardless of Schubert’s intentions, for me the “Three Piano Pieces” is one the deepest and personal works for piano. The main section of No. 1 in E Flat Minor with the pulsating triplets in the left hand and short exclamations in the right hand creates an unquiet and dramatic atmosphere. Originally Schubert composed two trios - in B Major and in A Flat Major – to provide a contrast to the main section, but then he crossed out the second one. I would like to keep the original idea of the composer so I perform the piece with both trios. No. 2 in E Flat Major is a great lyrical piece with two trios in C Minor and A Flat Minor. The A Flat Minor section with its beautiful and simple vocal line and a supporting accompaniment is in my opinion one of the most personal and moving statements in all classical music. No. 3 in C Major is full of syncopation, with a very joyful character. The single middle section in D Flat Major is based on a choral and has a varied form. In the coda (also built around syncopation) Schubert brings us to the pinnacle of brightness and joy.

The idea to play Schubert and Prokofiev together came to my mind after I learned how Prokofiev came to make a transcription of Schubert Waltzes for piano. As he was giving concerts in the US, he was asked by the promoters to include some works of the Classical period in his piano recitals. Prokofiev decided to search through the waltzes by Schubert which he then added to his recital programmmes alongside his own pieces. The Seventh Sonata in B Flat Major, Op. 83 was composed between 1939 and 1942, at the same time that Prokofiev was working on the Sixth Sonata in A Major, Op. 82 and Eighth Sonata in B Flat Major, Op. 84. The first movement, Allegro inquieto, is written in classical sonata form. The opening theme establishes the main tone of the whole piece – the B flat, to which Prokofiev always gets back in the first bars as an “idée fixe” – and which he destroys in a very marked manner just a few bars later. Through the whole movement Prokofiev keeps the feeling of disquiet (also suggested in the tempo description) and fragility of the things we believe to be stable and permanent. The second theme is slower, a frozen theme which wanders through different tonalities. The development section is based on the opening motifs and makes an extremely strong development almost without clear tonalities. Only in the last chord of the coda, in B Flat Major, is the tonality stated. The second movement, Andante caloroso, consists of a beautiful but at the same time surreal main section and a dramatic middle section with a bell-like climax. The transition to the “reprise”, where the bell sounds from very far away, reminds me of the field after a battle, where nothing living is left. This vision disappears only after the E Major main theme comes back but the last chords in the movement still evoke this feeling of death. The final movement, Precipitato, is a toccata in 7/8 with a repeating figuration in the base (with the B Flat). The movement develops throughout, with the texture and the sound growing constantly until the final resolution into B flat Major in the last bars and at the same time complete devastation of the substance.

Schumann's F Sharp Minor Sonata was composed between 1832 and 1836. The sonata is dedicated to Clara (Wieck) from Florestan and Eusebius – the two contrasting characters with whom Schumann identified himself. Later Schumann himself described the Sonata as “yearning for Clara”. The piece opens with a dramatic introduction, based on the large triplets in the left hand and short exclamations in the right hand. It seems that the protagonist can not find the words for a longer sentence because of his emotional excitation. It is only once that a longer phrase appears, and this theme will come back in the second movement (Aria). The main theme of the first movement is a Fandango, the idea of using this dance kept Schumann busy for a few years and finally he adapted his drafts for this theme. The closing section of the exposition shows the contrasting choral theme in A Major. The development section is very dramatic, changing the mood from great exaltation to deep desperation. When the choral theme appears in the end of the movement, it sounds hopeless and resigned. The Aria is a beautiful lyrical piece with a long vocal melody in the right hand. In the middle section (F Major) the melody is given to the left hand, which gives us the feeling of a duet. The Scherzo e Intermezzi is a very characterful piece. The main section suggests a dance of shadows – very light and surreal. The first Intermezzo draws on the duet from the Aria, but with much more humorous background. The second Intermezzo, alla burla, has a polonaise rhythm which creates a sense of theatricality. The main theme of the Finale (Allegro un poco maetoso) has a very proud and majestic character. It is followed by many smaller sections which all have very different moods – from very lyrical and dull to euphoric and brilliant. At the end the euphoric mood is left behind and the Sonata finishes in majestic F Sharp Major.

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