In the year 1828, on 3 June, Schubert and I were invited by the editor of the Modezeitung [Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode], Herr [Johann] Schikh, for a country outing to Baden, near Vienna. In the evening Schikh said to us: ‘Tomorrow morning we shall go to Heiligenkreuz, to hear the famous organ there. Perhaps you could both compose a small piece and perform it there?’ Schubert suggested the composition of a four-hands fugue, which was completed by both parties towards midnight. On the next day, at 6 in the morning, we travelled to Heiligenkreuz, where both fugues were performed in the presence of several monks.
Schubert, who was about to embark on the composition of his Mass in E flat major, D950, was much preoccupied with fugal writing during the final months of his life, and he subsequently used the same fugue-subject for an exercise in counterpoint which he prepared in the hope of receiving instruction from the renowned theoretician Simon Sechter. Although Schubert’s fugue is laid out for four hands, the presence during its closing stages of a long-sustained pedal-note in the bass indicates that he had the sound of the Heiligenkreuz organ in mind.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2010