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Piano Sonata in C minor, D958

composer

 
Schubert’s last three piano sonatas, written between the spring and autumn of 1828, the last year of his life, are often considered as a group, sharing many elements of structure and form. He performed the three sonatas at a concert for his friends on 28 September 1828, and in October offered them to his publisher, Probst, who was not interested. Schubert’s health, already weak, rapidly deteriorated and he died on 19 November 1828, at the age of thirty-one.

The Sonata in C minor, like the others in the group of three, is strongly influenced by Beethoven, at whose funeral the previous year Schubert had been a pall-bearer. The opening of the Allegro first movement of this sonata is very close to the theme of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Variations on a theme (catalogue WoO80), which is also in C minor. There are also reminiscences of Beethoven’s 'Pathetique' sonata, No 8 Op 13, again in C minor. The second subject is a chorale-like tune in E flat major, the relative major to C minor.

After the repeat of the exposition section, the development continues chromatically, exploring distant keys. At the recapitulation there is a return to the tonic, and the coda dies away in reminiscences of the development section.

The second movement, Adagio, is in A flat major, and structured A-B-A-B-A. Its tranquil opening theme is developed in a way that gives it a darker quality, and in the B sections there is intense chromaticism and forceful, emotion-laden chords. The second appearance of the A and B sections is a semitone higher than before.

The third movement is a menuetto and trio, but far darker and more sombre in mood than the usual classical minuet. The menuetto is in C minor, in two parts, each repeated, the second part containing two bar-long rests that give a disquieting feeling that persists to the end of the movement. The trio is in A flat major, structured A-B-A, with the B section in E flat major.

The sonata-form final movement, Allegro, is again in C minor, and has a rapid, racing 6/8 rhythm reminiscent of a tarantella or a moto perpetuo. The first theme moves from C minor to C major, while the second moves towards C sharp minor. A new theme enters in the development section, progressing to a climax which introduces the recapitulation in which the first theme reappears in shortened form. The wild leaps and bounding arpeggios give the movement a liveliness that is offset by its predominantly minor key colouring, and leave something of the flavour of a dance of death.

from notes by Simon Rees © 2019

Recordings

Schubert: Piano Music, Vol. 3
SIGCD833Download only 13 December 2019 Release
Hyperion sampler - January 2020
HYP202001Download-only sampler 3 January 2020 Release

Details

Movement 1: Allegro
Track 1 on SIGCD833 [11'07] Download only 13 December 2019 Release
Movement 2: Adagio
Track 2 on SIGCD833 [9'09] Download only 13 December 2019 Release
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegro
Track 7 on HYP202001 [3'22] Download-only sampler 3 January 2020 Release
Track 3 on SIGCD833 [3'22] Download only 13 December 2019 Release
Movement 4: Allegro
Track 4 on SIGCD833 [9'24] Download only 13 December 2019 Release

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