Remembering Radu Lupu

The great Romanian pianist, Radu Lupu, passed away earlier this week. According to his manager, Lupu “died peacefully in his home in Switzerland from numerous long-term illnesses.” He was 76 years old. In 1966, Radu Lupu was awarded the first prize at the second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He went on to win first prizes at the George Enescu International Piano Competition and the Leeds International Piano Competition. Lupu’s playing was filled …

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Schubert’s Piano Sonata No.21 in B-flat Major, Mitsuko Uchida

“The opening movement of the Sonata [No. 21] in B-flat Major goes beyond analysis,” writes the pianist Stephen Hough. “It is one of those occasions when the pen has to be set down on the desk, the body rested against the back of a chair, and a listener’s whole being surrendered to another sphere.” This was Franz Schubert’s last instrumental work. Completed in the autumn of 1828 during the final months of …

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Schubert’s Sixth Symphony: The Youthful Charm of the “Little C Major”

In March of 1827, the biographer Anton Schindler brought a stack of Franz Schubert’s lieder to Beethoven’s deathbed in an attempt to comfort the ailing composer. Schindler recounted that after studying the songs, Beethoven commented, “Truly in Schubert there is the divine spark.” Schubert and Beethoven lived in Vienna at the same time. Yet, they traveled in different circles and their creative paths diverged widely. While Beethoven’s ferocious, revolutionary symphonies were shaking up the musical …

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Schubert’s “Gesang der Geister über den Wassern”: Song of the Spirits Over the Waters

At the Staubbach Falls, west of the village of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, an Alpine stream plunges over a jagged cliff and cascades 974 feet to the valley floor below. A visit to this topographical wonder in October of 1779 inspired Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to write Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (“Song of the Spirits over the Waters”). Set in six stanzas, the poem compares the mystical journey of the soul to the cycle of …

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Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major, Mitsuko Uchida

Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major is filled with sublime, crystalline melodies which unfold with an inherent sense of logic. It’s music filled with sunshine and the joy of youth. At the same time, there is an underlying and lingering wistfulness. The 22-year-old Schubert wrote this music during the summer of 1819 while vacationing in the idyllic Upper Austrian city of Steyr. Surrounded by an “unimaginably lovely” landscape, Schubert composed the …

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Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, “The Trout”: Music of Sunshine and Youth

In the summer of 1819, the 22 year old Franz Schubert went on vacation to the idyllic Upper Austrian city of Steyr. He was joined by the noted baritone, Johann Michael Vogl, a close friend and a tireless champion of the young composer’s songs. In elated letters, Schubert described the picturesque, bucolic landscape and the presence of eight lovely young women, “nearly all of them pretty.” This was the youthful, carefree environment in which the Piano …

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Schubert’s “An Die Musik”: An Ode to the Art of Music

An die Musik (“To Music”) is Schubert’s moving ode to the art of music. Composed in March of 1817, the song can be heard as a deeply contemplative prayer of gratitude. The vocal line engages in a canonic dialogue with an equally important voice in the piano’s lower register. The music is gently propelled forward by pulsating harmony. Using the most sublimely simple means, this brief song inhabits a space of dignity …

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