Summer Schubert

Three scoops in Harrison
By BEN MEIKLEJOHN  |  July 18, 2007

Three selections from the formative years of Austrian composer Franz Schubert are next up at the chamber-music heavy Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, Tuesday evenings through August 14 at the Deertrees Theater on Long Lake in Harrison.

Directed by Portland Symphony Orchestra principal violist Laurie Kennedy, the Festival brings together local, regional and international performers. On July 24, the western Maine lakeside series offers us an “all-Schubert” program of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), featuring three selections from his formative years.

Performers will include PSO musicians Kennedy and bassist Anthony D’Amico, husband and wife duo cellist Eliot Bailen and flutist Susan Rotholz, pianist Stephen Manes (noted for performances of Schubert solo works), cellist Jonathan Golove, and violinists Varty Manouelian, Movses Pogossian, and Paul Wolfe (recipient of a “Citation for Excellence” from Chamber Music America). Together, they will whip up some summer Schubert to cool down by the lake with.

 The first selection, “String Quartet in E Flat Major,” D. 87, Op. 125, No. 1, nicknamed “The Household Quartet,” is one of six early quartets composed by adolescent Schubert in 1813, yet it wasn’t published until after his death. It was written for household performance by his family during holiday and weekend get-togethers — Schubert on viola, his two brothers on violin, and their father on cello. With this piece, Homer Ulrich writes in the second edition of Chamber Music, “Schubert’s mastery of sonata-form is disclosed, for the first movement ... [it] is as well balanced and beautifully proportioned as one would wish. The middle movements are reminiscent of early Beethoven, and the sparkling, pulsating finale is a model of formal clarity.” Enjoy three motifs in the Allegro moderato, the trademark “quick grace note followed by a downward plunge” of the Scherzo: Prestissimo, the sonata-form’s return in the Adagio, and the delightful contrasting themes in the Allegro finale.

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival | 7:30 pm Tuesdays through Aug 14 | at the Deertrees Theatre on Long Lake, Harrison | 207.583.6747 |
Schubert wrote “Introduction and Variation on Trockne Blumen (Withered/Faded Flowers) for Flute and Piano,” D. 802, in 1824, likely for his friend Ferdinand Bogner, a Vienna conservatory professor and flutist. It is based on an earlier vocal work, the song-cycle Die schöne Müllerin (completed just months before in 1823), itself a setting of 20 poems by Wilhelm Müller. The story is of a young man courting the daughter of a miller, the man turning sour when she marries another. The 18th cycle, Trockne Blumen, captures the man’s rejection and suicidal thoughts. This instrumental rendition challenges the virtuosity of the flutist, and expands the theme vastly from the original. Rotholz would surely make Bogner proud in this one!

Lastly, the “Quintet for Piano and Strings in A Major,” D. 667, nicknamed the “Trout Quintet” and written in 1819, is also an instrumental composition based on a previous vocal work — his “Die Forelle” (the Trout), composed in 1817. The unique instrumentation — string quartet with bass instead of a second violin, and piano — came at the request of Schubert’s friend Sylvester Paumgartner of Steyr, who had assembled the same combination of instruments to play a work by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). This piece is known for its use of shifting harmonic language, mediant and submediant tonal centers, a recapitulation in the opening Allegro vivace movement in the subdominant D Major key instead of the dominant E Major, and frequent chromaticism. In the fourth movement, listen for rippling piano effects used to suggest running water — a carryover from the original vocal work.

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