Sunday, August 19, 2012

Arcanto Quartett and Olivier Marron: Schubert: String Quintet Op. 163

As a critic I enjoy looking at new approaches in describing classical music to those that may ordinarily issue a polite "no thank you" or begin to tense up in the same fashion as most of us do when the words "tax time" are uttered. Music is as much about history as the notes played.

The Quintet in C major was a completed work by the summer of 1828 and has grown in stature within the ranks of the chamber music aficionados ever since. Austrian Franz Schubert, in the same vein as Beethoven seemed determined to leave his own legacy in every existing idiom of his time. For the uninitiated consider Schubert the forerunner of an early Wynton Marsalis. Thanks to the enormity of a paper trail that would be the envy of most lawyers and the death of Franz Schubert's brother the earliest known printing of this sublime work was not to be until 1853. Apparently publishing rights have been an on going issue in all genres of music since the beginning of time. This particular work was at the end of Schubert's illustrious yet occasionally overshadowed career. Shortly before his passing and in 1828, Schubert arranged his first and ultimately his last concert of his own works on March 26th which coincidentally was the anniversary of Beethoven's death. Not long after this concert Franz Schubert took a rare excursion out to visit Hayden's tomb in Eisenstadt. While Schubert had been diagnosed with syphilis years earlier the official cause of death was that of abdominal typhus. Schubert was a relatively young man at the time of his death and while reflecting upon his own mortality would be considered a normal act of human nature according to most written accounts there was not a feeling that he was aware of his impending demise.

It was during this time Schubert delved into a creative all most maniacal frenzy in an attempt to prove to the world if not himself that he was more than capable of the prodigious output of work connected with both Beethoven and Hayden. Much like Hank Mobley has been called "the middleweight champion of the tenor sax, " Schubert was seemingly overshadowed by not his contemporaries but by the genre itself as he is widely considered the god father to the Romantic period. While Schubert was finding minimal success in having some work disseminate as far as Germany, he had failed to secure a permanent post or in establishing a creative beachhead at the opera house. The inner if not self inflicted turmoil was taking its toll on Schubert who was now isolating himself from others. In addition Schubert found himself living in an Austrian nation that had for all realistic purposes repressed what he considered to be his true creativity and this plethora of emotional turmoil begins to surface throughout the String Quintet in C.

The emotional tug at the heartstrings of an artist feeling utterly unfulfilled combined with the idealistic notion of nostalgia and hope for the future gives this particular work a somewhat heavy emotional pull to what is commonly referred to as the yin and the yang of the music today. Here Schubert does a riff on Classicism by literally flipping the music to run against the grain as compared to composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. In this particular setting we find Schubert acknowledging the form and functionality from a different persepective thus creating a unique dynamic tension that runs in harmonious synchronicity with his current emotional state. Schubert alters the preconceived notions of Classicism with a sonic slight of hand and a composers genius. Expect the unexpected. The Quintet acknowledges the foundations and traditions that it should play from by aspiring to a new world of harmonic resonance yet to be discovered.