Garrick Ohlsson, piano
August 27, 2000 Program
Franz Schubert: Sonata in A major, D. 959
Schubert's late piano sonatas suffered the same fate, being regarded until the mid-20th century as being too long and too introspective and lacking in an over-arching unity which characterized Beethoven's own works in the genre. Schubert had, like Beethoven before him, struggled with the problem of accommodating the Romantic urge towards emotions and spontaneity within the rational, formalized Classical forms. But both composers chose different solutions to this problem. Beethoven's music follows a kind of inherent logic, whereas Schubert's solution is more disturbing. As pianist Alfred Brendel put so marvelously, "Even in his most chaotic moments Beethoven chose (or could not help) to represent order, whereas the music Schubert composed ... [often] comes amazingly close to chaos itself."
Nineteenth century critics dismissed Schubert's sonatas as unsuccessful attempts to imitate Beethoven, but Schubert's last three sonatas of 1828 - the C minor, A major, and B-flat (D. 958-960) - have since come to be regarded as masterpieces of the early Romantic period, bringing form and feeling into a new relationship. Although Schubert used the traditional four-movement sonata form, he nonetheless gives free rein to the expression of his own unique transcendent poetic vision, one that has since become appreciated on its own terms. As admirer and fellow composer Robert Schumann put it so eloquently, "He has sounds for the most delicate feelings, thoughts, yes, even for the events and conditions of life. As thousand fold as are the forms of man's imagination and questing, so infinite is the variety of Schubert's music."