Schubertiade | January 26th, 2014

 – From the Archives –

Julius Schmid's 1897 Schubertiade

Julius Schmid’s 1897 Schubertiade

Simply put, a Schubertiade is a party for chamber music lovers. Food, refreshments, and vivid conversation accompany chamber performances of Schubert’s work. That’s right, we’re throwing a party this January, and you won’t find a better chance to enjoy chamber music anywhere in Minnesota! We kick off the event with Schubert’s Quintet in a major, “The Trout,” an innovative chamber work that disguises its complex harmonic ideas as a leisurely and expressive work played by Celine Leathead, violin, Sifei Cheng, viola, Jim Jacobson, cello, David Williamson, bass, and Susan Billmeyer, piano.

Mozart Quintet

Susan Billmeyer, performing on “The Trout,” shown performing Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds with The Musical Offering in 2010

After a break for refreshments including wine and savory appetizers, the program returns with baritone Philip Zawisza and guest artist Timothy Lovelace performing Die Forelle (The Trout) for piano and solo voice. Written in 1817 by a 20-year old Schubert, Trout was so immediately popular that it spawned our program’s quintet which features this melody in the final movement. Fans of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies may recognize Die Forelle from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). Baritone Philip Zawisa will then lead us through Die schöne Müllerin, Schubert’s epic song cycle about a journeyman’s tragic pursuit of a miller’s beautiful daughter. The narrative traverses the journeyman’s initial optimism down a path of jealousy, despair, and ultimately lands his demise in a brook that sings the final lullaby.

Following dessert, winds and strings take the stage for a performance of Schubert’s Octet in f major played by Celine Leathead, violin, Allison Ostrander, violin, Sifei Cheng, viola, Jim Jacobson, cello, David Williamson, bass, Greg Williams, clarinet, Norbert Nielubowski, bassoon, and Caroline Lemen, horn. Schubert was among the first composers to use this octet’s instrumentation: the string quintet with two violins, viola, cello, and bass join just three winds, a clarinet, horn, and bassoon. This unusual combination creates a welcome symphonic sound, which has led critics throughout history to draw similarities between it and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 “The Great.” As one familiar with the latter would recognize, this analogy isn’t necessarily friendly, since No. 9 is known to musicians as “The Great” not because of its musical quality, but rather because of its (in Robert Schumann’s words) “Heavenly Length.” The Octet is longer than chamber works of its time and lasts for approximately an hour.

Musician's enjoying their performance of Mozart's "A Musical Joke" on April Fools Day 2012.

Musician’s enjoying their performance of Mozart’s “A Musical Joke” on April Fools Day 2012.

However, as astute listeners will point out, that is where any similarities end. Schubert does something magnificent with these voices, creating beautiful lyricism based on the flexibility each instrument adds to the ensemble. Rather than a cut-down symphony of eight, this piece is a string quartet that burst its banks. Such emotion, conversation, and versatility makes this work one of the best chamber pieces ever written, and you will leave the Schubertiade filled with the joy chamber music was meant to bring to life.

Tickets are $40 for season subscribers (call 612.523.2459 and press #2), or $50 for single-ticket buyers and include dinner and refreshments. The Schubertiade will kick off at 3:00pm Sunday and run into the evening, with each block of music lasting about an hour. Links to recordings of some of the works are listed below for those who enjoy getting familiar with the pieces before the concert. This party is the only one of its kind in Minnesota and you won’t want to miss it!

Die Forelle (The Trout):

Quintet in a major

Octet in f major

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