Friday, October 26, 2012

Schubert Op. 122 continued

As a young piano student I was taught to recognize phrases: a series of measures that clearly began and led somewhere, at which point it was appropriate to breathe.  The phrases at that stage all seemed to have in common somewhat symmetrical trajectories. 

It is terribly difficult to free oneself of that deeply ingrained paradigm; nowhere does it matter more than in this sonata.  There are phrases, but they are often interrupted and they rarely reach satisfying endings, as if they were punctuated with question marks.

But the sonata begins with a virtual question, and the absence of a defined resolution concludes the work as the thematic material is interrupted, moved from the deepest register of the piano (where we are very rarely called upon to play a lyrical phrase) to the treble, and then to a whispered final chord.

The mystery, to me, is that this should happen in E-flat, usually a key of warmth and security on the piano, not the usual setting for angst.  The sonata becomes more meaningful with every passing performance.