Celebrate the work of Franz Schubert with host Scott Yoo as he plays with young musicians establishing themselves in North America’s musical capitals by attempting to master the composer’s music.
♪♪ -Next, on 'Great Performances'... I'm Scott Yoo.
Come with me to discover one of the most inspirational composers of all time.
-His music is quite magical and supernatural.
-Franz Schubert died early and unrecognized, but what he left behind was eternal.
-It's almost as if he didn't realize how brilliant he was, maybe. [ Laughs ] -I get to know the spirit of his work with a new generation of musicians, none of them older than Schubert during his career.
Even at 18, he's already one of the greatest composers to ever live. -I totally agree.
-Through their eyes, I'll discover what shaped his genius... It's poetry set to music.
...and why he has moved so many, so deeply, ever since.
-[ Singing ] ♪ Come to me -Every note has to be so pure... but it's the most gratifying music to play, too.
♪♪ -Coming up, 'The Schubert Generation,' a new episode from the music series 'Now Hear This.'
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -In the fall of 1828, Franz Schubert died.
He was just 31 years old.
♪♪ We now consider him one of our greatest composers, but he spent his short, brilliant life struggling to make it in the musical capital of his day, Vienna.
♪♪ [ Horns honking ] ♪♪ ♪♪ To understand his hardships,his inspiration, and his I was off to see brilliant young musicians of our time, all of them Schubert's age when he wrote this music.
And, just as he did, they're working to build their careers in some of the musical capitals of our time.
♪♪ I'd start in New York, at Steinway Hall, with rising star Kenny Broberg.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Bravo, man. -Thanks.
That's Schubert's first piano sonata.
-Mm-hmm. -So he wrote this thing when he was like...? -He was 18 years old.
-I don't know about you, but, when I was 18, I wasn't doing stuff like that.
-Yeah, it makes me feel like I should've done more. -Pretty incredible.
It's pretty incredible. -Yeah.
-And what I've read is that, apparently, Schubert played Haydn symphonies, Mozart symphonies, Beethoven symphonies, as a violist in his school orchestra, under Salieri, the guy who was the villain in 'Amadeus,' but actually was a nice guy. -Not really a villain.
Yeah. [ Laughs ] -He was a nice guy.
And you can almost hear the Haydn, you know, all the little sort of jokes and, you know, sort of funny turns.
-Yeah, absolutely, you can.
But you can also hear Schubert starting to find his own voice a little bit.
There's this very playful grace note pattern.
♪♪ And this is very Haydnesque.
But, with Schubert, he takes these grace notes and you can see him start to make a motive of it.
He takes things that you would normally just think are coloring and he makes them important.
-So the decoration becomes its own melody.
It astounds me that even at 18, you can hear the greatness in Schubert.
He's already one of the greatest composers to ever live.
-Yeah, I totally agree.
♪♪ -Though he was writing piano music at just 18, Schubert began his career even earlier, writing art songs in German called 'lieder.'
New York musicians Kara and Peter Dugan are on the road in Montreal playing some of these Schubert songs.
-Peter, were you always playing lieder, or were you trying to impress Kara?
-I actually fell in love with lieder a little bit before I fell in love with Kara,but she kind of sealed the deal.
[ Laughter ] -What are you going to be singing for us today?
-We're going to do 'Gretchen am Spinnrade,' which is a song by Schubert.
-This is one of his first songs, right?
He wrote this piece when he was 17 years old.
-Can you imagine? -Can you imagine?
I know, it's so incredible.
And at this point in time he had finished his schooling, and he was going to workwith his father and teach music.
But after reading Goethe's 'Faust,' he had to write this piece, and it changes his whole life.
This sort of was his first masterpiece in the beginning of what would be his culmination of 600 lieder.
-In 31 years. -Yeah.
-It's almost impossible.
-And also the whole idea of an art song hadn't really taken its place as a genre until Schubert kind of mastered that.
-Wait. This is not a folk song? -No.
-This is not opera? -No.
-This is not something sacred? -It's poetry set to music.
That's what art song is.
-Melding two of the fine arts.
-Absolutely, which is one of the things that makes it so special for us to perform, because we get to really dive deep into the art of poetry as part of our interpretation.
So Gretchen is this young, innocent girl, basically.
She's still a teenager. -Yeah.
About 16 years old.
-And she's been -- She's just had her first romantic encounter with Faust, who has already made his deal with the devil.
And they have their first kiss.
She comes home and she's at her spinning wheel, and she's feeling like, uh... finish my sentence. -Yes.
She's feeling overcome with this passion and the emotion from her first encounter with Faust.
And she starts to talk about how wonderful he is, and then she finally relives that moment of the kiss.
-Hmm. That's cool.
-There's been a perpetual motion in the piano the whole time... [ Playing repetitive notes ] ...just going on and on.
That's the wheel just spinning and spinning.
And when she says the word 'kuss,' for kiss, suddenly everything stops, and you get the impression that the wheel has stopped moving.
And then it gradually restarts.
Just a little bit. Not quite there yet.
And then...we're back to the cycle.
-I think we're definitely not in the Classical era anymore.
Schubert was interesting in that he was a defining character as that shift happened from Classical to what we think of as the Romantic era.
-Maybe we'll start at the beginning of the second verse.
-Yeah, that's great.
I'll give you an extra bar to lead you in, and then let's do it. -Sounds great.
[ 'Gretchen am Spinnrade' plays ] -[ Singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Men singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -I went downtown to a historic Montreal bank that's been turned into a cafe.
[ Singing continues ] ♪♪ I'd been invited to a modern-day Schubertiade.
That's what Schubert's young friends called their parties where they would play and sing his songs and discuss the Romantic era poetry they were based on.
♪♪ Tonight's hosts were guitarist John Britton and the great Canadian bass-baritone, Philippe Sly.
[ Singing continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Applause ] -Yeah.
-When I hear you guys sing, it makes me want to be a singer myself.
I wish I could do it.
But when you're singing this kind of music, you're singing great music, but you're also speaking great poetry.
And this is new poetry, right?
This is Romantic poetry. -Yeah. Mm-hmm.
In a way, it's because it's a reaction to the confines of the Enlightenment.
Because in the Enlightenment, we have so much innovation in science and in thought.
So we move away from these higher, lofty ideals in the Enlightenment to Romanticism, falling back to, 'Okay, what is it to be alive?
Why am I reacting to nature in this way?
Do I have a soul?
What is the depth of my feeling?
Why is it that I recognize beauty?'
-So is that why Romantic poetry always deals with death or nature or love... -Exactly. Yes.
-Everything we do is reacting with nature, and I believe that the Romantic poets and musicians were recognizing that, and they were searchingto try not to divorce themselves from nature so much anymore.
And this is a battle that is still going on today.
People think that humans are devoid of nature, or somehow separate.
But we're a part of it.
The idea wasn't to control it.
It was to actually become part of it.
-Recognize ourselves in it, and it in us.
-Correct. -Yeah. Totally.
♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Applause ] -That was really beautiful.
-Thanks, Scott. -Thank you.
-So what do you guys think that lied was about?
-Exactly. Unrequited love.
And that is a really important theme especially in German Romantic literature.
I'm going to read you a little bit from the poem that I just sang.
'Softly my songs implore you through the night.
Come down to me, my love, into the silent grove.
Whispering tree tops rustle in the moonlight.
We won't be heard.
Do not fear.
Let your heart be moved, my love, hear me.
Come, make me happy.
Make me happy.'
-Writing music to these themes of love and nature, and of death, and cosmic union -- it's amazing that through this poetry, Schubert was able to react to this and give us a more integrated view of the world.
-It's really remarkable. -Yeah.
I think music is the solution, or is art, or this kind of creative and communal aspect of it is the answer to this longing that is so abundant in German Romantic poetry.
-The only true form of union.
Because, for instance, this music isn't alive on the paper.
It's only alive through sound and temporally with time.
It has to be performed.
-And because it has a finite life, it makes it sort of holy.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -On the way back to New York, I stopped at Bard College to talk to pianist Ryan McCullough.
For him, as it's always been for musicians, part of making it means teaching music to others.
-Teaching is how I learn.
I've studied with wonderful teachers in the past, but no one is ever done learning.
And by teaching someone else what you love doing, you are teaching yourself what you care about.
-It's interesting because Schubert, I mean, he studied with Salieri, but you look at his training and then you look at his output, and I'm thinking one plus two doesn't equal 620.
-Absolutely. -But I'm wondering if maybe it's the teaching that helped him become Schubert.
-What I love about Schubert is there's this very clear classical form.
Everything is in the kind of classical jelly mold that he would have learned from Salieri.
The same that Mozart had, that Haydn had, that Beethoven had.
This was just the way you wrote music.
But Schubert also manages to undermine those forms and patterns, and do things in his music which are utterly inexplicable.
You cannot have those moments of chaos, those moments where the music gets turned inside out, without the very basic linguistic formulas.
And you have to have a teacher to tell you 'This is the normal way,' so that you can... -Break the rules. -...do the weird way.
Especially as he was suffering from syphilis and had lesions on his face, and didn't want to go out in public, and was kind of hiding on his own, his music becomes so other-worldly.
It's quite magical and supernatural.
-Let's go play some music. -Let's do it.
-We were talking about Schubert having all these classical jelly molds that he was trained to compose in, all the very basic syntax of music... this beginning... of that A-flat impromptu.
[ Melody plays ] Just setting up the key that we're in.
Just like with Bach.
♪♪ We're in C major.
So Schubert does that beautifully.
And then he'll do something weird.
It is like you just walked into the upside down, or what was sky is now Earth.
Everything is just inverted, or all the colors went backwards.
In the beginning of the B-flat Sonata.
♪♪ ♪♪ Okay, we're in B-flat major.
♪♪ ♪♪ -G-flat major. -We're in G five major.
How'd we get to G-flat major?
I think the way Schubert composes is very much more atmospheric than a lot of his contemporaries were.
When Schubert composes in the key of B-flat, it's almost as though we are in the space of B-flat.
It's not so much music as language as much as it is in music as space, as environment.
I think that's very unusual about his music.
And it definitely makes him akind of avant-garde for his day.
We don't think of it that way now.
-Well, Schubert was new music at one point.
-Absolutely. All music was new music.
Usually the music that we remember now, that we think of as being old and classical and prim and proper was at one point the kind of like, 'Ooh.
I don't know if you can do that in public.'
Publishers would make changes to the music because they thought it was too out there, too difficult.
So we have to remember that when we hear this music, that it is difficult, and it is complicated, and it is subtle, and it's maybe a little bit beyond your ability to comprehend.
And that should be okay.
You shouldn't be able to understand everything.
Why would you want to? Then you'd never come back.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Bravo, man. That's like a tornado.
It's just nuts. -Yeah, it is.
-Schubert reminds me of the biathlon.
-Exactly. That's it exactly.
-Really, really hard. -Yeah.
All the motion in the music that's coupled with this extraordinary precision.
Not just picking out the right notes, but picking out the right notes with the right sound.
He goes through so many keys in that passage.
It's almost like he's trying to go through all of them.
And I usually associate with Schubert's piano writing that you are often imitating the voice, that there's a voice and an accompaniment.
This is rather purely instrumental.
But I think we might be able to fix that.
I feel extremely privileged to be married to a singer who sings Schubert very beautifully, and she also just gets it.
But she's here, so we'll sing some for you.
-Hi, guys. Nice to see you.
-Hello. -Nice to see you again, Scott.
I thought Ryan and I might perform a little bit of Schubert's beautiful song 'Suleika.'
It's a setting of poetry that everyone, Schubert certainly, thought was by Goethe, the famous Romantic poet.
But it turns out it's actually by Goethe's lover, Marianne von Willemer.
-So she was good enough that she could fool people into thinking that she was Goethe.
She was a brilliant poet, a really brilliant woman.
-That's cool. -Yeah.
-And in this beautiful poem, we hear the longing of Marianne as Suleika as she awaits her lover, and we hear the rumbles of the east wind in the distance.
-Mm. And who does the east wind? Do you do it or does he do it?
-Ryan does it. -Can I hear that?
♪♪ -Oh, that's excellent!
-You can totally hear it. -You can totally hear that.
-It's arrhythmic. It starts out just as noise.
Almost like the trill in the B-flat Sonata, is that right?
Same composer. -Yeah.
You hear the growling of the human condition somehow in that trill, in the same way that you hear coming from the distance this amazing east wind to cool her cheeks and help soften her yearning.
It's really a remarkable piece.
♪♪ [ Singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing pauses ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing resumes ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing ends ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Leaves rustling ] -One thing that really blows me away about Schubert was that by the time he's 25, where I had hardly moved out of my parent's house... -He's my age, yeah. -...he's already mid-career.
He only has six years left.
He wrote more than half of his songs by the time he was 25 years old.
And by this point in his life, he started writing more for the piano, more instrumental music.
-At age 25, he writes the unfinished symphony, which of course he never finishes.
-For reasons which we're not completely sure why.
-Because it's absolutely a masterpiece.
-He didn't just die right after.
-He just let it go.
But I think he sort of still continued to write lieder, just... he wrote it for the piano.
He wrote it in these character pieces.
He was still writing songs.
He was just writing songs without words.
And he's also experimenting with folk themes and folk rhythms.
I don't know if he was the first, but I definitely bet that he was the one that influenced later people.
Brahms's Hungarian dances. -Liszt.
-Liszt's Hungarian rhapsodies.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Across town, I went to the DiMenna Center to talk to violist Matt Lipman and pianist Mishka Momen.
-So we've been talking about Schubert's middle period, specifically 25, 26, 27 years of age.
It's kind of sad to think of that as his middle period, but it was.
How old are you guys?
-I'm 27. -I'm 27, too.
-This is hopefully not your middle period.
-Hopefully we have more than four years left.
-I heard that at that time, Schubert was just broke.
He was living on people's couches.
He didn't have his own piano because he couldn't afford it.
I mean, this is -- he's really in dire straits.
-His life was desperate around that time, and I think he wrote in a letterto a friend -- I'm paraphrasing, 'I hope when I go to sleep at night, never to wake up in the morning.'
-Whoa. -Yeah, he was devastated by this point, and he was suffering so much.
-From his illness?
-From his illness and from his poverty.
-He was depressed.
-I think he was extremely depressed.
I think his life was quite hopeless.
He was penniless.
-And I think one of the characteristic traits of much of his music is that he's kind of emotionally riding the line between depression or opportunity.
I think he's got one foot in the door of still hoping that he can make it.
You know, 27-year-old Schubert in 1820s Vienna draws a lot of parallels between what the two of us are doing here in New York,or in London where Mishka lives.
-So what are you going to be playing today?
-Mishka and I will be playing the 'Arpeggione Sonata,' which was composed in 1823 for an instrument that apparently by 1824 had already become obsolete.
It was only in vogue for 10 years in Vienna.
-This arpeggione. -Yeah.
The arpeggione is basically, as far as I understand, a bowed guitar held like a cello or like a viola da gamba, but it had frets... -Meaning the strings are going vertical.
-This way. Yes.
So by the point the piece was even available to the public, no one even knew what an arpeggione was.
-It's like a kazoo sonata or something.
-The kazoo has withstood the test of time much better than the arpeggione.
[ Laughter ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Just down the hall I met with more brilliant young musicians -- Abi Kralik, Oliver Herbert, and Janice Carissa.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Beautiful, guys. -Thank you.
-It sounds like singing when you play it.
-Thanks very much.
I think, actually, with this music, that is the goal.
And when I play something like this, I'm always thinking about the vocal music that he wrote.
And yet at the same time, I think what distinguishes it obviously is that there aren't any words.
I think the fact that he reserved certain music to be played by an instrument instead of actually sung with words, is a testament to something... -Intrinsic to the music. -...in the music itself.
Some kind of emotional quality that actually comes through.
And part of his mastery, of course, is that that's very clear.
Whenever we hear this kind of music, we get a very particular feeling without him actually having to use the words.
-I think Schubert is one of those composers that, personally for me growing up in musician household, we save it for when I'm older, because my mom says sometimes you just can't rush it.
It's all about age, and you can't cheat that.
You just have to mature with time, and that's it.
-Don't you find it amazing that he went from Haydnesque, Mozartesque, early Beethoven, all the way to mature Schubert in only 13 years.
That's really a huge acceleration of ability.
-He wrote this piano trio in his second to last year.
And you're playing something with Abi, right?
We are going to attempt at playing his 'Fantasy.'
And I say 'attempt' because it's incredibly hard to play.
-Not for you, Abi. -Well, yeah it is.
It's just, it's so hard.
-It's too scary. I don't play it.
-Emotionally, every note has to be so pure, yet so easy to play, and it's just... it's a challenge, but it's the most gratifying music to play, too.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I went to Philadelphia to thefamous Curtis Institute of Music to meet two of their very successful alums.
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt plays in the Dover Quartet.
Her husband, Brook Speltz, is in the Escher Quartet.
-So you guys have ostensibly made it, right?
So when you were kids, you had this idea of, 'Oh, I'm going to be in a quartet, and it's going to feel like this.'
But, no, actually, it feels like that.
I was just thinking we get to travel everywhere in the world and play the best music that was ever written -- and that's true.
But the traveling part is so much less glamorous than I ever pictured it being.
-But quartet is particularly brutal that way, right?
I mean, you have to coordinate four plane tickets, plus the plane ticket for the cello.
-Well, also, you have to make yourself available to your quartet members.
Your colleagues rely on you just as much as you rely on them, for income, for financialwell-being, and for your career.
-How many days a month do you see each other?
-It depends on the month.
-We actually, this past summer, we went 45 straight days -- -Without seeing each other? -Without seeing each other.
-Never again. Never again.
But in a quartet, you see your quartet members more than you see your own family.
-Oh, by far. -By far!
I see my quartet members way more than I see my husband.
So you guys are going to play some Schubert?
A little later I think we will.
-Best piece ever written.
-All right. We'll meet you there.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Whoo! You guys are smoking!
Now I know why you guys are so famous.
Awesome. But of course that's Beethoven.
That's not Schubert.
-Yeah. -So Beethoven was somebody that Schubert really admired.
-Isn't it true that Schubert, on his deathbed, that he heard or saw 'Opus 131' and said something like, 'What is there left to write after that?'
-Oh, really? -Yeah.
-I heard the story that apparently when Schubert and Beethoven would pass each other on the street, that Schubert would look away, because he was too intimidated by Beethoven to look at him.
-Wow. Isn't that incredible for that to be one of the composers who we revere the most in the world, that he would feel that way?
-But I also think that in both the case of Beethoven and Schubert,they were so much more concerned with the idea of a piece of music, how it sounded in their mind.
Beethoven famously said at one point, 'What do I care for you and your little instrument when I'm moved by the spirit?'
He just had this in his mind of how it would work, and I'm surethe instrumentalists of the time thought this is just not possible.
It's amazing because we feel that way about the 'Cello Quintet' that Schubert wrote.
It's one of those -- -Iconic.
-Yeah. It's almost as if he didn't realize how brilliant he was maybe.
-I feel like the 'Cello Quintet's' almost not the work of a 31-year-old, but the work of a 145-year-old.
-It's impossible to write like that without having the wisdom... -Without having experienced many lifetimes.
-That's the pinnacle of the art.
-It's one of the examples of what made us fall in love with this art form. -Yeah.
-Brook joined us to play what many consider the greatest piece of chamber music ever written.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -This 'Cello Quintet' would be a monumental work for any composer, enough to cap any career... ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -But Schubert wasn't done yet.
-So the last selection that I'm going to be playing today is one of Schubert's last sonatas, written during the last couple months of his life.
So, for me, these are Schubert's most personal creations, and as a result, they're his masterpieces.
-Did he know he was going to die at this point?
-He must have.
He'd been sick for a very long time.
And you can just tell from the character in the music that he's dealing with these intense existential issues.
Many musicologists have theorized about this movement, about the narrative, that it's really about Schubert's impending death and about him contemplating that and coming to terms with it.
So it starts with this mournful, sad, lonely melody.
♪♪ A sighing melody.
♪♪ -So this... -Yeah.
It's like a sigh.
♪ Ah-ah ♪ La-da-da-da-da And then after this beautiful mournful melody, there's this shocking outburst of grief and rage and frustration.
This cataclysm. -Mm.
[ Discordant note plays ] -And eventually acceptance.
♪♪ In major key.
♪♪ An extremely moving passage.
-I'd love to hear this.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ In the fall of 1828, Franz Schubert died.
He was just 31 years old.
He left behind more than 1,500 works, many of them masterpieces, most of them unpublished.
His friends held a small funeral, and he was largely forgotten.
♪♪ 30 years after Schubert's death, a young Robert Schumann discovered his manuscripts and was shocked by their brilliance.
He introduced them to a new generation of young musicians like Liszt and Brahms, who immediately began to perform them for audiences across Europe.
♪♪ -[ Singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing pauses ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing resumes ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -With his music now loved around the world, Schubert has found success greater than he could have ever dreamed.
And he continues to inspire brilliant young musicians to this day.
I'm Scott Yoo and I hope you can now hear this.
♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit... ...find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Next time, on 'Great Performances'... Stewart Goodyear will play and conduct and improvise the solos... -One of your jobs is to become inspired.
-...for one of Mozart's greatest piano concertos, just like Mozart would've done.
When you're playing great music, it makes you try to be more than you are.
♪♪ In the next episode of 'Now Hear This,' 'Becoming Mozart.'