Piano Sonata in A minor, Op. 143, D. 784
Professor Denis Pascal and his student Darren Sheng explore what makes Franz Schubert's compositions unique. Pascal speaks about the importance of understanding the different compositional styles of each composer.
According to Pascal, Schubert's writing comes from a personal voice that cannot always be interpreted by a musical instrument. This is because Schubert's written work exceeded his own capabilities as a pianist and violinist. The professor adds that while the composer was a great musician, he was never a great instrumentalist. This is reflected in his works, which contain a wealth in design, but not in rigor.
Additionally, the pair discuss the dramatic nature of the work, where the tension should build, and the apparent rhythmic intensity. Pascal works with Sheng bar by bar, explaining the relationship between each measure and how the notes are connected to one another, as well as what they "provide" one another. Legato, articulation, and tempo are also addressed in this masterclass as well.
The character and style of Schubert's work.
Understanding the intensity present in the rhythm.
Subdividing the value of notes and beats.
Understanding the relationship between each bar.
Franz Schubert died tragically young at the age of thirty-one. During the 1820s, he wrestled with both his mental and physical health; in 1822, he was hospitalized for the first time for the disease that would eventually kill him. Schubert composed his Sonata in A minor for solo piano just a year later, likely with these struggles weighing on his emotional state. It demonstrates a remarkable maturity and depth of feeling, setting it apart from many of his earlier works. However, the sonata was not published until over a decade after his death. The first movement, Allegro giusto, evokes Schubert’s despair over his failing health by using sparse textures, harsh rhythms, and contrasting dynamics. The second movement, Andante, is more tranquil, but still contains a more turbulent middle section which cycles through many harmonies. The final movement, Allegro vivace, is dance-like and full of quick passagework, sometimes expressing grace and refinement and other times creating a sense of urgency and emphaticism.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Denis Pascal's feedback and comments.
His monographic disc devoted to Jean Wiener for Sisyphe won a Diapason d'Or.
Denis Pascal performs in France and throughout the world as a soloist and chamber musician. He has made numerous appearances in the United States in venues such as: Lincoln Center and Merkin Hall in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington, Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and more, as well as in Asia: Yokohama Festival in Japan, Seoul, and in Europe in Palermo, Rome, Venice, Lisbon, Helsinki, Liepaja, Madrid, Valencia, etc. He is regularly invited in Germany to the prestigious Husum Piano Festival, where he performs the most audacious programs. In Paris, he has been applauded by audiences at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Théâtre du Châtelet, the Théâtre de la Ville, the Salle Gaveau and the Opéra Garnier, as well as at numerous international festivals.
He has performed with the national orchestras of Lyon, Bordeaux, Besançon, Toulouse, and the Orchestre d'Auvergne. His concerts are well-thought-out: commited to maintaining a historical awareness of the repertoire, he often leaves the beaten track and gives concerts that are both striking and accessible to all, rigorously applying a consistent ethic to the Liszt repertoire, as well as to impressionist music and post-romantic scores.
Denis Pascal was appointed professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon in January 2010 and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris in April 2011. Moreover, he has contributed to the elaboration of several didactic works in collaboration with the Cité de la Musique in Paris.
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria in 1797 and displayed a natural musical talent at an early age. Growing up in a musical family, Schubert’s own brother would be his first music teacher. At 7-years-old, the young boy was sent to audition with Antonio Salieri to begin his formal education. After a successful meeting, Schubert was recruited to sing mezzo-soprano in a small choir for the services in the imperial Hofkapelle. Around this time, he learned how to play the violin, counterpoint, figured bass, singing, and organ lessons by his father.
His education would continue at the Royal City College, where he would remain for the following five years. During these early years of his life, Schubert already began to compose is first masterpieces. By adolescence, his understanding of composition deepened, and the now prolific composer wrote 150 songs by eighteen-years-old. Many of the lieder he wrote during this time are still widely celebrated for their mastery today. They include, An die musik, Nacht und Träume, Der Erlkönig, Ich wollt, and more.
Despite the composer’s genius and the fact that he managed to publish some of his works during his lifetime, Schubert was economically unstable, which worsened after 1824 after showing early symptoms of syphilis that would eventually take his life in 1828.
Franz Schubert’s work embodies two periods of classical music: Viennese classical and early Romanticism. His pieces are emotional and poetic in nature, but nevertheless fit a classical mold. Schubert enjoyed experimenting with expression, modulation and was very influential in the genre of the Lied.