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Schubert's Cello Quintet

November 29, 2019

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Schubert's Quintet in C major for Two Violins, Viola, and Two Cellos, D. 956, Op. 163. Featuring a performance by the Daniel Phillips, Chad Hoopes, violin; En-Chi Cheng, viola; Mihai Marica, Inbal Segev, cello.


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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lecture, we experiment with performance issues. Today's lecture is on Schubert's cello quintet in C Major Deutsche 1956, Originally recorded October 23, 2019.

Good evening. The concert on which this Schubert is being presented is this Sunday. And tonight The Chamber Music Society is presenting it in Chicago. Aside from here. And I mentioned that I don't know if you bought a ticket, but it also has the world premiere of my cello quintet written to be a companion. Not really. Nothing to do... written to be on the same program with this cello quintet.

Okay. That was easy. You didn't even hear it yet. Before we get into Schubert in this piece, which will be a lot of detail, I want to tell you a story that will seem like it has nothing to do with Schubert, but it has a lot to do with Schubert. It's a Native American story that Schubert certainly didn't know. Although it occurred to me that when he was dying, he asked for a copy of The Last of the Mohicans to be brought to him, which I wasn't thinking of when I selected this.

See what you do to me? Well, the story takes place before there were stars in the sky. So it's a very long time ago. Before the romantic period. And at that moment in eternity, The Great Grandmother spirit gives a jar of stars to first man. And first man takes the jar of stars. And then she gives him a book.

He takes the book. And The Great Grandmother spirit says, “You must take this jar and read this book and put the stars in the sky exactly as they are shown in the book. Do it by the book. It has to be exactly right. It'll be beautiful. I've worked on this for an eternity, so don't mess around with it.”

So first man is very serious about this, and he's putting the stars in the sky, studying the maps very carefully and placing them there. And along comes coyote. You know, Coyote from the cartoons? Who's also from the Navajo mythology. So coyote comes along and says, “What are you doing?” And first man says, “Coyote, don't come near me. I'm putting the stars in the sky.

According to this book given to me by The Great Grandmother spirit. Please don't mess this up. This has got to be perfect.” And Coyote says, “That's ridiculous. Don't do it by the book. Give me that.” And they wrestle with the jar of stars. This is the wrestling. And then Coyote gets the jar of stars, and he starts throwing them up in the air, and he says, “Just throw them anywhere you want.”

Let them stick any place you want. It'll be fantastic. It looks great.” And first man says “Coyote, you're making chaos.” And coyote says, “You call it chaos. I call it beauty.” That's the story. Now, if we discuss the story a little bit, it leads into Schubert very well because it's not a story about a coyote versus the first man, really.

It's a story about us. Any person who has a coyote inside and a first man, which we all do. I mean, we all want to do things correctly. You want to learn to play the violin or the piano or whatever it is you... that you do. You want to do it right. You want to know the technique.

You want to understand how it's done so you can do it. But you also want to be expressive and free and emotional and passionate. That balance is often off. Let's just talk about composers. There are composers who are very, not the great famous ones, but there are composers whose music is a little stiffly, perhaps academic.

And there are composers whose music is very wild and exciting, but a little out of control in terms of longevity or technique. But the balance is what we all search for. And it's true in performance as well, and it's true in everything that that balance is really difficult. It's a kind of duality that speaks to a kind of symmetry.

And symmetry and duality is really what this piece is about and what Schubert's life was about. You know, he only lived to be 31, and as you know, he wrote over 600 songs and all the symphonies and a huge amount of chamber music and piano sonatas and piano works. And it just goes- choral pieces. It's unbelievable.

Think of it this way, if Beethoven had killed himself when he said he would, I hope I'm not shocking you. Beethoven wrote a Heiligenstadt document. And when he was almost 32, he had written a letter from The Heiligenstadt saying that he was going to kill himself. It was a will and he was going to leave whatever he had to his brothers.

And then he decided by the time he finished the document that he would not kill himself because he was going to devote his life to music. I mention this because- and it was about his deafness. I mention this because if Beethoven had killed himself at 31, when Schubert died at 31, he wouldn't have been anywhere near as great as Schubert because his third symphony, the Eroica, he hadn't written that yet. So we wouldn't have had the third or the fourth or fifth, sixth, seventh or ninth or the eighth, actually.

We wouldn't have had most of the piano sonatas. We wouldn't have had the middle and late string quartets, because when, by the time Beethoven was around the age that Schubert died, he was a good composer, not yet the great Beethoven. So it's interesting to think that Schubert was already a great master who saw Beethoven die the year before he died, not knowing he would have to follow.

And this piece is often thought of as his greatest work and one of the greatest works in the entire repertoire. Not to put any burden on anybody, but it is a remarkable thing. Now, let's think about the dualities and the symmetries for a moment. Schubert had his health and his illness. Well, we all have that. He also had a kind of... possibly an illness that has been diagnosed way after the fact.

But it's kind of agreed upon that he had a kind of hypomania so that he was never totally manic, but that he had a kind of below manic depressive qualities. And it is true that he was often depressed. And he also had hypomanic periods of tremendous writing. And his behavior went from one extreme to the other. He was described often as a where do I have that word, pleasure loving.

He was described as pleasure loving and hedonistic. At the same time, here's the famous quote by Edward Von Bauerfield. He was a playwright who, unlike Schubert, lived to 88 and was born right after Schubert. So he knew Schubert's entire life, basically. He was born three, four or five years later, maybe. And he wrote about Schubert.

This 41 years after Schubert died, which, by the way, the 41 years went by and this piece had not even been given an official premiere or had been published yet because Schubert wrote so much music in the last year of his life and he was only well known for songs and light entertainments. And almost like the world now, the publishers and the music business, expression I hate.

They were hesitant to publish his big, difficult works because they're hard to play and the audiences were not prepared to listen to something that doesn't have entertainment value in words. They were hesitant and people still are. Anyway, 41 years later, he wrote this about Schubert, even though he was called pleasure loving quote, “There were also times when a black winged demon of sorrow and melancholy forced itself into Schubert's company, not altogether an evil spirit.

It is true, since in the dark, consecrated hours, it often brought out songs of the most agonizing beauty.” So Schubert had said that when he tried to write something beautiful, it became pain. And when he tried to write something painful, it became beauty. And that that dichotomy was something he couldn't straighten out. Of course, he wasn't a great writer. He was a great composer.

And often his writings are imitating other romantic writers trying to get at our heartstrings. But in the music he truly does it. But symmetry in music is a basic fact of most styles of music, Western music especially. In every style, every genre from the lightest popular song to the biggest symphony. They all have symmetry. Some of these symmetries are very simple.

Like most songs have an A section, a B section and an A section. It's symmetry, and that gives it a sense of roundness and completeness. And you’ll want to hear the tune again. And that's typical. Symmetry is a natural part of everything. And of course symmetry relates to the human body. I don't have to explain that I hope. Or do it this way. But but symmetry in Schubert in a huge work like this is- you know, the expression fearful symmetry from the bleak tyger tyger burning bright.

This is fearful symmetry. It is so intense and so profound. And at every level, the small level, the harmonic level, the structural level, the way the tunes are made, the way the whole sonata form evolves, it's just continually symmetrical. So, what I'm going to ask you to do, not you. You guys. If you could play the opening from the very beginning up till bar ten, the end of ten. (music)

Okay, now that's an antecedent. That's not complete. There's not a lot of symmetry yet because we need the answer to that. But before we get to the resolution of that, I want to talk about what it feels like and what it may mean because it's really powerful. There's no other piece I could say that, I mean, since the piece is unique, there's nothing that happens in this piece that happens in any other piece.

But what I mean is this opening gesture, you have a C major chord and then this intense diminished seventh chord and it comes back. This is unique already because it starts with something very simple and basic and peaceful and tranquil, and it becomes something very intense immediately, which then disappears. This is a very romantic concept, which is Schubert is, this one of the essence of his technique and the way he thinks.

And so there is already a little symmetry right there, because you have the C major and the C major coming back with this intense diminished chord, which belongs to the key of C minor. So this diminished chord is already predicting that things are going to get difficult. You could think of that one chord as foreboding. It is definitely that. You can think of it as tranquil, foreboding, push it away, tranquil.

And of course he knew when he wrote this that he was probably going to die young. He wasn't sure, but he had many reasons to think so. Now, then the next phrase, can you just play after this? (music) Starting right here. (music) Yeah. Now, he pushed it away and he's trying to write some simple, what we would call Biedermeier music. Something, you know, pleasant, charming, lovely because that C diminished chord was very scary.

So let's try to do something lovely. But there's something in there that is still threatening. (music) That chord. That's the same chord. That's that diminished chord. He's calmed it down. He's made it normal. Don't let it be normal. Okay. In other words, something terrifying is happening. He pushes it away and then he uses it in a simple cadence, the way Mozart might have.

He's he's making it sensible and normalizing it. So, now, before we play what Schubert actually wrote, I have to confess, I want to do something a little strange, but I'm going to play a little bit of Mozart for you. If you know it, you can chime in. This is a piece, the C major string quintet of Mozart, which I have several reasons for playing.

It's not with two cellos, it's with two violas. And the Mozart also has enormous complexity in terms of symmetrical balance. But the opening, the very, very opening couple of phrases has a normal classical symmetry before Mozart takes it apart and does this bizarre things that I just want you to pay attention to for a moment. Want to try it? (music)

That's how it starts. (music) Okay. Okay, let's stop there. This is great. They don't know about this. They don't have the music I didn't tell them any- Okay, it's great. Anyway, so. And now for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Okay, so but what you have here, there are two things to listen for. One is that it starts on a C major chord, same key, and it stays on one. (music) And then it goes to the dominant, which is the most obvious other chord and it stays there and then it resolves.

Now, a lot of bizarre things happen, but this is not the piece we're talking about. So that basic symmetry is if you go from one to the dominant 1 to 5 and if you're wondering what that means, one five, these are the two basic chords. There are about 800,000 folk songs that only need those two chords. Anyway.

And that's all we have there so far are those two chords and it's pretty exciting music. Well, if Schubert were doing the standard symmetrical opening, then it would sound like this. I rewrote it so it has the harmonic... It's conventionally harmonic. So they're going to play this same opening you heard, but with a response that is more conventional than what he actually did. (music)

Okay. Now, if you know it, it sounds absurd. If you don't know it, it just sounds kind of okay. It's a little ordinary, but those are the basics because it's important to remember that in order to fully appreciate, I think, how extraordinary and bizarre something is. It's nice to remember how ordinary it might have been and what the conventions are.

So basically what I did there is I just took his opening phrase, his antecedent, and gave it the standard consequent that anyone in a classroom was told, “Write the consequent to this.” It had to be music class though. Write the consequent to this and that's what you get. So instead, though, of doing (music) and staying on the g major chord, Schubert does this. Let's hear the real thing with the full opening so we can follow the progress. (music)

Different world. Great. Thank you. Now there are a few other symmetrical things. There's a lot already here. Symmetrical, miraculous thinking. First of all, what I was getting at was, instead of going to the dominant, he goes to D minor and makes it feel like it's a new key. (music) Sorry, then there's a diminished chord. Now, another thing that's I think interesting for listening is that that first C major chord, there's an octave.

You'll notice that one of the cellos doesn't play. He only needs four voices. When a composer makes a decision to only use four voices when you've got five people, it's because he needs the space. In other words, that's going to get filled in. There's going to be a lot- we're going to need all five voices, in other words.

So if you leave something blank, if there's a rest in the beginning of a piece, if there's an instrument missing, you can bet it's going to get used soon and more later, which we'll get back to. But the other thing is that the first violin and the first cello are playing an octave and the chords happen within it. (music)

And when it comes back, this is still there. So there is a ceiling and a floor. Except at the end we lose the top. And when it goes into the D minor thing, there's a cello octave. He puts it between the low cello and the the two cellos have the D and therefore he puts the second violin and the viola.

He has to leave the first violin out because now he needs to top empty. The first was the bottom is missing because he needs to fit. Then it was the top. So he has to put the second violin and the viola inside lower than the first cello because he wants to have that octave. So there again. (music) So again, you have I hate to say it, it makes it always makes me feel like it's a coffin. That you've got inside this.

You have the tonic, the dissonant chord and the resolution. And the same thing in D minor. That there's something holding it. If I rewrote this, which I'm not going to bother with this and just made it expansive, a big C major chord, like, you know. (music) And then up here. You wouldn't have the sense of tension, of being closed in, because that octave is restraining the music and that restraint is a boundary and all of the symmetry and everything about this piece has to do, and this is also true of a lot of wonderful classical music, is that there are boundaries set and the composer is trying to transgress those boundaries all the time.

And that balance is between emotion and passion and the technique and the symmetry. It's the coyote who is passionate and crazy and knows he's dying and is hypomanic, but that the coyote is wild. And the first man is the structure. It's the symmetry. It's the key relationships that are trying to hold this from falling apart.

Okay. So, and it strains, you know? Now, one more thing about this first chord. The C major- not the C major. The diminished chord. This chord is the most symmetrical chord there is. And by that I mean it's symmetry is it's value. By symmetrical, let's look at a non symmetrical chord like C Major. (music) Major third, minor third. Okay, two thirds.

But there are different kinds of thirds. So if I invert it, you can tell that I inverted it. With the diminished chord, especially a diminished seventh, (music) minor third, minor third, minor third. I can invert it and it might sound like it's a different key or something, but it's the same chord and therefore there are only three of them. And you can go to many different keys because when something's symmetrical, it can resolve in this case, eight ways.

No problem. It can resolve even more, but eight natural ways. So for example, (music) each note could lead to a new key. (music) Or... (singing)

And if you drop any one note, you're in a new key. Ah. So, composers, by the time Schubert wrote this, this was, everyone knew this. This was part of the technique, part of their language of classicism and romanticism. And no one talked about classicism and romanticism, especially romanticism. But anyway, they knew about this. So when Schubert writes that C, diminished chord, you know it's referring to C minor, at least. It's going to refer to many possible keys.

And he actually, I'm telling you something that you won't find anywhere else but here. He actually does go- the piece is in C major. He does go to E-flat major as the second theme and the other two, F sharp and A, are two extremely important keys at the beginning of the development section. F sharp minor and A. So he actually uses those notes as keys. To do that is very forward looking.

In other words, that kind of technique where you divide the harmony and the structure of a piece by, symmetrically like that, you don't see a lot of that until Schubert and then Liszt does a little bit of it and after Liszt you see a little bit- and Wagner doesn’t do it, really. You see a little of it in... let's see. After Liszt...

Well, very soon it becomes a big deal and you see it in Debussy and Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov and it becomes a whole different world. But back to this. So we have a lot of symmetries after- oh, one more really important thing about the opening. I can just do the opening all day, but that would be ridiculous.

At home I do do that. Okay. So when we have this (music) it's answered, if you remember, by this. (music) And listen. There's a raised note. (singing) Chromatic pitch. If he had just done it without that, you would have gotten (singing). Or (singing). They're both okay. But this (music) it's not just that it sounds better. That's subjective. We can argue about that all day.

It's a note that exists in this chord. It's a note that's in the diminished chord. He saves it. He makes a reference. So this is another kind of symmetry. One note. I'm excited by this, I have to say. I’ll try to control myself. Okay, there's one note in the resolution that refers back to the diminished seventh chord, which is an incredible degree of symmetry.

Alright. So then you get the resolution. (music) Oh, there's- never mind. I’ll get to that later. And then you have... (music) Now, you feel something changing and something staying the same. I'll just show you on the piano and then we'll hear them play it. (music) C major chord. Augmented minor. Augmented sixth and... Alright. So these two notes, the two notes of C major (singing) the two bottom ones, don't move.

And the one that could take us to a new key, sorry, does. Isn’t that exciting? Okay, so can you play right from there? Right from (music) and go on for a little bit. (music) And now you would think that you're going to go (music) or something. Uh-uh. He does the opposite. What does he do? (music) Yeah he actually doesn't go to the key he’s preparing.

He goes to G major which is the dominant. Now, what you're about to hear, we'll play a nice big section now, he moves towards C major again and what you get is the same thing. This (music) and also the D minor version. You get that. But this time it's not just held notes. It explodes in every conceivable way.

00;27;14;27 - 00;27;52;11
Bruce Adolphe
So you play from, please, from right where you stopped on bar 25, the pick up, and then 26. And I might say something while you're playing, but don't stop. (music) C minor.

Diminished. Okay. Sorry. Yeah. What I was trying to convey, screaming over this music, is that this (music) became (music) and this (music) became (music) this huge explosion and this D minor (music) also was huge. And the diminished chord. And, at the same time, as if you could hear the lowest notes you had (music) that same, the thing that happened here. It's a huge explosion.

This is normally referred to as a counter statement. That's a very boring academic concept, which is you make a statement and then you have a counter statement which could be exactly the same or slightly changed. Well, this is more than slightly changed. This is a tranquility and a foreboding and tranquility, normalization going into a slightly different key where it feels more forbidding and foreboding and then trying to normalize it, getting back to the key and doing the same progression explosively with all the instruments going wild.

Now, the next thing we have to do- he is interested in sonata form. He's just making it gigantic. It's huge. Schumann called Schubert's late works works of heavenly length. And it is. They're gigantic pieces. I mean, Beethoven was the one who started this idea of taking the forms of music and making something that was 5 minutes into 20, taking a movement of a symphony...

I mean, a Haydn movement of a symphony might be 6 minutes, 8 minutes. Some of them are shorter. A Beethoven's symphony movements by time were with the Eroica and after could be 15, 20 minutes long. Especially if you play the repeats and with Schubert, he felt that he had to do, continue Beethoven's legacy. You know, when Beethoven died, Schubert was one of the pallbearers and somebody said, “Who will follow Beethoven?”

You know, they're all in Vienna together. “Who will follow Beethoven? There's no one like him.” And Schubert was thinking, “I'm going to do this.” And he was very well known for, as a songwriter and an entertainer and a popular writer of fun, lovely music. No one knew that he had it in him to write this huge, passionate, complex things.

And in fact, when he died, very few people still knew. And most of the works that we think of as his greatest pieces like this were not premiered, played publicly until 40, 50 years after his death, not published until that long after his death. But many pieces were dribbling out after his death by publishers releasing things. And so people call all these...

They said that Schubert was writing as a ghost, basically. He was the invisible Schubert. That he was still composing. And they finally realized who he truly was many years later. So, now, we get a big transition and transitions are often the most dramatic parts of music. And then we get to the second theme. Now, by second theme, you might be saying, “Wait a minute, where was the first theme?” There wasn’t one. No first theme. No appetizer.

No, no. There was an appetizer. What you had was harmonic music. Mood music. By mood. I don't mean the way we use that now. I mean music of emotion and harmony. There's no tune yet. You had almost, when you have something like this. (music) I mean, this is not Schubert writing a great song. It's just a phrase that is actually trying, as I said, to calm down the scariness of what just happened.

So we are wanting a tune. And could Schubert write a tune? Of course. Schubert wrote 600 songs and many beautiful melodies. So of course we're waiting for this tune. Now, the tune should be in G major. Let's see what happens. Why don't you start the transition section at bar 49 and I'm going to stop you after the two cellos play a G.

Don't go on after the G, okay? Alright. (music) Great. Now, first of all, there wasn't one moment of that where there wasn't a G being played. Inbal, do you want to play your part? (music) Did you have to practice that a lot? Yes. Okay. Now anyway. No, but the G stays there the entire time. And then when the two cellos do that- just do the G again. (music)

It's such an amazing sound. (music) Yeah. And what's strange about it is we've been hearing all these Gs and yet somehow we're supposed to go to the key of G. Do you think that's going to happen? Yeah. He gets to the G and he goes... (music) No, he does not. That would be if he went to G and played in the key that you expect. (music)

There's nothing wrong with that. But it's not as good as what he does. So let's hear the two Gs and split and keep going into the second theme. Okay, great. Now, by the way, if you hear two cellos playing a duet in this piece and in a lot of Schubert's chamber music and you're looking at the groups, you could expect the violins to do it, and you can expect the viola and the first cello to do it because they all pair up because everything has to happen.

That's another kind of symmetry. You've got all the different pairs and you've got- the keys will balance and the voices will shift. Where the tune was down here and the accompaniment was here, that will shift. And then it would be in the middle and that will go. So everything happens and those are all aspects of symmetry.

This tune, it's often written about it like it's the greatest tune he ever wrote. (music) It's absurd to say that. The reason this tune just melts your heart is because of the music before it and the key that it arrives. It's a very simple melody, but that's all it needs to be to tear your heart out because you have been threatened with death.

And then you get a tune. So remember, if you can't write a great tune, write an introduction that's terrifying. So basically this tune, though, got the attention of George Gershwin. And we know from a letter that Gershwin was obsessed with this tune. He loved this piece. Now, you probably know that Gershwin wanted to be a classical composer, and he died at 39.

He had eight more years than Schubert. Wrote a lot less music but, you know, he did a good job. And he's often called the Schubert of that time, American Schubert. But he didn't think so. He called the American Schubert, Irving Berlin and Irving Berlin, who lived a lot longer, wrote 1500 songs over about 60 years of writing. Schubert wrote 600 songs in about I mean, over a period of less than 20 years.

And Gershwin also, similar kind of thing with the 500 songs. Anyway. But this is a song by Gershwin, I'm just going to do a little bit of it. It's called Union Square. (music) Okay. This tune starts (singing) If you take out the dotted rhythm, (music) it's the Schubert. And it's in the same key.

And usually Gershwin didn't care what key something was in if it's a song because people sing in different keys. This one he did because he wanted it to be in E-flat like this. Okay, so moving along past the Gershwin, we have the second theme, and in order to get... trust me, it gets passed to the first violins and you'll hear it when they place the whole thing.

There's another architectural plan going on. Aside from all the symmetry. Which is that there are levels of activity increasing. Now, you've already heard the first increase, which was the slow motion opening, and then it gets filled in with excitement. But, still, even that it's it's mostly just quarters and eighth notes. Then you get triplets. Maybe we should play some of the triplets.

When, the violins get the tune, the violas have the great idea of using triplets to keep their part alive. So let's start right where the two violins play the G. You have that spot? Okay, okay. (music) Okay, great. I hate to stop you, but so we have gone from duples to (singing). And the next thing is that the closing section of the exposition-

Now, remember, this is a sonata template. So you have a first set of ideas, the C major and the diminished chord. A second theme in this case, which is the big nice tune in E Flat, and then you have a closing section, which is this The closing section takes it one step further from (singing) to (singing) to now in the closing section (singing)

So he's deliberately speeding up the pulse, the inside of the music. It's not always on the outside, it's inside. So let's let's hear the closing section at 100. It's in the second violin at the moment. (music) Okay. Yeah. So it's not even the tune. The tune is still in slow motion in a way. And the the inside voice is doing this faster pulse.

This is also, you know, Schubert was a great songwriter because his accompaniments were as interesting as his tunes because he took an idea, usually from the text and turned it into something you could feel in the music. So you can't just take a Schubert song and use the tune and the chords and improvise. You'll lose the song. The song has to have that accompaniment because that accompaniment is some kind of special poetic version of what the song is about.

This is like those kinds of accompaniments which we've felt grow from duples to triples and now to this inside pulsating. There's another theme, which he has several closing themes. So let's hear the next closing theme, which is this one (music) at bar, starting at 138. We're skipping a few things because I want to get to more of the piece. (music)

There's our theme again, Keep going. Now, here comes a huge chord. Now that chord has one note that's causing trouble because it's a G major chord, and we have (music). That F makes it a dominant seventh. It's not an unusual chord. It is unusually voiced because it's hidden inside the middle of the cello and it's only one person doing it.

So it's kind of strange, but that note stays there. It doesn't hold it. I'm holding it. And then you hear this chord. Can you play the next, just the next chord? (music) No, the one- Sorry. Yeah. Do that chord and, then play the next chord. Sorry. (music)

Okay. Now that. Great. Stop there for a second. That chord. That's a diminished chord again. It's a diminished seventh court that can go anywhere, and we don't know where it's going to go. If I dropped this note, it would be stupid because I'd be back in C major where I started and I say, Oh, now what do I do?

But if I do this, (music) if I drop the top, I would go to f sharp minor, which he doesn't do. Yet. Then if you drop the B to a B flat, you can go to e flat minor. But he already had E-flat major. But he has several reasons for doing what he does. He drops F and the cello.

(singing) And you have a dominant seventh of a major. A major. Why is it there? It's there because of... (music) As I mentioned, he's using that diminished chord to predict. We called it foreboding. Well, he was right. Each of those things is going to come get him. They're going to kill him. Okay. I might have taken that too far.

Okay. I was thinking about it. You know, that's going to be the excerpt that goes viral. And then I'm in big trouble. Okay. Alright, so let's hear that and then you can go a little further because it takes us then to... (music) We get to F sharp minor, which is the other note of the chord. C, we had the tune in E flat, A was just happening, and then it goes to F sharp minor, which is the next big key.

So if you start right on the diminished chord at 155 and I'll stop you about ten bars later. (music) Okay, right there we stop. So he give us this huge A major, pulls away, plays a beautiful, that theme we heard in E-flat in A major and everything seems to calm down and then it builds again and bang, we land in f sharp minor with a lot of force. That gives us those four keys.

Now we're in F sharp minor, and what happens next is a gigantic kind of symmetry where there are eight bar phrases and ten bar phrases and 12 bar phrases and they all eventually come back in the same order, but they come back in a different key and with the voices reversed. But it's very easy to follow it in a way.

It has a richness and a complexity because everything is shifting. All the voices shift. The key shift. The order of the keys is interesting. He starts in F sharp minor and it goes up to C-sharp minor and then major, and then the next thing that happens... Let me just make sure I do... Yeah. Okay. Then there's a huge section which stays in D flat major.

But the next thing that happens is we go to E minor. So it's going like this C-sharp then, I mean, F sharp to C-sharp, to E minor, and then let me make this clear. (music) And then and then and then. So that pattern is symmetrical. It sounds like Copland, doesn't it? That doesn't actually happen like that. But in other words, the key is F sharp minor, it goes up a fifth and becomes major.

And when he resolves these chords, he always ends up going up a minor third. So for example, this chord E major, which brings us to E minor, you're going to hear this a lot. (music) You arrive on a major key in the cello each time makes it minor. Let's, to make that really clear, let's play right at 203 and listen how the second violin can you bring out to G Sharp a little bit?

And then the cello is going to turn this into minor. And this is part of- it's kind of complex, but it keeps happening that he arrives in a major cadence and a split second later, one beat later, it goes into the minor key and then the process starts over. Let's do it right there. (music) Yeah, let's do that, do the first chord and hold it a little bit longer, even though... (music)

Yeah, okay, now let's do it in tempo. Yeah. Can you hear that? Now, this happens four times and one time, a pivotal moment, it is really, really harmonically bizarre. I mean, he was a great innovator. I don't think he was thinking of innovation. He was thinking, “How do I express something as deep as this or as complex as this?

What can I do?” And he finds himself creating problems and he solves them That's what creativity is, right? Creating is not just solving problems, it's creating problems. Because if you don't create the problem, you're not going to know what to solve. I mean, somebody might hand you a problem, but that's still not how creativity works. You create your own problems most of the time.

Or you steal them and win a Nobel Prize. But but that's totally different. So the extraordinary thing is he keeps doing this major chord to minor, but one time that he does it, he's coming in the most bizarre way out of a key, A-flat minor. (music) And he arrives... (music) He keeps that one note on E major, turning this A-flat into a G sharp, and then it disappears again in a cello.

This is really dissonant for its time. And even now, if you think about what's going on, (music) you’re in this key. It's incredible. It's kind of like Strauss if you slow it down and listen to these chord progressions. So he's in a very unusual key for this, C major, which is A-flat minor. And he got there through this long series of symmetrical sections where you'll hear the same music. It keeps evolving and evolving.

He gets to A-flat minor reinterprets this note (music) as this and then drops it in the cello. Now that has been, we've been hearing this over and over. It's a major third. It's a minor third. It's a major third. It's a minor third. Let's move on to the next thing we hear of importance, which is 256, 57, 58, 59.

Can you start actually right the bar before it? So we have... (music) Okay. Now, we've been hearing, as I said, this. (music) Now he spells it out with the entire harmony and it's become the point of the music. So it's been in there insidiously. It grows and it becomes the harmony. We've already had an inkling of this earlier because it is symmetrical.

So we heard something like it before. This chord (music) is one note different from that diminished chord. That's the diminished chord? He lowers this one note and it sounds like a dominant but it's not. Don't worry. It's a German augmented sixth. Don't worry about that. Okay. (music) Now, this is taking us back to the beginning of the piece. Revived and reformed or rejuvenated.

It's the recapitulation which in Schubert is totally transformed. And in this piece, unbelievably transformed music. A lot of things are the same. But what's different is amazing. Now, the first thing that happens is the recap. And remember this opening, which you heard several times? And do you remember the Mozart? (music) Okay, let's hear the recap starting- let's move into it a little bit.

So how about starting at 261 where we just were? (music) Okay, you get the idea? The music is the same, but for the Mozart reference and then, of that thing. And don't think he didn't make, that was deliberate. He made references quite a lot to Mozart and Beethoven, mostly Beethoven. But you know, it's a tribute and it's beautifully done.

And he also makes a reference in the coda. Let's go to the coda. Now, what is a coda, anyway? In a piece this big. When you have a structure that has an opening theme or opening music and then another section like the E-flat major tune. So you've got the music in C Major, the music in E-flat.

Then you have this huge development. You also had a little closing theme and then a huge development. When the development is over, you get the recap and the recap starts again with all this revived, rethought, re-imagined music happening again and yet another way of doing it. And it has to change keys So it has to stay stable. It can't move from C major for long.

So when everything we've heard has been stated, if there's more music, that's the coda. And the coda is like a new closing theme, it's a new closing gesture and it's only worth doing if it actually balances out what's been going on. In Mozart operas or especially the comic operas, you often have a coda where the characters come out and tell you what happened, and it's kind of like Shakespeare where they come out and they tell you the play is over and, “We hope you liked it, you know, and please donate.”

So, the coda has the same... (music) But we went from a pure version of it and then immediately after went an explosive version of it. And then at the beginning of the recap, a version that refers to Mozart. And now with the ending, we have this, which is really unusual. (music) Wow. Now we know we're going to get to something beautiful after that.

That does some keys that I, even now with our modern ears, even knowing we're listening to Schubert, there are a few moments that are shocking. Because shock- you know, people say, “How can this music last for hundreds of years? Don't you get... you know, what to expect. You're not going to be surprised. You're not going to be shocked.”

That's not true, because shock is not built on other things. Shock is built on transgressing the norms within the piece itself. So it's like a great piece of literature. The shock is there because Schubert set up what is normal. He set up what's expected. He transgressed those boundaries. He made certain things feel familiar by symmetry. And then when it comes back, he can shock you because he knows what you expect, because he told you what to expect.

So you don't need to have a degree or even an education in listening to music. You just have to listen and follow. The difficulty with following is that when music doesn't have words and it doesn't have a relationship to a text or a story that we can tell in words, and it is so expansive. It just takes the willingness, what we call the willing ear in some circles, to stay with it, because it's amazing.

But it is different than hearing a play because it's basically all abstract. It's like if you could put on a play with all the emotions and none of the words. What would that be? This. Okay, So, basically, he makes a reference to Beethoven, Opus 95, a piece that a lot of people think he didn't know, but I think he did because of this.

There's no reason for him not to know it. People are always talking about how well did Schubert and Beethoven know each other? No one knows for sure. There are some articles and, I mean, in letters at the time that implied they knew each other rather well. Some say that that was made up and it's not true.

Look, they were both living in Vienna, which was tiny. It was smaller than Columbia University at the time. They they both were composers. They had some of the same publishers. They had the same musicians playing their music. Okay? Okay. So anyway, so he does this. (music) There's our C major chord again, and we get this huge thing in the first cello and in the second cello, that. You guys know what I'm talking about?

In Opus 95? You don’t want to play Opus 95? No, no. Yeah, at the beginning of Opus 95, which is the F minor string quartet called Serioso It's called the Serioso Quartet. A word made up by Beethoven because his Italian was terrible. Anyway, in that piece, you actually have that exact chord and the cello going (singing). It's not note for note, but it's the exact gesture and the exact harmony.

So he's made a reference to Mozart's Viola Quintet in C major. Now he's making a reference to the F minor Serioso quartet. And then, (music) after that, instead of... (music) It stays dissonant and has an overlap. And we don't know what- what chord is that? Is it this? (music) That's diminished. Is it- we don't know. And he gives us this. (music)

That is completely unexpected because it's the most obvious. You know, it makes B-flat, which is the note. It takes it as the tonic of that chord, as the root of that chord. B-flat becomes B-flat minor, but we have not been anywhere near that key. We don't expect it. And it's an incredible shock that he's set up there by doing the thing that's right in front of your face that he sets up, but you just still can’t.

You can't get used to it. Then he has something which is a perfect example of the balance of Coyote and first man. Which is he does a very famous old conventional chord progression that goes back to the early Baroque period with one change and in a dramatic manner. The chord progression is called the circle of fifths, which would be. (music) He does this, alright?

He actually starts here (music) and then he goes (music) but he, first of all, puts in the baseline a chromatic line. So your attention is drawn to this (music), but also these dominant chords, he flats the fifth every time. So you get (music) in the bass and then and then this chord, the biggest dramatic moment of the end of the piece is the same chord as this. (music)

He gives it to you again, but in the rhythm of the earliest phrase when it exploded. So you get that chord again in the rhythm from the opening. (music) Except sorry. And then the tune, we’re in C major. (music) And the tune is slightly changed because who wouldn't be? I mean, look what you just went through.

You've had diminished chords for lunch. You've had all kinds of surprises you couldn't possibly expect. Everything went the wrong way. You're way delayed and you finally get to C major. I don't think you're going to sing it the same way. You can't even remember it anymore. And then you get (music) and again, we have the note C...

Again, Inbal, you have a lot of the note C. You want to play your part at the end for us? (music) Okay. And it goes on. It goes on. But this, also, this kind of long note, pedal note or note that where the harmonies move just a little bit over. This has been going on since the Renaissance and flourished in the Baroque and especially in choral music and organ music.

And is a perfectly normal device by now. And every classical work that has a certain kind of length will have these pedal points at crucial moments. It's a way of- it’s like an anchor. It's like dropping anchor and pulling the thing too shore. So that happens. And then the last chord of the piece, we talked about it today because I remember, believe it or not, I remember the first time I heard this piece, and I didn't know it yet.

I didn't have a score. I didn't go to a lecture. I didn't know what was coming. And the last chord, when they played just this chord, (music) C major, because they start quietly and it starts to get louder. I thought, “Oh, no, it's going to- the piece isn't over. They're going to go to (singing) one more time.” But they don't.

And that is an amazing thing that I think, we talked about, putting that into the... so you can hear it, because I think if you, sometimes you look at a score, you learn the music, you study it and you don't know what it's like when you haven't heard it. If you haven't heard it, that changes and I just luckily remembered this weird experience.

So think of that when you play that. And are we at the point where you need to play this? Oh, yes. Right on the nose. Okay. So good luck. You know, I have to say, this is amazing that they put this movement together just for the lecture. They're not performing this together anywhere and this is a killer. So I want to thank you all for that extraordinary effort, which I know is going to be great. So here comes the entire first movement with its symmetries, dichotomies, dualities and difficulties. (music)

We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. See you next time.