Sonata, Op. 143, D784 in A-minor (Schubert), 25.32

Sonata, Op. 143, D784 in A-min (orch. May 2008) is a piano solo by Franz Schubert in February 1823. Posthumously published as Op. 143, it was the first sonata written after his illness and lasts typically about 25 minutes.

The following is taken from an article by Fred Scott about this masterwork:

  • The composition of Schubert’s piano sonatas spans the whole of his creative life and can be cast in three periods; early, middle and late. A total of twenty three piano sonatas are generally acknowledged, ten of these designated ‘unfinished’. Characteristically the Schubertian gifts for melody, lyricism and adventurous harmonic progression are found here forming a comprehensive commentary on his artistic and personal development. After displaying extraordinary musical prowess and studying with Salieri, Schubert became a schoolteacher like his father before him. By his late teenage years he had composed masterly song settings, symphonies and sacred music. Success followed fuelled by the patronage of Viennese aristocracy and supportive friends.

  • Making a break with school teaching in his early twenties Schubert devoted himself to composing an ever growing number of masterworks.1823 was a year that proved pivotal for Schubert since it was then he contracted the syphilitic infection that would end his life just five years later  but not, however, before a final period of unprecedented creativity produced a truly extraordinary body of mature masterpieces. The A minor Sonata dates from this turbulent time. An hitherto unfamiliar tone of severity characterises the spare unisons of the opening Allegro giusto. In this bleak and pitiless landscape emerge fleeting appearances of a sinister trochaic dotted rhythmic figure emphasising the relentless forward momentum created in the quietly menacing opening phrases. A pulse develops against which a quasi-modal melody unfolds. The emergence of a low throbbing trill intensifies to a shattering fortissimo statement of the opening theme in double octaves immediately answered by an extended chain of dotted rhythmic chords.

  • Thus, the drama unfolds in a juxtaposition of the ‘pulse’ and ‘dotted rhythm’ themes often employing extreme dynamics in their articulation. A new drum-roll tremolo figure,again in unison octaves, heralds a stunning new theme in the relative major. It is here that we experience Schubert’s remarkable ability, like Mozart, to create an ambience of chillingly tragic resignation in music of starlit brilliance infused with icy detachment. The development section further plays out the dramatic tensions inherent in the main themes. The trochaic figure takes melodic flight to the highest register of the piano before settling back to the unremitting bleakness of the opening music in recapitulation. This stunningly effective first movement demonstrates how powerfully Schubert manipulated simple musical materials to truly staggering emotional impact. Even though the movement ends with chords of the tonic major there is no sense of relief from irreconcilable tensions.

The three movements are divided as such: 

I.    Allegro giusto (A minor)
II.   Andante (F major)
III.  Allegro vivace (A minor)

This orchestration is a faithful rendering of all of Schubert’s markings, dynamics, nuances and counterlines and voicings as to be an accurate portrayal of the beloved Sonata.   Scored for full orchestra, largely in the style of Schubert’s orchestration, careful attention to separation of melody and harmony create a wonderful addition.