Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reconsidering Schubert

Readers of this blog know that I am not shy about expressing opinions and evaluations. Indeed, I think that is my job as a blogger! I have had readers email me complaining that I have been too even-handed and saying they relied on my judgement. Very flattering! But I think that one's views must be earned. In other words, just throwing out scattered, subjective impressions with no reasoning behind them is not valuable. In fact, that is what I see an awful lot of 'critics' doing, especially those in popular culture. One of the ways that you earn your way to an evaluation is by listening objectively and by being prepared to change your opinion when necessary.

That being said, I confess that in recent years I have been unresponsive to a lot of chamber music by Schubert. Those interminable quartets and quintets just seemed to me to meander on aimlessly. An early course I took on romantic music disposed me a bit to this view because one of the points made in the course was that the weak genre in the Romantic Period was chamber music, which usually fell far short of their extraordinary achievements in orchestral music, piano music and opera. I still think this is true. But on stumbling on a post on Jessica Duchen's blog, I am re-thinking Schubert's chamber music a bit. This is a lovely movement:

But I remain unrepentantly unsympathetic to Schumann's chamber music. Well, actually, to most of his attempts to write longer movements. The absolute genius that he shows in the shorter forms, in the lieder and piano music, seems to desert him when he tries to write a quartet or symphony. I talk at length about Schumann in this post and this post.

But I'm going to listen a lot more to Schubert's chamber music from now on.

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