Schubert's Dances: For Family, Friends and Posterity (Monographs in Musicology)
Although the composer’:s dances have been enjoyed in the United States and England by pianists and their pupils for generations, the current book is the first in English about them. Furthermore, there are relatively few articles or commentaries of substance that treat them seriously. Our publication begins with chapters on the minuets, all of which were written for members of his family, and his ecosaisses, primarily intended for his friends. Later another section is devoted to the polonaises and his other four hand dances, works that Schubert composed mainly for his only serious students, the Countesses Marie and Caroline Esterhazy. But by far the largest portion of the volume is devoted to the quick, triple-meter compositions Schubert labelled German dances or lä:ndler, although his publishers most often gave them the title of Waltzes. The composer, however, used the term Walzer just once in his lifetime: and he did so in the course of a humorous poem to rhyme with the word Pfalzer, an inhabitant of the Rhine region of Germany, at the conclusion of a dance he in fact called a Deutscher (German dance).
In the course of studying the dances a number of points insufficiently, or not at all, discussed in the Schubert literature has emerged. For one thing forty, approximately 8% of these relatively short compositions—:most are only 16 or 24 measures in length—:begin and end in different keys. This is and aspect of Schubert’:s remarkable harmonic imagination also visible in some 75 of his well over 600 songs.
Another aspect of interest is that, despite their similarity in meter and tempo, there is a considerable difference in musical character between the dances Schubert called German dances and those he labelled lä:ndler. A third noteworthy feature of the composer’:s dances is the manner in which all of his later published dance sets, those which appeared from late 1825 to the end of his life in 1828 are organised tonally. They all begin and end in the same key. And, furthermore, they display close inner relationships as well. In contrast, of his earlier dance sets, those issued from 1821 to early 1825, a single group, the twelve waltzes of Op. 18 (D. 145), is rounded tonally in similar fashion.
Finally, of the eminent composers influenced by Schubert, there are three who were particularly fascinated by his dances: Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms. Their frequently expressed warm admiration for the composer, and especially their deep concern for his dances, are treated in the closing section of this volume, the Epilogue.
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