In Praise of Schubert

Schubert Fantasie in F Minor

Lily's been practicing Franz Schubert's Serenade on the piano. It is one of the pieces she will play for the recital in June. It was one of my favorite pieces when I was taking piano lessons in Vietnam. I remember being distinctly frustrated with this piece for I felt I could never do it justice. I could never convey the full dramatic pathos of the piece, no matter how hard I tried. I had my piano lessons with a Catholic nun at a large music school where each of us were assigned an individual practice room. Being fed up with my lack of musical talent, I would often sneak out of my room to listen to a more accomplished student playing Serenade. Although I was only about ten years old at the time, I quite liked the melancholic melody of the piece. Written in 1826, just 2 years before his death, Serenade was one of many pieces of music that Schubert wrote for the piano. When I lived in San Francisco, I listened incessantly to Alfred Brendel's recording of the Inpromptus and Moments Musicaux. Even now, when I picture the apartment where I lived, I can still hear the notes from Schubert's music playing in the background. When I came to New York, a friend gave me a CD of Death and the Maiden, which I played over and over and still treasure today. Lately, my favorite Schubert piece is the Adagio, the second movement of the String Quintet in C (D956), his final instrumental work. Written in the summer of 1828, two month before he died at the age of 31 of complications from syphilis, the string quintet includes two cellos instead of the usual two violas. The pace is unusually slow, even for an adagio, with two plucked notes from the cello punctuating the mournful melody at regular intervals. It is hearbreakingly beautiful.

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