The Music of Franz Schubert, Master Class and Lecture by Immanuela Gruenberg

On Sunday, November 5, Dr. Immanuela Gruenberg taught a mini master class and presented a lecture/recital on The Piano Compositions of Franz Schubert. The afternoon started with performances of two Schubert compositions by AMSF pianists who were then coached by Dr. Gruenberg.

Francoise Stravor-Postic played Schubert's Sonata in A major, D. 664, Andante, and Ellen Tenenbaum performed Moments Musicaux D. 780 No. 5 in f minor.

Dr. Gruenberg described Francoise' selection as pensive and tender, one whose dynamic range is mostly piano and pianissimo. She advised Francoise to play pianissimo even softer, to experiment with the soft pedal, and to definitely make use of the pedal. She suggested making the few passages marked forte much louder for a bigger contrast. And she advised Francoise to think about a dialog of different characters in an effort to achieve a broad dynamic and expressive range.

Dr. Gruenberg advised Ellen to hear and play the music in her mind to take the focus away from potential mistakes and technical shortcomings. She suggested learning a piece of music by thinking about how it sounds and feels. Know when the melody is in the inner voice and bring that out for listeners.

Following the coaching session, Dr. Gruenberg spoke of the characteristics of Schubert compositions. His Art Songs, or German Lieder, which are for solo voice with piano accompaniment, are his strongest compositional forms. They are beautiful and filled with flowing melodies. But they may also contain sudden contrasting outbursts of anger. These traits are also found in Schubert's solo piano works. Other characteristics include abrupt key changes and sometimes unexpected switches to remote keys. Schubert composed beautiful inner voices and used a wide dynamic range. The left hand is not used for accompaniment only. It often contains many repetitions, suggestive of orchestral writing.

Dr. Gruenberg stated that the Schubert Dances are not only wonderful compositions, they are also wonderful vehicles for learning. They require many techniques: scales, runs, legato passages, trills, turns, double thirds, double sixths and inner voices. They are written in all keys, and they are rhythmic and express a variety of moods. Because they are short, it is not necessary to invest a huge amount of time to make pieces performance ready. And dances are easy to combine into sets for longer performances.

Dr. Gruenberg recommended Henle, Complete Dances, Volumes I & II and the Barenreiter editions because they incorporate extensive research from Urtext editions and contain a great deal of information in the preface. Pianists might also consider the less expensive Dover edition, Dances for Solo Piano.

Immanuela played excerpts from the following, briefly reviewing musical concepts found in each.

  • Waltz op. 18 #1, D 145 - chords, octaves, ff, hemiola, syncopations
  • Waltz op. 18 #2, D 145 -inner voice, pedal point, p
  • Waltz op. 18 #3, D 145 - big sound, ff chords & octaves, repeated chords
  • Waltz op. posth 127, #15, D 146 - interesting harmony, dissonances, 2 note slurs
  • Waltz op. posth 127 #17, D 146 -voicing - melody & accompaniment in same hand, pp, legato
  • Waltz op. posth 127 #18, D 146 - same key as No. 17, similar character, similar technical and musical issues
  • Waltz Op. 9 #14, D. 365 voicing - melody and accompaniment in same hand, modulation from Db major to A major and back
  • Menuet c# minor D. 600 - composed at age 17 -- Bach influence
  • German Dance Op. 171 #3, D. 790 - interesting harmonies, inner voices, chromatic bass line and some additional chromaticism
  • German Dance D 820 #4 - hemiola, chords
  • German Dance D 971 cross rhythms, pedal point

Dr. Gruenberg closed the afternoon's program with an inspiring performance of the beautiful Hungarian Melody D. 817.