The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Why is Franz Schubert so appealing these days? Pianist Paul Lewis reflects on music from “another planet”

February 27, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

I guess like fashion trends or cultural fads, the interest in certain composers comes and goes, depending on big anniversaries and other variables.

But I’m not sure what explains the current revival on interest in the music of Franz Schubert (below).

I like to think that with so much strife and turmoil in the world and at home, we hunger for more humane music. Beethoven, whom Schubert worshipped, is about power and thinking big and being radical; Schubert, on the other hand, is about humanity and beauty and intimacy.

I know I am endlessly drawn to Schubert in my own amateur playing and these days just can’t get enough of him . Others seem to share my fixation. Alfred Brendel’s complete digital cycle of piano music has just been released in a budget box – a good sign of popular demand. I also see lots of Schubert on concert programs and in new recordings. Early in January, for example, pianist Emanuel Ax and friends performed an-Schubert program at Alice Tully Hall. And Matthias Goerner is doing a multi-volume Schubert song set for Harmonia Mundi.

You can also look at pianist Paul Lewis (below), who was a student of another master interpreter of Schubert Alfred Brendel.

The award-winning and critically acclaimed Lewis won accolades and awards for his live performances and recordings of the complete cycles of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas and five piano concerts, to say nothing of his solo Liszt CDs and his Mozart piano quartets and his sensitive accompanying of the singer Mark Padmore in Schubert’s “Winterreise.”

But now the young British pianist is about to embark on recording the complete late works of Schubert, which he is first playing on a world tour that recently took him to Chicago for the first of three appearances this winter and spring. (See a review of the first of the three Chicago concerts below.)

Lewis (below), an articulate speaker as well as player, recently gave a long, fascinating and intelligent interview about Schubert to the Guardian.

Here it is:

It makes me anxious for the recordings, especially of the shorter works like the Impromptus, Dances and the “Moments Musicaux.” (Lewis has already recorded the last three sonatas and a couple of others, though one wonders whether he will redo them and add to them for this cycle.)

What do you think of Schubert?

Of Paul Lewis?

Do you have favorite pieces by Schubert?

Why do you think Schubert’s music is so attractive or appealing right now?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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