MSOC spotlights beloved prodigy with an All-Schubert Concert

By Don Leypoldt
Journal Inquirer
April 17, 2007

It’s a sad irony of music that so many immortals died young.

Popular music has Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix—none of whom saw their 28th birthday and yet they are enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

The irony doesn’t stop with rock. One of the greatest Classical composers who ever lived— Mozart— tragically passed away at age 35.

Franz Schubert didn’t even make it to his 32nd birthday before his demise, yet the Austrian crammed more than 1,000 compositions into that small time span. If Mozart’s life ranks first in causing classical music lovers to ponder “What if?,” then Schubert’s — best known for composing “Ave Maria” and “The Unfinished Symphony” — is a very close second.

The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale (MSOC) will bring some of Schubert’s pieces to life Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, with an All-Schubert Concert. Chorale director Kevin Mack will lead the MSOC in Schubert’s “Mass in E Flat” and six partsongs for chorus at Concordia Lutheran Church, 40 Pitkin St., Manchester, at 7:30 p.m. on April 28 and at Trinity Episcopal Church, 120 Sigourney St., Hartford, at 3 p.m. on April 29.

Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students over 18, and free for children under 18. Tickets are available at the door.

“(Schubert’s music) is reflective of many of the high points and low points of human existence. You have a tremendous emotional range in Schubert,” Mack says.

The partsongs vary widely from the utilization of different choruses-to their melodies. Some are bright and airy; others are bitter and mystical. The variety will give the listener a rich sample of this vital piece of Schubert’s portfolio.

“While Schubert’s melodies were often light and marvelously singable, his texts were equally often dark recollections of unrequited love or unfulfilled promises.” says Mack. “Both serious themes overtook Schubert’s song compositions in the last years of his life.”

Schubert’s “Mass in E Flat,” written late in his short life, “is the last, longest, and most profound of his six complete Mass settings,” comments Mack.

While much of the Mass is traditional — the Vienna where Schubert lived was a bastion of staunch, conservative Catholicism — Schubert pushed the envelope with different touches and texts.

“Recent biographers have agreed that late in life, Schubert was a profoundly troubled intellect, grappling with a terminal illness and expressing his doubts and beliefs in musical outbursts,” Mack says.

“I have come into the world for no purpose but to compose,” Schubert once declared.

The one-time elementary school teacher never achieved rousing commercial success, but he bequeathed the world volumes of piano sonatas and songs for voice like few others ever have — and ever will.

Schubert was born on Jan. 31, 1797. Generally disinterested in his other scholastic subjects, the prodigy “seems to know the lessons perfectly before I begin to explain them to him,” said his astounded first music teacher to his father.

Schubert began composing at age 8, studied under Mozart’s chief rival Antonio Salieri in the Viennese Court and was heavily influenced by Beethoven and Mozart in his later compositions.

“Some composers are formulaic. They will be composing at 70 what they composed at 20. Schubert is by no means that composer,” Mack says on what might have been had Schubert not passed away so prematurely. “You see an endless growth in terms of the length and complexity of his music. They go into much more interesting harmonic realms. Because of that, we’re sure that he could have very easily had the language of a Wagner.”

Eight months before his death, Schubert finally was given a public concert in Vienna which was devoted solely to his work. The concert was a rousing success.

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