Gábor Csalog Franz Schubert: Moments musicaux, Op. 94, Impromptus, Op. 142, Piano piece in A major
Though he still gives concerts all over Europe, nowadays he is primarily interested in recording music. His wide repertoire includes many seldom-heard pieces.
He lives in Budapest and teaches at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music and the Bartók Conservatory of Music. He is also the editor of the new urtext edition of the Complete Piano Works of Chopin for Könemann Music Budapest.
Gábor Csalog - piano
About the album
Recorded at the 6th Studio of the Hungarian Radio
Recording producer and digital editing: Péter Aczél
Sound engineer: Sándor Jeney
Cover art by Meral Yasar based on photo by Judit Kurtág
Portrait photo: István Huszti
Design: meral Yasar
Produced by László Gőz
The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and the Soros Foundation Hungary
Franz Schubert: Moments musicaux, Op. 94, D. 780
Franz Schubert: Impromptus, Op. 142, D. 935
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
The early 19th century vogue for short, individual piano pieces makes an interesting conjunction with the cult of fragments, which began with the 18th century rediscovery of Greek classicism, and in the world of fine arts culminated with the debate surrounding the so-called Elgin marbles (1818). This was the moment when it became a generally accepted custom not to restore or complete the fragments of ancient statues, but to regard their fragmentary nature as the embodiment of their aesthetic value. The short piano pieces of Schubert which fall into this category make an interesting conjunction with the surprisingly large number of his piano sonatas existing only in fragmentary form, and the present recording illustrates that the genuine fragments and those stylised into a genre sometimes come “dangerously” near each other, at times becoming practically indistinguishable.
In confutation of this, Robert Schumann thought to discern the outline of a four-movement sonata in the second set of impromptus (Op. 142, 1827), albeit in terms of an entirely different aesthetic approach. However, Schubert’s manuscript attests that the four pieces originally belonged to the same series as the first set of impromptus (Op. 90). When Schubert contacted Schott, his publisher in Mainz in the year of his death, he offered the four impromptus as works that “may be published individually, or all together.” Of the four pieces, the first two and the last which gives the series a modal frame may be correlated with the modal and cyclical arrangement of the sonata form, but because of its B flat major key as well as its form, the third series of variations, the theme of which was taken from the Intermezzo of the accompaniment to Rosamunde (D. 797, 1923) would not fit into this arrangement.
But even if it cannot be fitted into the sonata form order, it definitely transcends the narrow limits of the genre categorized as “bagatelle”. Schott’s answer clearly expresses the buyers’ expectations of this genre: “We sent the impromptus to Paris [i.e. to the subsidiary of Schott in Paris] as they often send us similar material. They returned them with the comment that the pieces “were too difficult for bagatelles, and would not be popular in France. (…) Should you compose something less intricate, yet brilliant, in a lighter key, please send it to us right away.” “Something less intricate, yet brilliant”: it is not difficult to recognize that these aesthetic requirements and business interests were generated by the craze for salon music sweeping across Europe at the time; “brilliant” here refers to the need for music to appear technically difficult, to virtuosity acquired without a deeper knowledge of the instrument.
The pieces of Op. 142 do not actually meet these requirements, and consequently were not published in the composer’s lifetime, only in 1838 by Diabelli, (who dedicated the publication of the posthumous Schubert pieces to Liszt – hardly by chance, since through his transcriptions and publications, Liszt helped forward Schubert’s career, made him more widely known). The first piece shows similarities to the opening movement of a sonata on account of its length, and the heroic character of the opening theme also gives the impression of a sonata. Subsequently however the piece does not follow heroic dramaturgy: instead of a sense of evolvement and progress, the process comes to a musical standstill, the outlines of the sonata form become blurred; and though retaining the motif of recapitulation the technique of construction becomes looser, less rigorous. There is a point, a moment of emotional outburst both in the recurring main theme and the trio of the second piece, a finely chiselled Allegretto of classical tranquillity, which without breaking open the traditional form, does in a sense neutralise it. In the series of variations developed from the pleasant, lilting but not particularly profound main theme, Schubert gives a display of the “brilliant” style demanded by the publisher, undeniably surpassing the modest technical demands expected by Schott. And finally the Allegro scherzando extends the initial, genre painting theme that starts out as a “bagatelle” into a large-scale concert piece.
In contrast to the impromptus, the Moments musicaux were not originally conceived as a series. Two of the six (the third and the sixth) had already been published separately in 1823 and 1824, and then together in 1825. The titles they bore at the time, obviously chosen by the publisher, reveal much of what was expected of the genre: Air Russe (Russian song, No. 3), and Plaintes d’un Troubadour (Laments of a Troubadour, No. 6), clearly place Schubert’s pieces among genre portraits, or lyrical character pieces. With the first publication of the complete series (1828) the titles were removed, and the collective title was sufficient to indicate the genre.
In this case, searching for traces of the “brilliant” concert style that played such a significant role in Op. 142 would be of no avail – in its place we find a glorification of small, lyrical forms, coupled with that peculiar, unique gift of Schubert’s to contrast a whole gamut of emotions from catatonic lethargy to sanguine outbursts in closed, static, “still picture” forms. The point in question is not the cliché which found its way from musicology into public belief and according to which Schubert’s instrumental forms could not transcend the song form. The point is that it is the song form (in both his vocal and instrumental music) that best suits the dramaturgy of Schubert’s emotional experience, the dramaturgy in which the moment of recapitulation is not the result of a dynamic process, but reveals itself to be mystically identical with the beginning, thus rendering dreamlike everything that takes place in between these two points.
Each one of the six musical snapshots is based on the tripartite song form (A-B-A), or a more complex variation of it. Nos. 3 and 5 follow the simplest scheme: the former, with its dance-like character, evokes the nostalgic sounds of some golden age, while the other, with its tempestuous anapaests, is a perpetuum mobile, moving impetuously at full speed. The series begins with a call from afar, a signal as it were, like the mysterious call of an alpine horn’s open notes; the tension is relieved by the broad melodic arc of the central part (No. 1). No. 2 incorporates the theme, developed only at the third attempt, in an indefinable (nonexistent) dance, where the twice repeated, variated central part opposes the painful gesture of awakening to the dream world of the main part. The dramaturgy is reversed in No. 4, where an enigmatic signal from a far-off world interrupts a mechanical motion, baroque-like but representing cold reality. The roles are reversed at the third repetition, where it is the mechanical motion that dramatically tears asunder the veils of the dream world, as a musical image of the unalterable cruelty of the final awakening.
As opposed to the other two series, Schubert’s A major piano piece is distinctive; it does not form a part of the Schubert canon, it is seldom if ever added to the repertoire of concert pianists. Nothing is known of Schubert’s intentions concerning this piece. Judging by its structure, it has less in common with the lyrical piano pieces, and far more with the slow movements of the piano sonatas. On this basis Schubert researchers assume that it is one of the group of fragments from 1817, which includes a F sharp minor fast movement (D. 570), a D major scherzo and an F sharp major allegro (D. 571), and which, together with the present piece in the second place, form an outline of a complete, though never completed four-movement piano sonata.
Gábor Csalog was born in 1960 in Budapest. When he was eleven he was accepted as a specially gifted pupil at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. Among his teachers were Erna Czövek, Dezső Ránki, Zoltán Kocsis, György Kurtág, Pál Kadosa and András Schiff.
He was a postgraduate student with György Sebők in the U.S. at Indiana University and assistant to professor Sebők for two years. He often plays contemporary music; he even has direct working contact with several Hungarian composers (László Sáry, Gyula Csapó). He has studied and worked with György Kurtág since 1980, often performing and premiering his pieces and assisting in his chamber music courses held in Hungary.
Though he still gives concerts all over Europe, nowadays he is primarily interested in recording music. His wide repertoire includes many seldom-heard pieces. He lives in Budapest and teaches at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music and the Bartók Conservatory of Music. He is also the editor of the new urtext edition of the Complete Piano Works of Chopin for Könemann Music Budapest.