The beauty and the sadness

On record covers, the great composers of classical music always look like solid members of the establishment. The cover design tends to emphasise this: lots of pillars, porcelain, baroque filigree, guys in powdered wigs. Unthreatening, respectable, venerated – and dull. Rubbish, all of it, and it so betrays both the musicians and the music.

suk trio label aThese were passionate, often erratic, artists. Many knew little or no recognition in their lifetimes, and many died young, poor or both. Only when safely dead could they be carved in marble, put on a pedestal, and become tame and safe.

But, performed well, the music cuts through all this. For no one is this truer than Franz Schubert: a prolific writer of some of the most impassioned and beautiful music ever written. His genius was not recognised in his lifetime, partly because his brilliance as a composer was not matched by his ability as a performer. He was part of the music scene in Vienna in the 1820s, but never made much money. He died, aged only 31, having suffered from syphilis and finally knocked off by typhoid. And somehow, in that short and at times dissolute life he wrote literally hundreds of songs and instrumental pieces: original, inventive, and full of passion.

This piece is the second movement from his “Piano Trio in B Flat, Op. 99”. Exciting titles are not the strong point of classical music, but get past that and just listen. Beautifully and subtly performed by the Suk Trio in a 1967 recording, this is music which is like the last leaf falling from a tree in the last light of day. It captures and transmits the beauty and the sadness of the world.

  • Artist: Suk Trio
  • Composer: Franz Schubert
  • LP Title: Piano Trio In B Flat, Op. 99, D.898 / Nocturne In E Flat, Op.148, D.897
  • Side 1, Track 2: “Piano Trio In B Flat, Op. 99, D.898, Second Movement, Andante Un Poco Mosso”
  • Format: 12” 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Quintessence ‎PMC-7111
  • Manufactured in: United States
  • Year: 1979 (recorded 1967)

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