Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Schubert Resonates in Age of Uncertainty

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Schubert Resonates in Age of Uncertainty

Article excerpt

Works by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) have come under a fresh spotlight this year, which marks the 220th anniversary of the Austrian composer's birth. His pieces also seem to match the current social climate, in which the future seems more uncertain than ever. Music by Schubert, who contemplated death over his short life, conveys to listeners his self-reflection and resignation to dark moods.

Schubert was a significant presence at the Spring Festival in Tokyo, an annual classical music festival held in March and April in Ueno, with his compositions featured in nine of its 22 main concerts at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, the event's main venue. The festival offered special performances of Schubert's works, including his sixth and final Mass and his chamber music.

"We were surprised to find how popular Schubert is among performers," said an official of the festival's secretariat.

Schubert served as a bridge between the classical and Romantic eras in music, and left behind gems of works, including about 600 songs, all while suffering from many illnesses.

His piano sonatas are particularly popular of late -- virtuoso pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja is currently recording all 21 of Schubert's piano sonatas. During next year's Tokyo festival, she is scheduled to appear in six concerts to play some of the sonatas, primarily those written in the middle to later years of his life.

"Schubert apparently claimed he knew no happy music," Leonskaja said. "When he felt love, it was painful, and that was a moment when music was born. Hopefully, I can immerse myself in his music even more deeply."

Leonskaja is involved in another project to play Schubert's pieces alongside those by 20th-century composers, such as Schonberg, aiming to shed light on the relevance of Schubert's music in modern times.

"Being closer to Schubert offers richness to my soul, my spirit," she said.

Dang Thai Son, the first Asian pianist to win the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1980, will be 60 next year. Ahead of that occasion, the pianist from Vietnam has recorded his first Schubert album in Japan, which was released by Victor. Dang is also touring the country this month, stopping at venues including Kioi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on June 22.

The pillar of the tour's program is Schubert's posthumous Piano Sonata No. 21.

The subject of death has taken on an increased reality at his age, Dang said, making this a good opportunity for him to tackle the sonata masterpiece, whose true value has come to be appreciated.

After losing something dear to one's heart, even when their tears are dried up and only deep pain remains, this sonata helps the listener find peace of mind, Dang said. …

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