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Hello and welcome to Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast!  This podcast is for anyone who loves classical music, or is just getting ready to dive in for the very first time.  Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy it!  

Dec 8, 2022

In the late summer or early autumn of 1828, Schubert completed an extraordinary work, his String Quintet in C Major. 6 weeks later, he was dead. Nowadays this piece is considered to be one of the most sublime 50 minutes to an hour that exists in all of music. But when Schubert completed this quintet, he sent a letter to the publisher Heinrich Albert Probst, to ask him to publish it. Schubert wrote: ‘Among other things, I have composed three sonatas for piano solo, which I should like to dedicate to Hummel. I have also set several poems by Heine of Hamburg, which went down extraordinarily well here, and finally have completed a Quintet for 2 violins, 1 viola and 2 violoncellos. I have played the sonatas in several places, to much applause, but the Quintet will only be tried out in the coming days. If any of these compositions are perhaps suitable for you, let me know.’ 

The quintet was ignored by Probst, and we don’t know if Schubert ever heard that rehearsal of his quintet.  When Schubert died, it was utterly forgotten until 1850, over 20 years after Schubert had put these notes down on paper. The well known at the time Hellmesberger quartet discovered the quintet, began performing it, and finally, in 1853, the piece was published for the very first time. Slowly, as so many great works of art do, it caught on, until today it is one of the most beloved works in the entire Western Classical music universe. But it’s not an easy piece to talk, or to write, about. Long associated with Schubert’s impending death, though we have no evidence that he knew he was dying when he wrote the piece, it is often seen as a work full of shadows and shades, despite its C Major key and often ebullient character. Writers, thinkers, and podcasters I should add, have often found it difficult to put their finger on the fundamental character of this remarkable piece, which I actually find to be an asset, not a problem to be solved. Schubert’s music is so beautiful because it speaks to everyone in a different way. Unlike Beethoven, who grabbed you and shook you and told you to listen to what he had to say, Schubert invites us in, has us sit down for while, and lets us take part in his remarkably complex emotional world.

Today we’ll explore why Schubert wrote a string quintet at all, how he uses that extra cello in such beautiful ways, Schubert’s sense of melody, his expansive scope, and so much more. Join us!