Franz Schubert engraving i

Franz Schubert's last year was a most prolific period. iStock hide caption

toggle caption iStock
Franz Schubert engraving

Franz Schubert's last year was a most prolific period.

iStock

Classics in Concert

Schubert's Trios: The Man Behind The MusicWGBH

Schubert Trios at Jordan Hall

Schubert Trios at Jordan Hall

Loading…

1:27:37
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/130156929/130112601" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

In classical music, referring to a composer as "great" or "canonic" might be done with the best of intentions. But a kind of calcification takes place, freezing that composer into something abstract and distant, like the little plaster busts that sit on the top of household pianos.

Franz Schubert might suffer more than most from that predicament. But this concert of his late piano trios provides a welcome glimpse into a man armed with a vivacious personality and a dynamically creative voice. As a young adult, Schubert would begin his days with a ferocious, even ecstatic focus on composing, only to pivot into friendly, relaxed socializing in the afternoon and evening. That duality, not surprisingly, found its way into the music that poured from his pen in the last year of his life — a period that produced a surprising number of masterworks, from the songs for which he is so well-loved to the "Great" Symphony No. 9.

In the midst of it all, there are two piano trios — substantial and complex, but also highly personal and expressive. The first of them launches eagerly into its opening theme like a taxi screeching to a halt, with a smiling Schubert yelling from the drivers' seat: "Get in!" It may not be clear where you're going, but you already know it's going to be entertaining. An elegant, touching slow movement allows for a bit of introspection before ramping up through the dance of the third movement to a disarming finale. It's noble on the surface, but Schubert occasionally stops time with something dreamy and ethereal.

Piano Trio No. 2 begins with some of the nobility from No. 1, but with a cleverly constructed theme that Schubert manipulates to keep listeners on their toes. This Schubert might be your congenial drinking buddy, but then again might be the bringer of Beethoven-like storms. The emotionally fitful ride closes in grandeur, exposing the serious side of Schubert's bittersweet music.

For the full immersion experience, the Jordan Hall audience in Boston was fortunate to have half of one of today's most probing and successful string quartets — the Emerson Quartet — and the spouse of one of those members. Pianist Wu Han, violinist Philip Setzer and cellist David Finckel seem to click into the intimate communication and artistic vision that helps unlock the real Schubert behind the incredible music.

Program
  • Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 99
  • Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 100
Personnel
  • Wu Han, piano
  • Philip Setzer, violin
  • David Finckel, cello
[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra with pianist Jan Lisiecki at Carnegie Hall in a program inspired by Vienna. Ebru Yildiz/for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ebru Yildiz/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The Philadelphia Orchestra Brings Vienna To Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin conjures the sound of old Vienna, once Europe's musical capital.

Listen Loading… 2:00:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/463087739/463191026" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tiny Desk Concert with Teddy Abrams Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Teddy Abrams

Hear a young conductor, composer and pianist play Beethoven and his own jazzy pieces.

Conductor Simon Rattle took his Berlin Philharmonic and symphonies by Beethoven to Carnegie Hall for a week-long residency. AJ Wilhelm/NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm/NPR

Classics in Concert

Beethoven Symphonies At Carnegie Hall Via Berlin

WQXR radio

From a week-long residency, hear the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven's Sixth and Eighth.

Listen Loading… 1:30:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/456635697/457085467" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Conductor Andris Nelsons led the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus Thursday in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky at Carnegie Hall in New York. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Classics in Concert

A Tale Of Two Sergeys: Boston Symphony Orchestra At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Andris Nelsons conducts Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances.

Listen Loading… 2:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/451116807/451174052" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic, with pianist Evgeny Kissin, at Carnegie Hall's gala opening concert, Oct. 7. AJ Wilhelm /for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm /for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The New York Philharmonic At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Pianist Evgeny Kissin brings Tchaikovsky, and a sense of history, to Carnegie's opening concert.

Listen Loading… 1:35:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/442287960/446705652" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Tiny Desk Concert with Anonymous 4 on March 4. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

The a cappella quartet, with banjo and fiddle, offers popular songs from the Civil War era.

Back To Top

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor