When everybody is at home there is always a discussion as to what our Saturday night viewing should be. Because of the age disparity we can't all get stuck into a juicy box set. Last Saturday night following 'Britain's got Talent', which is just bearable, we resorted to the Eurovision Song Contest. What a load of utter rubbish which in no way represents the talent that is undoubtedly out there. The Danish presenters were dreadful and aside from one or two good songs, the only amusing moments were when Graham Norton interjected with his witty and sardonic comments. This was the winner…….not sure who is more confused me or him?
On to something altogether more civilised - Schubert (1797-1828) Symphony No 9 'The Great'.
Franz Schubert was the son of a Viennese school master who aged 10 won a place at the Vienna Imperial Court Choir gaining a reputation as a budding composer. When he left school he followed his father into the teaching profession which he loathed but he managed to channel his churning emotions into composing. This period is one of the most prolific periods of composing in all history of music.
A student friend of Schubert's convinced him to make his own way in life as a bona-fida freelance composer and so he began to move in Viennese artistic circles but following some ill-fated liaisons he contracted syphilis which would eventually kill him.
Schubert found free-lance life difficult. Unlike his great friend Beethoven, he wasn't a virtuoso pianist and so was unable to attract customers through playing, furthermore he lacked any business acumen and had no close contacts with those in power. Add to that a rather an un-prepossessing appearance - short, chubby and round-faced with glasses, as well as being quiet and unassuming. In his early 20s his music went unheard but it was the publics insatiable demand for lieder (song) that that gained him popularity - Schubert wrote over 600 lieder and was the inventor of the three minute song as we know it today.
Symphony No 9 in C is known as 'The Great', called so to distinguish it from Symphony No 6, also in C but sometimes referred to as 'The Little'. Written just three years before the composer died over a summer where he felt well as his illness appeared to be in remission. So here is a symphony which is huge, grand and full of life by a composer who thought he was cured. Sadly this was not to be and Schubert died at the age of 31.
The recording I recommend is by Sir Charles Mackerras and the Philhamonic Orchestra. Sir Charles Mackerras died in 2010 aged 84. He was one of the most versatile, adventurous and generally admired and respected conductors of the past 60 years. Due to his pioneering efforts he bought the operas of Janacek to the public eye where they have since remained part of the operatic repertoire.