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Franz, you do my head in April 28, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Doing a bit of blog-zapping this morning, I ended up here (can’t effing work out how to link to a single post there) and the mention of Schubert got me thinking about, well, Schubert. I am an utter dilettante when it comes to music (as in everything else) but I do at least know I adore Franz. Just adore him. Austria. I will never belittle your name again.

But it’s a complicated love. I find myself drawn to Schubert, erm, whenever he enters my head, really. And when I do dig out one of the few pieces I have, I can never tell if it’s having the wonderful effect I’m expecting it to or whether it’s secretly filling me with turbulent thoughts of gloom and misery. In any case, I stick to the knowledge that I love it.

The link in the Virtual Stoa post is to his songs. My own favourites are his piano works where Schubert is, at least for me, totally unshackled and at complete liberty. In my youth – long since forgotten – I would have only enjoyed the bombast of full orchestral works, but now I am never happier (or more disturbed. I don’t know which) when alone with Franz, a piano sonata and whichever genius is performing the damn thing. (Kovacevich and Uchida do it for me, but that’s only because they’re what I have lying around.) And although I think much of his work is disturbing, or at least clearly the result of a profoundly unusual mind – and thank god for that – I still think Schubert is good for a musical dilettante because I refuse to believe anyone couldn’t find these piano works beautiful, uplifting, depressing, mad, everything. I’m trying to think whether my mother – the litmus test for someone who hates everything – would bear to be able to lend it an ear, and I’m sure she would (while secretly wishing I’d turn it off so she could get back to Home and Away). A quick google has led me here, where there are a few free downloads. If I may, I can’t recommend the Impromptu – the second of the two freebies – highly enough. But what I turn to again and again and again in times of trouble, joy, woe, emptiness, standard-Thursday-afternoon-in-November-ness is the A major Sonata (D959). The Rondo, blasted extremely loud, is excellent for, well, making you forget everything else, really. It is also the music that was performed at the best concert I have ever been to, in a small concert ‘space’ where I sat an inch from the pianist and folk – not me, of course, because of being such an autistic arse – were shedding unwanky tears.

The troublesome thing about Schubert also for me is not just that his music so hits a spot – I repeat, I don’t know which one – but him. Dead at 31. It is thought from syphilis, or the side-effects of its treatment. But how can someone so young have produced so much? And have been such a genius? Well, I suppose we partly have illness to thank for this. Only a brain addled by some sort of madness could have given us such maddening beauty. When you think that some of these works were written within weeks of his death, his health a mess, I think that goes part of the way to explaining the complication of the emotions that some of these piano works are full of.



1. Wyndham - April 28, 2006

Dammit, Bib, now I have a sudden, insatiable urge to listen to some Schubert – and that’s not something I can have claimed before. What is it with genius and longevity? I may be mediocre but at least I shall live to 150.

By the way, are you not fond of Austria? I have had a maddening crush on Vienna since seeing The Third Man for the first time. But then, I’ve always fancied myself as Joseph Cotten. Never been there, mind, dso they still have all that lovely rubble?

2. BiB - April 28, 2006

Wynders, mustn’t today be your very last day at the office? Are you fantastically excited? Or shit scared? Or thinking of long flights and Dexter?

I’m afraid being in Germany has tarnished my view of Austria, seeing as the Germans think of the Austrians as utter yokels and bumpkins. Hearing Austrians speak does invite a smile, there’s no denying it. But I’ve never been to Vienna either, and it is a place to go before one dies, isn’t it? I’ve never been to Rome either, which is probably a greater disgrace. Or Venice. Or London. OK, that bit’s a lie.

Anyway, yes, Schubert, listen and be unwankily moved. God that syphilis is good for the mind. Well, apart from it killing you, of course. Actually, I don’t know exactly how much of his work is strictly syphilis-induced. He was, I daresay, already a genius aged 2.

And what do you mean, mediocre? I expect to be reading your bestseller by Christmas.

3. Wyndham - April 28, 2006

It is indeed my last day and i’ve just crawled into work after having a bit of a lie-in. If only to bask in the glory of my already-legendary party last night and to pick up my leaving-presents. Oddly, someone seems to have left all my things on the street. Which was nice of them. Strangely, I’m feeling better than I deserve to be feeling in the circumstances. Not at all bilious. Much.

4. leon - April 28, 2006

No rubble in Vienna as such, though it still has a vaguely Cold War-ish feel and has loads of old cafes and hat shops and other things like that which give it a definite feel of the 1950s. And trams, of course.

Most of the population seemed to be elderly and in possession of tiny dogs, and spent most of their time sitting in parks – I never got over the way Austrians say “jo” instead of “ja”, either.

5. Wyndham - April 28, 2006

Leon, that’s exactly how I wanted Vienna to be!

*wyndham goes off to root out his passport*

6. BiB - May 2, 2006

If we ever get rid of the Royals back in the kingdom, we’d better reinstall the tramlines. They seem to be a serious tourist attraction. Actually, when I first arrived, kicking and screaming, in Berlin, the trams were one of the few things I liked about the place. Trams just simply are good.

7. daggi - May 3, 2006

BBC London News tonight featured a rather ridiculous “interview” with the Tory leader on the “West London Tram” project, which a number of Southall residents don’t seem too keen on. Cameron’s (today’s leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition) position is that he doesn’t have one, because it’s up to the local Conservatives to have a position, as he’s in favour of localism, democracy, blablahblah. And if he has to use a tram or bus, he’s chaffeur is driving the Bentley 20 metres behind with a change of clothes.

8. daggi - May 3, 2006

he’s = his.

9. BiB - May 4, 2006

Oh, I didn’t know they’re planning to extend the trams. How exciting. I must spend hours on the Transport for London website. I can spend many an autistic hour looking at their plans for Crossrail and various extensions. I’ve never taken a London tram, although my mother lives vaguely in the bit of South West London that they serve. I must make a trip especially…

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