cp2 recordings ARTUR SCHNABEL





String Quartet No. 1



String Quartet No. 4



Sonata for Cello


Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) wrote five string quartets: I in 1918; II in 1921; III in 1923-4; IV in 1924; V in 1940. To put this in perspective: the wonderful (and on the cusp of Schnabel's compositional evolution) Notturno dates from 1914; the Sonata Solo Violin (CP2 110) from 1919; the Sonata for Violin and Piano (CP2 102) from 1935; the Piano Piece in Seven Movements–1936; the 3 Symphonies (CP2 104 & 109) are respectively 1937–8; 1941–2; and 1948; and Dance and Secret & Joy and Peace for orchestra and chorus (CP2 110) date from 1944.

The First Quartet is a highly episodic, rather verbose work, clearly of (compositionally) youthful (not to say irrational) exuberance, which has at least one foot still firmly rooted in the 19th Century. Nevertheless, this Quartet provides the template for much of AS's later musical concerns and solutions. In the First Quartet one already finds the importance of the minor second and perfect 5th, just as in Symphony I (perhaps, for his first major orchestral work, he purposely went back to an interval language with which he felt most comfortable). The overall structure of the First Quartet is also very similar to his other 4 movement works (Symphonies I and II, and the Sonata for Violin and Piano), as if this Quartet was the model.

The opening Allegro energico e con brio has the key signature of "d minor" for much of the movement, but the harmonies are extremely "extended". The pitches of the opening primary motive are highly similar to those of the Schoenberg Quartet IV (1936). These opening eight notes (7 pitches) restart the movement at least four times (at approximately 0:32'; 4:43'; 7:22'; and 10:43' within the movement) and therefore, one can think of the movement in five sections, each one (very) freely varying previously introduced material, as well as going off on tangents.

The second movement (Andantino grazioso) is a mildly-demented Kreislerian Viennese Caprice, opening with a world-weary, wistful motive. This alternates with an "Amen" utilizing an initial triplet, which triplet becomes seminal, especially in the somewhat Ravel-like mid-section.

To a large extent in G Major, the Larghetto waivers between extreme sadness, longing and hope. There are shades of the loneliness of Mahler's Wayfarer Songs, as well as a remarkable and prescient (for 1918) section of quartal and quintal harmony, which is preparatory to a large Hymn-like section (ca. 4:20'–5:40' in the movement). The movement then returns to loneliness, but its emotional life turns on a dime, into ecstasy and back, finally settling into a long peroration in G. There are glimmers of Puccini; certainly Busoni; perhaps it anticipates Bartok; but finally it is its own thing—a quite unique, personal, and coherent attempt to make an amalgam of the various compositional trends and conflicts of the 20 years previous to its writing.

A rambunctious final Prestissimo begins with a unison whoop and holler, starting on an A flat, moving abruptly over the first five measures to a D natural. Most of what follows thereafter arises from that initial motive, and/or from the dichotomy of the harmonic teeter-totter based on the initial tritonal progression.

No matter the time I spend with this quartet, and indeed with Schnabel's music in general (and by now that is simpler measured in months than hours) I still cannot satisfactorily answer "where does this music spring from". The cheap and easy comparison for this First Quartet is obviously the Schoenberg I, but that simply does not wash, as that is a far more conventional, traditional-in-structure, late Romantic, not-very-forward-looking, composition. Certain aspects of Busoni come to mind, but not to any great extent, although the general patina of, for example, the Busoni Second Violin and Piano Sonata (1898), is enlightening. Reger is not apposite, as Reger's harmonies (at least to me) are in virtually constant flux, where one barely touches a cadence without simultaneously departing elsewhere (the quintessential wonder is his On the Theory of Modulation (1903)—Captain Spaulding's equally wondrous and wonderful "Hello, I must be going" comes to mind). Schnabel's harmonies have much more stasis, in that he frequently seems to plant himself in two opposing tonal centers between which he sways or pivots. By this I do not mean bi-tonality, as that implies the simultaneous use of two clearly (or fairly clearly) defined "keys". Rather I mean two centers, or attractants, each with their own gravitational force, pulling pitches, or entire segments, one way or the other. Furthermore, unlike Reger, whose harmonies tend towards opacity, Schnabel's generally are more open, and the denseness is a result of extreme contrapuntal motivic conflation. One could continue to wonder about other influences (Hindemith and Krenek in Schnabel's early years) but in the final analysis, the compositional voice is unique.

Unlike the quinquefoliate first movement of Quartet I, the Molto moderato of the IVth can (again very broadly speaking) be thought of as being in sonata-form, given that there is a clear recapitulation (at approximately 6:22' in the movement); there is a contrasting second section (starting around 2:38') which comes back highly altered in the recapitulation; and there is a central section (beginning perhaps around 4:26', although one could posit an earlier start) which could serve as the "development" section. One must not, however, read this analogy too closely, as in one way or another, almost everything can be derived from the motives of the first bar, and that fact alone could allow for a more free form interpretation of the internal structure. Harmonically, the movement is by far the most complex of the one per measure – or in other words, the use of all 12 pitches (or more properly "pitch-classes") in each of the initial measures, for quite an extended period. Indeed, one could speculate that that use of all "pitch-classes" per measure is the factor which determines the placement of the barlines. However, despite this way of using all 12 pitches, which can be found in early Second Viennese School compositions (think Berg) I find the material closer to Ives.

Movement two (Andante grazioso) is a slow and solemn dance (certainly not a minuet, but equally clearly not a scherzo) with very plastic metrical changes, with a middle section of "night music". The opening mood somehow reminds me of the beginning of the Zweiter Teil: Im Zeitmaβ eines langsamen, feierlichen Tanzes of Hindemith's Sonata in E flat major for Violin and Piano Op. 11, No.1 (1918).

The third, and last, movement (Resoluto e fiero e con passione) of Quartet IV is structurally rather disjunct. The first violin begins with a most operatic solo—an almost-extemporaneous mad-scene. This is followed by a similar (but duo) statement on the part of the viola and cello. We proceed to a rollicking waltz, followed by a declamatory section (ca. 1:48'), which is followed by a section with many scales (ca. 3:14'), leading to a cantalena (almost reminiscent of Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending (1920) (ca. 3:40')), but with a very unsettling cello part (ca. 4:00'). Introspection follows; and then a recap of the operatic material (7:13'); then on to mayhem (ca. 8:00') and frolic. There is a development of the mad-scene, this time within a quodlibet or collage (ca 8:55') and a peroration starts shortly thereafter.

The score includes two different endings for the movement. We present both of these, providing two versions of the complete movement. If AS could not, to his own satisfaction, decide the final gesture, it would be at best, in the context of a CD, presumptuous of us to do so.

Schnabel wrote two major, massive unaccompanied string works i.e. the (1919) Solo Violin Sonata, and this (1931) Sonata for Cello. Among the many differences between the two, the Sonata for Cello has time signatures and barlines, although their succession can be rather free, or when not free, rather unusual, as in the last movement, which is almost entirely in seven. Of the two works, this is probably the more conventional, both in form and harmony, with a faint trace of "Gebrachmusik", and a slight tip of the hat to the Baroque. The work is instrumentally rather difficult (that aspect it shares with the Violin Sonata!) and shows remarkable knowledge of just how far one can push the boundaries of instrumental technique. The Sonata for Cello clearly deserves far more prominence than it has hitherto received, and not just because of the limited repertoire for the specific instrument.

The Allegro con moto is (for AS!) a fairly straightforward presentation, with extensive development of the initial motive. The second movement (Allegretto) is a "Perpetuum Mobile", much of it in the lowest registers of the instrument, resulting in a most strange sonic landscape. The Larghetto is an extended, expansive, elegiac and serene slow movement such as Schnabel was past master of. The last movement (Vivace ma non troppo) begins as a resolute, joyous and affectionate parody of a baroque dance movement (albeit in ) which, after a short chordal bridge, devolves into something which seems suspiciously like plainchant, or perhaps a HYMN ILL SUNG. This is followed by a mumbling pizzicato section, and then a more passionate explosion; thereafter the movement continues cutting and pasting between these elements, finally ending on a (very) harmonically deceptive two note cadence, a frequent AS signature.

It is once again our privilege and pleasure to most gratefully acknowledge the patronage of Mary Virginia Foreman Le Garrec.



CP2 - 115

I. Allegro energico e con brio (12:44)
II. Andantino grazioso (10:15)
III. Larghetto (19:07)
IV. Prestissimo (7:56)

Total Time = 50:28


CP2 - 116

I. Molto moderato (10:59)
II. Andante grazioso (5:42)
III. Resoluto e fiero e con passione (12:21)

Time = 29:13

III. Resoluto e fiero e con passione
(with alternate ending)



I. Allegro con moto (5:31)
II. Allegretto (3:06)
III. Larghetto (7:45)
IV. Vivace ma non troppo (8:59)

Time = 25:39


TOTAL TIME = 67:57

Artur Schnabel: (1882-1951)

Publisher for all works: Peermusic Classical; please visit www.peermusicclassical.com

For information regarding Artur Schnabel please visit: schnabelmusicfoundation.com

All recordings were made at the Clinton Recording Studios, Inc., Studio A, in New York City

STRING QUARTET NO. 1: June 9-12, 1998
Assistant Engineer: Mark Fraunfelder

STRING QUARTET NO. 4: March 27-28, 2000
Assistant Engineers: Mark Fraunfelder, Alan Moon

SONATA FOR CELLO: April 27-28, 2000
Assistant Engineer: Mark Fraunfelder

Produced and engineered by Paul Zinman
Edited, mixed and mastered by Paul Zinman at SoundByte Productions, Inc., NYC
All edit choices: Paul Zukofsky
Pre and Post-production supervision: Paul Zukofsky

© 2004 Musical Observations, Inc.
Mfg. by Musical Observations, Inc.
Warning: Copyright subsists in all recordings issued under this label.