An intimate evening with Schubert

Schubert’s “gatherings” attracted the best artists. Solomon Sultzer – the cantor of Vienna’s main synagogue, the Stadttempel – had the reputation of having the finest baritone voice of his time.

Anna Huntley  (photo credit: KAUPO KIKKAS)
Anna Huntley
(photo credit: KAUPO KIKKAS)
There was a time when listening to music was not a plug-in affair. A musical soiree was an occasion for active listening; a chance to play one’s instrument; an evening of cultural and social enjoyment.
The composer Franz Schubert was born in 1797 and in the thirty-one years of his short life, composed hundreds of songs, string quartets, sonatas, and ensemble pieces to be played in small, intimate settings. He would regularly open his living quarters and invite musicians and guests to his “gatherings,” in order showcase his new music and that of other composers. Although he was desperately poor, Schubert was a magnet for Viennese classical society, and his evenings were famous.
In 2007, Dr. Raz Kohn, Israeli cellist and managing director of the Rishon Lezion Symphony Chamber Music Series, established “The Schubertiade,” a series of musical evenings that have grown so popular there is scarcely an available ticket. The concerts are always centered around Schubert’s birthday, January 31, and will be performed in nine venues throughout the country between January 25 and February 3.
Each year, Raz Kohn invites a cast of the best young Israeli soloists to perform. This year soloists include multiple award winning violinist, Itamar Zorman; IPO Double Bass player, Noam Massarik; solo pianist and faculty member of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Daniel Gortler; and guest principal violist of the IPO, Marc Sabbah.
“This year, we are delighted to welcome Mezzo-Soprano Anna Huntley from England,” remarked Raz Kohn in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post. “She is known as an outstanding recitalist and praised for her beautiful tone of voice and superb artistry. She was in Israel last year, and performed the role of Hermia in Midsummer’s Night Dream with the Israel Opera. The Lieder of Schubert, which are his art songs, are one of her specialties.”
“Schubert was one of the world’s greatest composers of melodies,” explained Kohn. “They seemed to ‘fly’ out of his sleeves, and he could write several songs with accompaniment in one morning. This was his forte, (strong point) and he created a new song form, called the “art song,” in which the voice and piano are of equal importance, and carry on a dialogue with each other,” Kohn said.
Although penniless and without acumen for getting his larger works performed during his lifetime, Schubert was a respected member of the Vienna literati, musicians, artists, and poets, such as Schiller, Goethe, and Heine, whose words he had the permission to use to form the text of his “art songs.”
Schubert’s “gatherings” attracted the best artists. Solomon Sultzer – the cantor of Vienna’s main synagogue, the Stadttempel – had the reputation of having the finest baritone voice of his time. He was a frequent guest at Schubert’s musical evenings. In return, Schubert composed music for the synagogue’s choirs.
Kohn pointed out the centerpiece for the Israel Schubertiade evenings to be performed throughout Israel will be Schubert’s famous and much loved Trout Quintet. Written for one violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano, it is perhaps his most popular work.
Composed after a happy trip through upper Austria, Schubert was asked to make his song Die Forelle (“The Trout”) available to players of chamber music. Franz Schubert complied with the Quintet in A Major for piano and strings, whose fourth movement is a set of variations on the melody of the song.
“The revolutionary aspect of this piece,” explained Kohn,“ is the use of the piano both as a solo and ensemble instrument.” Its innovation is displayed in how Schubert strengthened the strings with the double bass making it an integral part of the string quartet.
As a contemporary introduction to Schubert’s Trout Quintet, the soloists of the Schubertiade will play Reflections on Schubert’s Trout for Viola and Piano by the Israeli cellist, composer and arranger Doron Toister. Termed “jazzy and light” by Kohn, it will be the perfect balance of the evening.
For Further information about tickets and concert locations between January 25 and February 3 visit The Israeli Schubertiade site.