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Violin Music: Let the Fireworks Fly in This Bravura Schubert Piece!

Schubert’s Rondo brillant in B minor, Op. 70, for violin and piano

Prior to writing the Rondo brillant in B minor, Op. 70, for violin and piano (1826), the Austrian composer Franz Schubert had only once before exhibited a tendency toward extroverted bravura: in the “Wanderer” Fantasie for piano, written in 1822. The Rondo is probably the least familiar of those two duos, and, standing somewhat uneasily at the crossroad of intimate chamber music and virtuosic display, also the least successful of Schubert’s works for violin and piano. But it is well deserving of close consideration.

As implied by “brillant,” the duo aims to be a bravura piece, and it certainly offers both players plenty of opportunities to show their tonal and technical prowess: octaves, jumps, and heavy chords in the piano part recall what the great pianist Andras Schiff describes as “Beethoven’s two-fisted” approach. But Schubert’s innate lyricism and poetic inwardness are never far away, and, as if seeking refuge from an alien style, he keeps reverting to his usual subdued voice in passages of great delicacy and charm.

It is in these, and in the inspired melodies and magical harmonies, that the “real” Schubert is to be found.

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