Saturday, February 21, 2009

Save me the waltz

The always vigilant Prof. G wants to alert us here in Blog-O-Land to a recording of a waltz supposedly by Franz Schubert. Here it is on YouTube.

Quoth Prof. G, "Please let me know if this is spurious."

I like that, being set up as judge and jury. Ahem.

The waltz in the link above is called the "Kupelwieser Waltz," because the story goes that Schubert wrote it for the wedding of his friend Paul Kupelwieser, and it was just passed down through the family, generation to generation, no one writing it down.

Paul Kupelwieser was the brother of the painter Leopold Kupelwieser, who did the sweet drawing of a young-and-handsome, not bespectacled-and-tubby Schubert pictured above. Maybe you have stumbled on those heartbreaking letters Schubert wrote about how his health would never be the same again. He wrote those letters to Leopold Kupelwieser. Leopold Kupelwieser also did the drawing you see if you watch the video, of Schubert and his friends heading off into the countryside.

And he did this painting you see all the time of Schubert and his friends -- rehearsing, the caption says, but it looks more like horsing around. They did have some fun in that circle! That is the idea I always get.

So what to think of this story? Is this waltz genuine? That is what we are wondering.

I had heard the story that there was a waltz that Schubert had played at someone's wedding, and it had been passed down. But I had it in my head that it was the "Trauerwaltz" that is to be found among his piano waltzes. It is amazing, the stories you can carry around in your head and never question or think about.

Here is the waltz I had thought that story was about. Hilarious performance! But, you know, things like this remind you that this music lives. Here is this girl playing this waltz for her friends and she cracks up and Schubert, I think, would have liked that.

About the "Kupelwieser Waltz," my first thought I have to confess is: Why didn't someone along the line write it down?

I am just saying. What, did the Kupelwiesers just sit around and gloat over it, that they had this waltz by Schubert, and no one else did?

Because no one wrote it down, I would bet we are dealing with a kind of game-of-Telephone situation -- one person tells it to another who tells it to another and gradually over the years little things are lost and changed. That ending, for instance, that does not sound like Schubert to me.

You get a lot of that Telephone situation when it comes to Schubert, because his biographer Otto Erich Deutsch -- as well as others, I am guessing -- went around and interviewed Schubert's friends when they were near the end of their lives. Thank God they did, but you get some misinformation mixed in there.

With all this in mind, though, there is something so touching about this waltz. Actually it reminds me of the "Trauerwaltz" I mentioned up above. So I tend to believe the story.

Here is the "Kupelwieser Waltz" played by Aldo Ciccolini, which does give it some legitimacy. They identify it as "Kugelwieser Waltz," by the way, if you look. More misinformation!

It is interesting how Ciccolini plays the theme, treating the upper notes in the right hand as accompaniment. What a beautiful little piece.

But a bit out of place, I am thinking, in that big, formal setting.

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