Masterclass: Schubert – Valse Noble in A Minor - Entrada

November 4, 2021

Masterclass: Schubert – Valse Noble in A Minor

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Franz Schubert composed hundreds of short dance pieces for piano–waltzes, Ländler, écossaises, minuets, polonaises, Deutsche, and galops.


In 1827, he published 12 Valse nobles, D. 969. The ninth of this set has become one of the most popular of all his dances, appearing in several anthologies and, most prominently, as the basis for the first section of Liszt’s showpiece, Soirées de Vienne No. 6 (also called “Valse-Caprices d’après Schubert”), a work championed by Vladimir Horowitz.

When I was a senior in high school, I recall reading an interview where Claudio Arrau declared that Schubert is “the last step in the interpretation.” This was a provocative statement for an 18-year-old. (What does he mean? Is Schubert the most elusive to interpret? And what is “the interpretation”?)

I have regularly encountered similar viewpoints from various artists over many years, and my attraction to his music has remained strong and only grown deeper throughout my life. I’ve studied major works in depth with several “Schubert pianists” (Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, and Karl Ulrich Schnabel) and have been fortunate to perform and coach over one hundred of Schubert’s 600+ songs, including both of his published song cycles.

Yet I’ve regularly found that students struggle with interpreting Schubert, even when I’ve thought that the difficulties seemed well within their reach. While it may seem obvious that the 2020s are light years away from the 1820s, it’s not merely the lightning-fast pace of modern-day life that inhibits many from entering Schubert’s world. Certainly, aesthetic elements are paramount, however, there are more tangible elements connected to style and technique that can be pursued more directly.

The Valse noble No. 9 in A minor presents opportunities to explore sound, gesture, lilt, agogic accents, touch, pedaling–and octaves–in an enchanting miniature. Most of us would consider it an intermediate to late-intermediate work, but we’ll categorize it at Entrada as “early advanced” due to its musical sophistication and the advanced concepts covered in this Masterclass.


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