Here is my next attempt to lure you a little into the joys of classical music. It is, of course, a matter of personal taste; but, despite very stiff competition, my own view is that Franz Schubert was, without exception, the finest tunesmith of all time – and yes, that includes Mozart in my book. You know those times when you just can’t get a tune out of your head, and it starts to irritate you a bit? The truth is, research has proved that this is actually because we love it. As an introduction, try this Impromptu for piano, one of eight written in 1827 – and see if you can resist playing it again, or, better still, listening to the entire set: I promise you will not be disappointed! It has a beautiful melody, slightly melancholic, but the tune will grab you from the start.
I will share lots more of Schubert’s melodies with you in time. It is amazing to think how much this man achieved in his tragically short life, dying shortly before his 32nd birthday, having been a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral in 1827. And to put it into context, as I think it sometimes does help, George IV was on the throne in England; one of our great animal artists, Edwin Lansdeer, was active in the UK; while painters Goya, Delacroix and Ingres were all making their marks in Europe; poets Edgar Alan Poe and Tennyson were busy, as was author Sir Walter Scott.
And finally, a brief word about the pianist here, Vladimir Horowitz, who was born in 1903 and married the daughter of the great conductor, Toscanini (despite him speaking no Italian, and she no Russian!) He is widely regarded as one of the all time greats for his interpretations of Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and the Russians. His virtuosity is almost unparalleled, but just look at the lack of body movement and histrionics: whatever he plays, be it dramatic or soothing, this is a pianist who does not get in the way.
Apparently, his preferred performance time was a Sunday afternoon, as he believed his audiences were more relaxed then. So if you haven’t got the time today, maybe try it later in the week – but please do try it!