Frank Schubert / Hans Ovesen
Bergmann Edition: Score and separate parts (54, 17, 14, 13, 13, and 12 pages respectively)
This piece has a strange history for those who are not familiar with it, for the Arpeggione was an odd hybrid instrument, being a mixture of a guitar and a cello but played with a bow. It was invented in 1823 the year before Schubert wrote this work (originally for Arpeggione and piano) .It then waited 50 years to be published, at which point, the instrument was no longer being played!
Over the years many different combinations of arrangements have been made, but I couldn’t find any previous version for this combination of instruments, although dividing the piano part up into four players should make the parts a lot easier for everybody.
As the Arpeggione was tuned like the guitar, the actual transference from the original score to the guitar should be seamless, except where the bowing technique used by the arpeggione creates a different end result to the plucking of the guitar strings.
The opening Allegro Moderato follows the standard Sonata form and being in the original key of A minor transfers very well to the new instrumentation. Unusually, the wistful opening theme is a 9-bar phrase, further extended when repeated by the bass. The second theme of this sonata-form movement is lighter with semiquaver patterns alternating with octave leaps. In the development Schubert plays with the semiquaver patterns in particular, with imitation from the quartet. After the recapitulation, the coda is quite extended and full of feeling and capped off by two strong chords in a Perfect cadence.
The 2nd movement is an Adagio with a songlike feel, the opening melody accompanied by flowing quavers and a strong bass line. A contrasting section becomes more tragic, but then instead of returning to the opening melody, Schubert introduces a new section which is full of heartfelt phrases in long notes with simple accompaniment, before a short passage for solo bass leads unexpectedly and directly into the finale, an Allegretto in the key of A major. This final movement is a rondo, and has a dance – like happy disposition in its main theme, and contrasting episodes in between. The final recall of the rondo theme leads to a diminuendo and an emphatic fortissimo cadence that closes the piece is a firm but friendly way.
As a guitar piece it works really well, with the actual music quite difficult but available to any intermediate player. As an actual Schubert piece I think it’s fair to say that it’s not Schubert at his absolute best, but the string quartet really helps to give the music an emotional lift that perhaps the piano doesn’t manage quite as well.