I’ve continued to work on the Schubert piano sonata I described in one of the least-read AUFS posts in history. I feel pretty confident on the first movement, though there are still places that need work. Now most of my efforts are directed at the second movement, which begins on pg. 12 of this PDF score.
Its most striking feature is a repeated background pattern in the left hand (modelled by the four C-sharps in the first measure). Being familiar with the piece from recordings, I didn’t find it difficult to execute, though it might have been hard to figure out how it all fit together without the recording. Yet it does present a question of interpretation: should the top note, which crosses over into right-hand territory, sound like a part of the melody? To use the first measure as an example: should the top C-sharp sound like it’s leading into the chords the follow, or should there be a marked distinction between the left-hand pattern and the right-hand melody? Alfred Brendel’s recording (available on Spotify) opts to incorporate the left-hand part into the melody, but I prefer to highlight the contrast — playing the final left-hand note more softly, as though it’s a distant background chime.
One could make this decision solely on the basis of personal inclination, but I prefer to ground my interpretation in my understanding of the first movement. One of its strangest aspects is a seemingly “random” G-flat trill in the left hand, which halts the action twice during the piece (on the introduction of the main theme). Only in its last appearance (also on pg. 12 of the PDF) does the right hand “acknowledge” it by playing a chord in sync with the F on which the trill resolves. It’s almost as though a fly that has been buzzing around the piece has been swatted — although as I note in my previous post, the odd G-flat trill does seem to introduce a kind of derangement into the piece, which includes unexpected dissonances and which undergoes a sudden shift into a more somber mood toward the middle, in a section that seems to anticipate the second movement.
It’s appropriate that the second movement should have its own “alien body” in the form of the left-hand pattern — and also appropriate that it should be more tightly integrated (through fitting with the dominant key signature, for instance, and shifting to fit with the harmonies). Yet have we really arrived at a point where that foreign element is fully incorporated? I don’t think so, at least not until the end of the movement, when the rough edges have been smoothed off (in the form of a rhythmic shift that hits each beat in the measure, as opposed to the jerkier early version). Making that top note into a part of the melody seems to me to be forcing matters prematurely.