Duo gets back to the basics with Beethoven, Schubert and Ravel

HueblWait2Franz Schubert’s fantastic Fantasy in C major is played so infrequently it may as well be an endangered species. “I’ve heard that the Fantasy was performed here in Nashville, but that was before my time,” says pianist Mark Wait, who’s been at the Blair School of Music for nearly 20 years. “But I for one have never heard it performed in concert anywhere before.”

That changes this week, when Wait and his duo partner, violinist Carolyn Huebl, present Schubert’s unjustly neglected masterpiece in recital. Their concert, which begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Turner Hall, will also include Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 in C minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 30, No. 2 and Ravel’s Sonata No. 2 in G major.

Unlike Wait, Huebl had previously heard the Fantasy in recital. But she had never played it. “I was afraid of the Fantasy,” says Huebl. “The piece has a reputation of being impossibly difficult. It took Mark Wait to talk me into learning it this summer.”

schubertSchubert’s Fantasy has certainly come by its fearsome reputation honestly. Like many of the composer’s works, it’s dauntingly difficult to play, even though it seldom sounds overtly virtuosic. The opening “Andante molto” requires the pianist to play right-hand piano tremolos and figurations against tricky left-hand trills. The violinist’s long, lyrical lines have to soar and sing. Indeed, Schubert found inspiration for much of this Fantasy in his songs. The third-movement “Andantino,” surely the heart of the entire piece, is an extended set of variations on Schubert’s great song “Sei mir gegrüßt.”

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 would seem to be the perfect complement to the Schubert. It is, after all, another Viennese masterpiece, and it’s in the relative minor key to boot. Wait and Huebl, however, say they weren’t looking to make deep musicological connections between the pieces. “The Beethoven is simply a piece we’ve been playing for a while,” says Wait.

Beethoven published his C minor sonata in 1803, at a pivotal moment in his life. “It was around that time that he realized he was going deaf,” says Wait. It’s doubtful that the composer’s impending deafness had anything to do with all the Sturm und Drang in the violin sonata. What is known is that Beethoven reserved C minor for his stormiest works – like the Sonata Pathétique, the Piano Concerto No. 3 and the Fifth Symphony.

Ravel’s sonata is on the program because it happens to be one of Huebl’s oldest friends. One of Ravel’s most elegant creations, it was composed in the mid-1920s, not long after the composer heard his first American jazz. The second movement is about as elegant as the blues ever gets. “I love the Ravel sonata,” says Huebl. “It’s one of the most colorful work that I know.”

If you go

Violinist Carolyn Huebl and pianist Mark Wait perform Beethoven, Schubert and Ravel. Their concert is 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Turner Hall, 2400 Blakemore Ave. Admission is free.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.