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Schubert's Dances

For Family, Friends and Posterity

Martin Chusid
November 6, 2013

294 pp.

5 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576472392

Paperback 6X9 $48.00


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Of the several genres comprising Schubert’s prodigious compositional output, the one that has attracted the least attention from scholars has been his approximately 500 dances. Of these, more than 200 were published during his lifetime, twice as many as his songs; and they were received enthusiastically by the public. Yet, strangely enough, there has been only one slim volume devoted to the subject and it is in German, Schubert und das Tanzvergnügen (Schubert and the Enjoyment of the Dance). A translation of the opening section of that book forms the Introduction to our volume where it is entitled “Dancing in Vienna in the Early 19th Century.”

Although the composer’s dances have been enjoyed in the United States and England by pianists and their pupils for generations, the current book is the first in English about them. Furthermore, there are relatively few articles or commentaries of substance that treat them seriously. Our publication begins with chapters on the minuets, all of which were written for members of his family, and his ecosaisses, primarily itended for his friends. Later another section is devoted to the polonaises and his other four hand dances, works that Schubert composed mainly for his only serious students, the Countesses Marie and Caroline Esterhazy. But by far the largest portion of the volume is devoted to the quick, triple-meter compositions Schubert labeled German dances or ländler, although his publishers most often gave them the title of Waltzes. The composer, however, used the term Walzer just once in his lifetime; and he did so in the course of a humorous poem to rhyme with the word Pfalzer, an inhabitant of the Rhine region of Germany, at the conclusion of a dance he in fact called a Deutscher (German dance).

In the course of studying the dances a number of points insufficientally, or not at all, discussed in the Schubert literature has emerged. For one thing forty, approximatel 8% of these relatively short compositions—most are only 16 or 24 measures in length—begin and end in different keys. This is and aspect of Schubert’s fremarkable harmonic imagination also visible in some 75 of his well over 600 songs.

Another aspect of interest is that, despite their similarity in meter and tempo, there is a considerable diffence in musical character between the dances Schubert called German dances and those he labeled ländler. A third noteworthy feature of the composer’s dances is the manner in which all of his later published dance sets, those which appeared from late 1825 to the end of his life in 1828 are organized tonally. They all begin and end in the same key. And, furthermore, they display close inner relationships as well. In contrast, of his earlier dance sets, those issued from 1821 to early 1825, a single group, the twelve waltzes of Op. 18 (D. 145), is rounded tonally in similar fashion.

Finally, of the eminent composers influenced by Schubert, there are three who were particularly fascinated by his dances: Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms. Their frequently expressed warm admiration for the composer, and especially their deep concern for his dances, are treated in the closing section of this volume, the Epilogue.

December 11, 2013

Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 - 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer. In a short lifespan of less than 32 years, Schubert was a prolific composer, writing some 600 Lieder, ten complete or nearly complete symphonies (including the most famous of the incomplete ones, the "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades immediately after his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms, along with other lesser lights, discovered and championed his works through the remainder of the century. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the early Romantic era and, as such, is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.

Schubert composed some 500 dances, of which about 200 were published in his lifetime. Schubert's Dances: For Family, Friends and Posterity" by Martin Chusid is a 294 page compendium that provides an informed, informative, and long overdue study of this aspect of Schubert's compositional career. Of special note is the epilogue "Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms on Schubert and His Dances". Enhanced with a glossary of terms, a list of Schubert's dances, an extensive bibliography, and indices, Schubert's Dances: For Family, Friends and Posterity is an impressive and seminal work of scholarship, making it an extraordinary addition to academic library and collegiate musical department reference collections in general and to Schubert Studies supplemental study reading lists in particular.

Jim Cox
“The Music Shelf”
Midwest Book Review



November 26, 2013

Of the several genres comprising Schubert’s prodigious compositional output, the one that has attracted the least attention from scholars has been his approximately 500 dances. Of these, more than 200 were published during his lifetime, twice as many as his songs; and they were received enthusiastically by the public. Yet, strangely enough, there has been only one slim volume devoted to the subject and it is in German, Schubert und das Tanzvergnügen (Schubert and the Enjoyment of the Dance). A translation of the opening section of that book forms the Introduction to Schubert's Dances where it is entitled "Dancing in Vienna in the Early 19th Century."

Although the composer’s dances have been enjoyed in the United States and England by pianists and their pupils for generations, Schubert's Dances is the first in English about them. Furthermore, there are relatively few articles or commentaries of substance that treat them seriously. This book, by Martin Chusid, who taught full-time at the University of Southern California and then New York University, where he was Chairman of the Music Department, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, and Director of the American Institute for Verdi Studies, begins with chapters on the minuets, all of which were written for members of his family, and his ecosaisses, primarily intended for his friends. Later another section is devoted to the polonaises and his other four hand dances, works that Schubert composed mainly for his only serious students, the Countesses Marie and Caroline Esterhazy. But by far the largest portion of Schubert's Dances is devoted to the quick, triple-meter compositions Schubert labeled "German dances" or Ländler, although his publishers most often gave them the title of "Waltzes." The composer, however, used the term Walzer just once in his lifetime; and he did so in the course of a humorous poem to rhyme with the word Pfalzer, an inhabitant of the Rhine region of Germany, at the conclusion of a dance, he in fact called a Deutscher (German dance).

In the course of studying the dances, a number of points insufficiently, or not at all, discussed in the Schubert literature has emerged. For one thing, forty, approximately 8% of these relatively short compositions – most are only 16 or 24 measures in length – begin and end in different keys. This is an aspect of Schubert’s remarkable harmonic imagination also visible in some 75 of his well over 600 songs.

Another aspect of interest is that, despite their similarity in meter and tempo, there is a considerable difference in musical character between the dances Schubert called "German dances" and those he labeled Ländler. A third noteworthy feature of the composer’s dances is the manner in which all of his later published dance sets, those which appeared from late 1825 to the end of his life in 1828, are organized tonally. They all begin and end in the same key. And, furthermore, they display close inner relationships as well. In contrast, of his earlier dance sets, those issued from 1821 to early 1825, a single group, the twelve waltzes of Op. 18 (D. 145), is rounded tonally in similar fashion.

Of the eminent composers influenced by Schubert, there are three who were particularly fascinated by his dances: Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms. Their frequently expressed warm admiration for the composer, and especially their deep concern for his dances, are treated in the closing section of Schubert's Dances.

Savannah Jones
“SirReadaLot.org”
Review Editor

Martin Chusid:

It is with sadness that we report that scholar and emeritus professor of Music at NYU Martin Chusid passed away at his Connecticut home on December 11th.

We will miss him.

Born Aug. 19, 1925 and began studying piano at age 8. After serving in the U. S. army during WW II, he began studying music theory with Mark Brunswick at CCNY. He continued studying music theory at the University of California, Berkeley, with William Denny and Charles Cushing taking additional courses with Andrew Imbrie and Roger Sessions while continuing his piano studies with Marjorie Gear Petray. During his years of graduate work he studied musicology with Manfred Bukofzer (primarily), Edgar Sparks, Joseph Kerman and Edward Lowinsky. His Master’s thesis was on The Sonata Rondos of Mozart and his Doctoral dissertation was devoted to The Chamber Music of Schubert. He taught full-time at the University of Southern California (1959-1963) and New York University (1963-2007) where he was Chairman of the Music Department (1967-1970), Acting Chairman several times, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science (1970-72), and Director of the American Institute for Verdi Studies (1976-2007). He has been Visiting Professor of Music at Boston University, University of British Columbia, Southern Methodist University, Princeton University, and Brigham Young University. He was Reviews Editor for the College Music Symposium (1967-71) and edited the Verdi Newsletter (1977-98). In addition to editing Rigoletto, the first volume of The Works of Giuseppe Verdi (1983), he has been a member of their editorial board since that date. He has organized, or helped organize, International Verdi Congresses at Danville, Kentucky (1977), Irvine, California (1980), Belfast, Northern Ireland (1992), and Parma-New York-New Haven (2001), with two Verdi Conferences at Sarasota, Florida (1994 and 1996). He has written numerous articles on the music of Verdi, others about the instrumental music of Schubert, a few concerned with the operas of Mozart, and on the late masses of Haydn and the late operas of Dvorak.

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