Piano Sonata No.11

Franz Schubert

Piano Sonata No.11 in F minor


About this work

This work is a romantic piano sonata that is ambiguous in both structure and expression. The opening Allegro is never sure whether it wants to settle into agitation or serenity. It begins by alternating ominous and easygoing versions of the same motif, and eventually a troubled theme takes off over a restrained and straightforward background. A triplet-dominated transition featuring the opening figure in alternating registers follows and leads to a second theme that is predominantly serene even though some of the movement's trouble still rumbles beneath the surface in the uneasy accompaniment. The development often features triplet-driven backdrops as it continues to explore the emotional indecisiveness of the exposition. Schubert did not complete this movement--as written it has no recapitulation.

The subsequent allegretto scherzo often seems to grope for metric and melodic definition. In some places it settles into a more flowing expressiveness that is mildly troubled in mood and that takes some interesting harmonic sidesteps.

Schubert followed the scherzo with an Adagio that he eventually excluded from the sonata and issued separately at his publisher's suggestion. It begins with a straightforward and chordally harmonized melody that longs for serenity, neither overtly troubled nor convincingly consoled. The music eventually makes its way to a section driven by single-line and repeated-chord triplets where some tension does come to the surface.

The allegro finale starts with some restless rushing figures that later emerge as the accompaniment for some syncopated melodic fragments. The second theme provides a chorale-like contrast but cannot escape the movement's overall nervousness--rushing figurations show up below it, and it is eventually turned into a loud chordal statement with some fetching harmonic shifts. The anxious figurations underpin the first part of the development, and eventually repeated-chord accompaniments take over. As in the first movement, the music isn't quite sure if it wants to settle into agitation or serenity, and it ends with three quiet tonic major triads.