About this work
Franz Schubert spent the spring and summer of 1817 composing piano sonatas and when autumn came and he discovered some residual thoughts for piano scherzos floating around his head, he simply put them down on paper as two self-standing scherzos and left it at that. In 1871, these two slender works found their way into print as the 2 Scherzos for piano, and Otto Erich Deutsch entered them in his complete Schubert catalog as D. 583.
In both, Schubert adopts the usual three-section "da capo" plan of such pieces (ABA, the B section being known as the trio -- a holdover from the scherzo's days as the bastard child of the minuet). In addition, the music of the A section is itself broken up into two contrasting strains of music, the second of which digresses from and then returns to the melody and harmonies of the opening.
The first is an Allegretto in B flat that is surely among the most immediately disarming representatives of its species. Here the humor is not that of a headlong plunge into musical recklessness, as with so many Beethoven's scherzos, but rather that of mock-docility. During the second section of the scherzo-proper (as opposed to the trio section) Schubert makes a move to D flat major, but unravels this new key after about eight bars with a thread of spinning triplets that eventually run their way down into the deep bass register. The lovely piano-pianissimo melody of the E flat major trio portion dips and sways as though in a rocking chair.
The second is marked Allegro moderato and takes as its home key the D flat major hinted at during the previous piece. It is an altogether more outgoing piece of music, boisterously plodding forth on what sounds very much like an old German drinking tune, but still making room, at the end of each phrase, for the kind of sprightly staccato eighth notes that saturate the first Scherzo. In the subsidiary passage to the opening section, the pianist suddenly finds him- or herself up in E major; and the move back down to D flat is made in just as sudden and surprising a way. The A flat major trio, a bit of music also found in the scherzo of Schubert's E flat major Piano Sonata, D. 568, composed the same year, is filled with gentle dotted rhythms.