Grand Duo (Schubert)

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For Schubert's Violin Sonata in A, see Violin Sonata in A (Schubert)

The Sonata in C major by Franz Schubert, D 812 (Op. posth. 140), for piano four-hands (two players at one piano), is one of Schubert's most important works for two pianists.


Schubert wrote this work in the spring of 1824 while at Zseliz on the Esterházy estate, probably for the two countesses he was tutoring at the time.

At the time this work was written Schubert was too ill to play piano. He complained of pain in his bones and his left arm, headaches, and lesions in his mouth and throat. In a letter to his brother Ferdinand he described his illness as "a period of fateful recognition of a miserable reality, which I endeavour to beautify as far as possible by my imagination."[1]

The sonata was published after Schubert's death, in 1837, when it was printed with the title 'Grand Duo' – by which it is still popularly known, though there is no evidence that this was Schubert's title.

Structure and Analysis[edit]

There are four movements:

  • Allegro moderato
  • Andante
  • Scherzo and Trio (Allegro vivace)
  • Finale (Allegro vivace)

This is a mature and characteristic work by Schubert on the largest scale. The structures of the movements closely resemble those of a symphony and some passages appear to reproduce orchestral effects (though both these observations might apply to some of Schubert's solo piano sonatas). Thus in addition to its intrinsic qualities and interest the Grand Duo was soon believed by some authorities, including Robert Schumann, to be a transcription or draft of the missing so-called Gastein Symphony that Schubert was thought to have written in 1824. (It is only since the 1970s that it has been proved conclusively that there was no such work.[citation needed]) As a result, there have been a number of orchestral realizations of the Sonata as a symphony. The best known is by Joseph Joachim[2][3] (1855[3][4]), which was conducted by Brahms several times in the 1870s[5] and later recorded by Arturo Toscanini.[citation needed] Other completions are by Anthony Collins (1939),[2][6] Marius Flothuis (1940–42),[citation needed] Karl Salomon (1946),[6] Fritz Oeser (1948),[citation needed] René Leibowitz (c.1965),[7] Felix Weingartner,[7] and most recently Raymond Leppard.[7] Joachim altered the tempo of the finale to Allegro moderato.[citation needed]

The finale, like that of the B-flat sonata for solo piano (D. 960) from the composer's last year, opens deceptively in the wrong key, in this case, the relative minor, A minor (in the later solo sonata, after a unison G, the melody opens in the supertonic, C minor). In both cases, however, the harmonic deception is almost immediately 'corrected' by shifting to the main key.

A typical performance takes about 40 minutes.



  1. ^ Hayden, Deborah. "Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis", Basic Books, NY, 2004
  2. ^ a b (Shore 1950, p. 77)
  3. ^ a b (Horowitz 2000)
  4. ^ (Brown 1988, p. 8)
  5. ^ (Anderson 1994, p. 5)
  6. ^ a b (Brown 1958, p. 187)
  7. ^ a b c (Gibbs 1994)


External links[edit]