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The work exhibits the characteristics of severe manic depression. Even Schubert himself explained in a letter that he was "In a word, I feel myself to be the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world." The importance of this information is that Schubert's music is an explicit imitation of his life. In more than an external sense, his music was a biography and an emotional outlet for his own demise. As a result a clearer picture of how Schubert's mood shifted creates a better understanding for both the motivation and actual sound of the arpeggione sonata. Within the music, shifts between the bright and cheerful to dark and brooding occur almost sporadically, displacing most listeners who first hear the sonata. Within the three movements of the sonata, there are consistent shifts from light to dark moods, especially evident in the first movement. Critics of this time period characterized his music as being "[Replete with] eccentricity, which unites the tragic with the comic, the pleasant with the repulsive, heroism with rant, the very saint with the harlequin, unites, exchanges, and even confuses them." Now that we have developed a greater contextual understanding of the composition's history, we must turn to the original manuscript to learn more about the character of the arpeggione sonata.
Schubert's arpeggione sonata exists today as through transcriptions. Since the original instrument for which it was written long became extinct, there were rare instances where this sonata was actually called forth. Among all the of existing stringed instruments, the cello was the only one that incorporated the piece into its existing repertoire because the instrument was similar in both size and range to the original instrument of the piece. Even then the cello was not an easy adaptor for this sonata because the arpeggione had a greater range due to its open strings. Thus in the modern sense the arpeggione sonata has been adapted to both the cello and the double bass, and these differences are immediately apparent from the original inscription.
It is clear that when Schubert actually wrote this piece, he gave significant thought to how the tuning of the particular instrument would have a significant impact on its long-term survival. The low E. has a very prominent position in the piece and it is very hard to duplicate with modern string instruments. The E. appears extensively in both the first movement and in the short bridge-phrase moving between the second and the third movements. Since the octave range for the arpeggione is similar to that of the classical guitar, it had the range to change from the low E. To a minor within the span of a few strokes. Schubert opted for solo tuning of the instrument which means that the top two strings would register within the upper register. However, when Schubert wrote the sonata he did not have any high a harmonics, these were later developed for the cello. Through transitions between strings, using open strings, the resulting harmonics produced a very interesting blend between the G minor and a minor arrangements. For the majority of the work, Schubert wrote for the high E. string in mind on the arpeggione, but this was mostly translated to the double bass as an a.
There are no existing records of the arpeggione in production, this is perhaps due to the fact that the arpeggione never had any following even in the immediate years after its production. However, the Arpeggione sonata is still played around the world, its transitive mood swings and melodies are both haunting and beautiful. As a result, existing recordings of this sonata takes the form of double bass, cello and even some classical guitar versions that are extremely popular today.
In general the Arpeggione experiment was a doomed one from the beginning. Both its original inventor and the subsequent composers who wrote for this instrument had a streak of bad luck. The inability of the instrument to enter into mainstream classical string play, meant that it quickly died out in Viennesian society. The remnants that existed from it are its history, and the very compelling story of the arpeggione sonata. Both of which have been…[continue]
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