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Last Things

Andras Schiff brought a program of last piano sonatas, by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, to Carnegie Hall.  Maybe it was his playing, maybe it was the acoustics (Carnegie is a jewel box–a big jewel box) but all the longer pieces–Beethoven Op. 111, the first and last movements of Schubert D. 960–seemed diffuse. Best was the second movement of the Schubert, Andante sostenuto. It is full of trap doors leading to new keys, most of them darker than you the one you dropped from, though a couple of the infrequent brighter ones were even more painful to enter.  These descents alternate with moments of consoling calm.

There is a mushroom called the Destroying Angel. It is beautiful and white, and resembles edible species. I am told that it is delicious. Anyone who eats it becomes ill, then experiences a false recovery, then falls ill again, often fatally. So in the Schubert you think, Angel, or Destroying Angel? The movement does end in a major key.

Schubert died two months after he finished the piece. The phrase “Have a nice life” is always used as a brush-off, but maybe Schubert was trying to say it in earnest, even if  life was only going to be two months, or a few measures longer.

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