For nearly 40 years Professor Paul Robertson performed throughout the world as leader of the internationally renowned Medici String Quartet, of which he was a founder member. He is Radio 3's guide to the chamber music in The Spirit of Schubert. Here, he offers his personal analysis of Schubert's greatness.
There are many ways of measuring musical greatness and, like everyone else, when it comes to composers I have my own criteria. Naturally we would take as given that all 'great' composer possess superb technical mastery. But as we all know, there are many fine composers who, even despite their technique (and sometimes even perhaps because of it) somehow never, or only occasionally rise to 'greatness'.
Apart from an occasional tendency to explore 'divine length' I have never thought to question Schubert's place alongside the other immortals of the Western classical tradition. So to seek to define compositional greatness we clearly need to consider many other much more elusive qualities. Can these be measured or even articulated? and if so how many could we consider objective or impartial? I shall be very interested to read what you consider to be the unique qualities that marks out the genius of Schubert.
To start here are a few suggestions of my own:
All of this, and probably much else as well, is vital to musical greatness and we would all probably have a pretty clear notion as to who we believe should grace this list. However, with dear Schubert who more than fulfilled all the beautiful qualities above there is another much more rare set of personal qualities who, I believe set him apart even from many of the other 'greats':
But I feel sure that Schubert would have welcomed me into his home and fortunate circle without the least reservation or awkwardness.
I also believe that one can sense this beautiful quality within his music and that makes it very precious indeed to me.
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