MOMENT MUSICAUX, OPUS 94, NO. 6
ARTUR SCHNABEL, PIANO
Franz Schubert was not responsible for giving the title “Moments Musicaux” to six of his wonderful piano pieces. That was the fault of his publisher—who made two errors with such a title: the pieces are not moments—or miniatures—at all. Some of them, as we’ll see, could last at least six minutes. And, “Moments musicaux” is a corruption of what should have been, in French, “Momens musicals.” But, when the pieces were published in the summer of 1828, Schubert was already dying, and had no motivation at all to have the title changed.
The six pieces are among Schubert’s most attractive—which is really saying something. Number six in A-flat Major has always been one of my favorites. It is an otherworldly minuet, with so many harmonies of momentary richness.
As a barometer of artistic license—and of certain pieces withstanding a variety of tempi and still being enjoyable—one can find on YouTube many versions of this Moment Musicaux, varying from six to thirteen (!) minutes. I’ve chosen this one by Artur Schnabel (at about six minutes) because of the simplicity and straightforwardness of his interpretation. The recording, as you’ll hear, is over 80 years old, yet not sounding that old at all. Schnabel was known as THE great Beethoven interpreter of his day, but his Schubert was also outstanding.
Schnabel also had a penetrating intellect. His book, Music and the Line of Most Resistance, written in 1942, could have been written yesterday, an apropos commentary on the place of music in our modern society.
Poor Schubert, knowing he was dying, and still reacting to his inner compulsion to compose, compose, compose. He wrote more great music in the year 1828 than most composers wrote in their lifetimes. This Moment Musicaux is just a crumb from his table.