Schubert's Last Sonatas
Franz Schubert's last three piano sonatas, numbered 958, 959 and 960 in Deutsch's catalogue of Schubert's complete works, are the composer's last major compositions for the piano. They were written during the last months of Schubert's life, between the spring and autumn of 1828, but were not published until about ten years after his death, in 1838–39. Like the rest of Schubert’s piano sonatas, they were mostly neglected in the 19th century. By the late 20th century, however, public and critical opinion had changed, and Schubert's last sonatas are now considered amongst the most important of the composer's mature masterpieces. They are part of the core piano repertoire, appearing regularly on concert programs and recordings.
One of the reasons for the long period of neglect of Schubert's piano sonatas seems to be their dismissal as structurally and dramatically inferior to the sonatas of Beethoven. In fact, the last sonatas contain distinct allusions and similarities to works by Beethoven, a composer Schubert venerated. However, musicological analysis has shown that they maintain a mature, individual style. Schubert's last sonatas are now praised for their mature style, manifested in unique features such as a cyclical formal and tonal design, chamber music textures, and a rare depth of emotional expression.
The three sonatas are cyclically interconnected by diverse structural, harmonic and melodic elements tying together all movements in each sonata, as well as all three sonatas together; consequently, they are often regarded as a trilogy. They also contain specific allusions and similarities to other Schubert compositions, such as his Winterreise song cycle; these connections point to turbulent emotions expressed in the sonatas, often understood as highly personal and autobiographical. Indeed, some researchers have suggested specific psychological narratives for the sonatas, based on historical evidence concerning the composer's life.
Read more about Schubert's Last Sonatas: Historical Background, Structure, Compositional Process, Unifying Elements and Cyclicism, Allusion To Other Works By Schubert, Extramusical Connotations and Suggestions of A Narrative, Beethoven's Influence, Reception, Criticism and Influence, Legacy, Performance Issues, Available Editions and Recordings, Media