Arthur Schnabel: he was always on the run

Arthur Schnabel: he was always on the run


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2018

A new film about the phenomenal pianist and his forgotten music is about to hit the screens.

If the link doesn’t work, click here.


  • David R Osborne says:

    Now this I gotta see!

    • Harold Lewis says:

      Some of Schnabel’s symphonic music is available on CD. I recall with affection his ‘Rhapsody for Orchestra’, recorded in the 1950s through the Maharajah of Mysore’s music foundation. I would dearly love to hear that work again, but so far as I know it has never appeared on CD.

      • La Verita says:

        Schnabel’s 3 Symphonies were recorded some 30 years ago, in a project financed by his wealthy mistress, and conducted by Paul Zhukovsky. Not exactly easy listening – Schnabel was wise to have kept his day-job.

    • David R Osborne says:

      How marvelous. Thanks.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Thank you!
      At 1:06 the film states that Schnabel is almost forgotten in Germany. As a composer, sure. But as a pianist? I can hardly believe that he is not one of the best known pianists of his generation, or that young piano students will not know about him. Am I wrong?

      • Sue says:

        I certainly hope that you are wrong; he’s one of the most significant figures in art music from the 20th century. But why would I not be surprised that students are not taught history? When I was teaching most of my students didn’t know anything about WW2!!!

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Sue, I may have mixed up the negatives. Let me restate it: of course Schnabel is one the foremost pianists of his generation and I would expect serious piano students to know about him. So I don’t understand why the movie called him a forgotten figure. And wondered whether I am naive about my expectations from young people.

          What you wrote about ww2 sounds shocking. What age students and how long ago?

          When I was a kid, we all knew about ww2, even we were fuzzy on details. That’s because our parents had memories from it. Not all our knowledge came from the classroom.

  • Andrew Condon says:

    When Christian Tetzlaff was in his mid 20s, he recorded a disc of the Schnabel Violin Sonata of 1935 and the Solo Violin Sonata of 1919. The latter was first performed by Carl Flesch in 1929 and apparently was universally rejected. At 45 minutes it still sounds pretty severe and uncompromising.

  • Brian B says:

    I can’t wait to see this. By coincidence, I had just listened to his (first) recordings of the five Beethoven concerti earlier this week after years of lying fallow on the shelf.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Schnabel’s Beethoven sonatas has been and will likely remain my “go to” set. Despite the ancient sonics, all the wrong notes, the understanding and musicianship is of the highest order. So, some 25 years ago I picked up his Symphony no. 2. The Royal Philharmonic! What could go wrong? Everything. Horrible, vile, ugly music. How could this great pianist write such crap? Worse than anything Schoenberg, Berg, Webern could ever write. Just awful. Then I watched this film. There was some frankly interesting, listenable music. Maybe I’ll give the symphony another try. I still can’t see anything of his ever becoming repertoire pieces.

    • Hilary says:

      It could be that after 25years you’re listening to music in a different way? That would certainly be true of me.

      You’re onto something though: Those primarily known as great performers/conductors aren’t always on a very high level as creators. Not including Bernstein and Holliger, my impression, is that Igor Markevitch is among the best of the batch.
      In more recent years, Salonen’s work has struck me as brilliantly orchestrated but lacking in any depth. I like hearing him talking about his music though.

    • David R Osborne says:

      yes, the early post-Brahms stuff is borderline listenable. It is hard to imagine anything more dreary than his later music though (except perhaps this documentary). Disappointed because I love his Beethoven and most particularly his Schubert. Mistakes and all!

  • ROverBeethoven says:

    Fantastic film, fascinating music. Does anyone know if there are decent recordings of the later works, i.e. not recorded by his daughter?

  • Cyril Blair says:

    I quite liked his music as heard in the film. Too bad this stuff is never performed.

  • ELODIE says:

    This fine film and the music contained within would suggest that history hasn’t given Schnabel a fair shake, at least as a composer. He died just as the world was turning back toward musical conservatism, and he probably never did enough in his lifetime to promote his own music. At least Arte had the decency to finally bring some exposure to these works. As the elderly critic says in the film, Schnabel’s music is not performed. And what is never performed is never known.

  • Guido Houben says:

    At the Megève Festival you’ll have the chance to attend the No Place of Exile concert and a discussion w the artists in addition to watching the movie: