The articulations in Schubert Sonata D960

Articulations can actually help us understand the phrase’s form that the author had in mind. 

In the first eight bars of the first movement of Schubert's Sonata D960, the author indicates many things through the slurs.  

For example, it is evident that the first part of the initial phrase arrives at bar two, at D, where there is a dissonance in the left hand which creates a resonance with the right hand.  It is on this note that a new slur begins.  As Paul Badura-Skoda always said, in the classic style the slur is the smallest form of accent because the first note requires a kind of small support while the last note is always to be considered without support, nuanced.  This simple principle already helps us a lot to understand the form that a composer of the classical style like Schubert had in mind.  

In the first bar, despite a slur being present, an exaggerated accent to B flat would not be perfectly in line with the harmonic tension that this music expresses because the harmonic direction leads the phrase towards the D of the second bar. 

Another important aspect concerns agogics, that is, the management of time, flexibility.  Certainly slurs do not necessarily indicate the rubato, but they certainly indicate a tension, a flow that has its own direction. In a musical period of 4/6/8 bars, the accent almost never falls on the first or even on the second bar; these therefore become a sort of "upbeat" directed towards the musical support point.  Focusing on the phrase’s point of support is one of the most important things that can make a big difference in the expressive result. 

In the third bar Schubert indicates three equal chords, but which are not equal from the point of view of the articulation.  The first two are loose, they do not have any slurs or other signs, while the third has a slur that starts right on the third quarter and then fades on the other two notes.  Schubert therefore meant that the first two notes were "up", upbeat, while the third "down", supported. 

The downbeat of bar five presents the first accent indicated by the author in this composition, an expressive, non-rhythmic accent that signals an important point of support for the melody.  The E is in fact the highest note of the melody in these first eight bars and we also find here a harmonic change, while remaining in the B flat pedal, therefore in the tonic. 

On the trill in the low register at bar eight, Schubert indicates a slur that starts from G flat and ends on the final note F, in which we notice the original staccatissimo sign.  It is therefore not a question of softly fading the trill, but on the contrary, the staccatissimo sign and the fact that the note is short (a quaver) and moreover followed by a long pause, makes us think that it is a trill with a strong tension that does not fade, that does not settle down.  The tension of the dominant chord must in fact be maintained in order to be able to effectively manage the long silence that follows. 

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