This 46-minute ballet for 16 dancers and two onstage pianists consists of twenty-three dances and one impromptu for two solo pianists and orchestra. Not seen since 1984, it was revived to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Schubert's birth. The ballet's inspiration (and title) comes from what became known as "Schubert evenings" or "Schubertiads." The guests at these informal Viennese musicales were the composer's patrons and friends, and included other musicians, as well as poets and painters. Schubert himself often played the piano at these gatherings; as the evening progressed, he would start to extemporize music to which the guests could dance.
The sets for A Schubertiad recall the early 19th-century Vienna of Schubert's lifetime: a salon inside an estate manor house and a lush garden. The men's costumes reflect the Biedermeier styles of the period, while the women are dressed in more balletic gowns. Mr. Martins' atmospheric ballet is filled with many examples of the inventive partnering for which he is known.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) born in Vienna, never achieved international recognition while he was alive. A freelance composer all his life, he occasionally taught but did not have the inclination or temperament for the limelight of performances. His compositions were largely inspired by nature and the poetry of his time. Though he died at 31, he is credited with making possible the development of the Lied as an independent art form and bringing new Romanticism and poetry to the symphony, quartet and sonata forms.