The sonata is a satisfying piece for performer and audience. The best performances of the sonata make it sound effortlessly beautiful, a result that can only come about through long hours of practice. The instrument seems to have been devised concurrently in by Viennese luthier Johann Georg Staufer or Stauffer and Hungarian luthier Peter Teufelsdorfer. A scant handful of the original instruments have survived, and can be seen in museums, including the music collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It did not appear in print until , and included a transcription for cello.
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Due to a number of technical problems, the Arpeggione never became popular, and suffered a rapid obsolescence. Its guitar-shaped body made it awkward to hold, and it was difficult to play loudly on a single string because of the low curvature imposed by its many strings. In fact, the sonata presented here is probably the only significant work written specifically for this unusual instrument. Schubert wrote this piece in , and the care taken to suit the music to the instrument is quite apparent.
Even on viola the higher ranges are difficult, and the lower registers below open C are of course impossible. Nonetheless, the piece lends itself ideally to the tonality of the viola. In this arrangement, I have relied heavily on the assistance of Jean-Pierre Coulon.
The low ranges had to be re-octavised to fall within the range of the viola. For the high parts, I have opted to re-octavise a few passages to make the piece more accessible to amateur and semi-professional players. The octave on the A string was taken as the practical limit.
Since I am not myself a violist, I have deferred to the bowings offered in the edition by Paul Doktor. Similarly, the dynamics indications are best taken as suggested starting points. As implied earlier, had the piece been written for other bowed instruments, it would have probably had a lot more mf, f, and ff markings. Tempo indications in the original are sketchy, and in several places ambiguous.
The markings shown and reflected in the demo midi file are my own interpretation, largely influenced by a wonderful midi created by John Cowles. A note on the passage starting at bar , and similar passages later in the piece.
Why Do String Players Still Love Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata?