Immortal Heartstrings

six-stringed instrument the size of a cello, played with a bow but shaped and fretted like a guitar: this is the arpeggione (pronounced ah r-pay-jrmc-ay), or guitare d ‘amour, one of the shortest-lived species in the evolution of the violin family. Invented in 1823, this lovelorn bull fiddle probably deserved its fate: from a practical point of view, il surely proved a gauche piece of work. Yet before the arpeggione disappeared, a piece of music was written that would keep its name alive forever—Schubert’s lovely Sonata in A minor, D. 821 (1824), for piano and arpeggione. Popularly known as the “Arpeggione,” this single extant composition for the extinct instrument has found a happy niche in the cello repertoire, and not only there. Violists with

the temperament for solo careers like the sonata too. In fact, both Yuri Bashmet (March 14) and Tabea Zimmermann (April 7) have scheduled the “Arpeggione” for their Carnegie Hall recital debuts (call 212-247-7800). It also figures on upcoming programs of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, again with a violist: Raul Neubauer a (April 21,23; call 212-8755788). Is the soft-spoken viola a better stand-in for its defunct cousin than the majestic cello? Bashmet, the foremost violist of our day and perhaps any day, has recorded a chaste, poetic account of the sonata, in a mixed recital for BMC (60112-2-RC), which fits the music’s nostalgic melodies and wayward changes of mood with such intimacy as to suggest that it is.