Fantasia in F minor for piano four-hands, D 940 (Schubert)
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The Fantasia in F minor by Franz Schubert, D.940 (Op. posth. 103), for piano four-hands (two players at one piano), is one of Schubert’s most important works for more than one pianist and one of his most important piano works altogether. Schubert composed it in 1828, the last year of his life, and dedicated it to his pupil, Karoline Esterházy.
Musicologist Christopher Gibbs has characterized the work as "among not only his greatest but his most original" compositions for piano duet.
Schubert began writing the Fantasia in January 1828 in Vienna. The work was completed in March of that year, and first performed in May. Schubert's friend Eduard von Bauernfeld recorded in his diary on May 9 that a memorable duet was played, by Schubert and Franz Lachner. The work was dedicated to Karoline Esterházy, with whom Schubert was in (unrequited) love.
Schubert died in November 1828. After his death, his friends and family undertook to have a number of his works published. This work is one of those pieces; it was published by Anton Diabelli in March 1829. The original manuscript resides at the Austrian National Library.
The Fantasia is divided into four movements, that are interconnected and played without pause. A typical performance takes about 20 minutes.
- Allegro molto moderato
- Scherzo. Allegro vivace
- Finale. Allegro molto moderato
The basic idea of a fantasia with four connected movements also appears in Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, and represents a stylistic bridge between the traditional sonata form and the essentially free-form tone poem. The basic structure of the two fantasies is essentially the same: allegro, slow movement, scherzo, allegro with fugue. The form of this work, with its relatively tight structure (more so than the fantasias of Beethoven and Mozart), was influential on the work of Franz Liszt, who arranged the Wanderer Fantasy as a piano concerto, among other transcriptions he made of Schubert's music.
The piece opens with a lyrical melody with dotted rhythms that is reminiscent of the Hungarian style. The theme is eventually repeated in F major, before briefly repeating in F minor, and transitioning into a somber, almost funereal, second theme. After developing the two themes, he eventually returns to a version of the second theme in F major, which modulates into F♯ minor for the start of the second movement.
The second movement opens with an angry, somewhat turbulent fortissimo theme in F♯ minor. While marked largo, the frequently double-dotted first theme lends a great deal of tension to this movement. Eventually the first theme gives way to a quiet, lyrical second theme. The first theme is reprised, ending on the C♯ major dominant. Schubert had recently heard Paganini's second violin concerto, whose second movement inspired the themes here.
Following the F♯ minor, agitated second movement, the third movement scherzo is a bright, lively movement in the same key, reminiscent of the scherzos of other works Schubert wrote at this time, like those of his piano trios. After a delicate D major trio, the scherzo returns, at first seemingly in F♯ minor. The repeat of the scherzo shifts between A major and F♯ minor, ultimately ending on C♯ octaves that drive into a transition back toward F minor for the finale.
The finale begins with a restatement of the first movement's primary theme in both F minor and F major, before transitioning into a fugue based on its second theme. The fugue builds to a climax, ending abruptly on the C major dominant, instead of resolving into either F major or minor. After a bar of silence, the first theme briefly reprises, building rapidly to concluding chords that echo the second theme before subsiding into a quiet end. It has been called "the most remarkable cadence in the whole of Schubert's work," as he manages to condense the dichotomies of the two themes into the final eight bars of the work.
The fantasy has been recorded numerous times, including by the following notable performers:
- Alfred Brendel with Evelyne Crochet on Vox Box
- Sviatoslav Richter and Benjamin Britten on Decca Records/BBC Legends
- Evgeny Kissin and James Levine on RCA Victor
- Katia and Marielle Labèque on Kml Recordings
- Justus Frantz and Christoph Eschenbach on EMI
- Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia on Sony Classical
- Duo Tal & Groethuysen on Sony Classical
- Aloys and Alfons Kontarsky, Emil and Elena Gilels, and Maria João Pires with Ricardo Castro on Deutsche Grammophon
- Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda several times, including on Westminster, Auvidis Valois, and Audax
- Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin on US Decca
- Robert and Gaby Casadesus on Columbia Masterworks
- Alexandre Tharaud and Zhu Xiao-Mei on Harmonia Mundi Fr.
- Schubert, Franz; Kahl, Willi (ed) (1986). Werke für Klavier zu Vier Händen, Band III. Munich: G. Henle Verlag. OCLC 3681881. Musical score.
- Einstein, Alfred (1951). Schubert: A Musical Portrait. New York: Oxford University Press. OCLC 602553.
- Weekly, Dallas A; Arganbright, Nancy (1990). Schubert's Music for Piano Four-Hands. White Plains: Pro/Am Music Resources Inc. ISBN 978-0-912483-55-9.
- Frisch, Walter (ed) (1986). Schubert: Critical and Analytical Studies. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-6892-0.
- Gibbs, Christopher Howard (2000). The Life of Schubert. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59512-4.
- Todd, R. Larry (2004). Nineteenth-century piano music. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-96890-4.
- Newbould, Brian (1998). Schubert studies. Ashgate. ISBN 978-1-85928-253-3.
- Norman McKay, Elizabeth, Schubert's string and piano duos in context. in Newbould, Brian (1998). Schubert studies, Ashgate, 1998, p. 62-111.
- Fantasia in F minor for piano four-hands: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Recording of Fantasia from the Jerusalem Music Centre in MP3 format, performed by Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg (archived on the Wayback Machine)
- "Vienna and Schubert: Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940 - Professor Christopher Hogwood CBE (Discussion and performance)". Gresham College. 11 October 2012. Retrieved December 2013.