Fantasia in F minor for piano four-hands, D 940 (Schubert)

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Franz Schubert in 1827 (portrait by Anton Depauly from 1828)
Awadagin Pratt and student pianist Lucy Hattemer perform Franz Schubert's piano four-hands Fantasia in F minor, 1st and 4th movements at the White House Classical Music Student Workshop Concert. (2009-11-04)

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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.[1]

History[edit]

Schubert began writing the Fantasia in January 1828 in Vienna.[2] 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.[3] The work was dedicated to Karoline Esterházy, with whom Schubert was in (unrequited) love.[4]

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.[2]

Structure[edit]

The Fantasia is divided into four movements, that are interconnected and played without pause. A typical performance takes about 20 minutes.

  1. Allegro molto moderato
  2. Largo
  3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
  4. 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.[3] The basic structure of the two fantasies is essentially the same: allegro, slow movement, scherzo, allegro with fugue.[5] 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,[6] who arranged the Wanderer Fantasy as a piano concerto, among other transcriptions he made of Schubert's music.[7]

A page from the autograph manuscript, showing a portion of the second (left-side) part from the fourth movement.

First movement[edit]

The piece opens with a lyrical melody with dotted rhythms that is reminiscent of the Hungarian style.[8] 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.[9]

Second movement[edit]

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.[9] Schubert had recently heard Paganini's second violin concerto, whose second movement inspired the themes here.[8]

Third movement[edit]

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.[9]

Finale[edit]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Recordings[edit]

The fantasy has been recorded numerous times, including by the following notable performers:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gibbs, p. 161
  2. ^ a b Weekly, p. 71
  3. ^ a b Weekly, p. 72
  4. ^ Gibbs, pp. 150-151
  5. ^ Frisch, p. 75
  6. ^ Gibbs, pp. 161–162
  7. ^ Todd, p. 138
  8. ^ a b Einstein, p. 281
  9. ^ a b c d Henle score
  10. ^ Frisch, pp. 78-79.

References[edit]

External links[edit]