Performance:

Schubert's Fantasie in F Minor for piano, four hands

 

performed at Staunton Music Festival

August 20, 2019

Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, VA

 

Carsten Schmidt and Andrew Willis

fortepiano by Rod Regier (after Graf, 1830)

loaned courtesy of Vernon McCart

 

video by Stewart Searle

 

 

 

 

About the Music

Not on par with virtuoso contemporaries like Chopin or Liszt, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was nevertheless an extremely proficient pianist. His keyboard pieces explore its capabilities and ask much of the players. Even when composing the F-minor Fantasie with his piano student Karoline Esterházy in mind, Schubert made no concessions. Karoline was the unattainable love of his later years, which were marked by illness and depression. Here was a real-life fairy tale: the sickly composer, a former schoolteacher of humble background, pining in silent devotion for the beautiful young countess he could never attain. Schubert sketched the Fantasie during January 1828 and worked on it through the early summer. By the time it was published the following spring, crocuses would have been blooming on Schubert’s grave.

 

The Fantasie opens with one of the composer’s most attractive and sensuous themes, graceful but haunted. Later in the work Schubert returns several times to this theme, inflecting it toward increasing rhythmic intensity or major-mode lyricism as context dictates. Each recurrence is also highlighted by a pregnant pause. One always teeters precariously between light and dark with Schubert, and this Fantasie is no exception. For instance, when the main theme first appears in a major key, Schubert maintains the threatening octave drumbeat in the bass. Key changes abound in this multi-sectional work, but the most abrupt change from F minor to F-sharp minor is also the most structurally important. Schubert uses this modulation to launch the Baroque gravitas of the slow “movement,” then stays in F-sharp for a fleet-footed scherzo. His use of fugue as a closing idea recalls Beethoven’s late style, which, it should be noted, precedes Schubert’s work on the Fantasie by just a few years.

 

(c) Jason Stell, 2019

 

 

 

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