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SCHUBERT'S SWAN SONG – PROGRAM NOTES

marks it simply Tempo I) brings back music from the very beginning, but quickly the wistful opening melody is jostled aside by a vigorous fugue derived from the second Born January 31, 1797, Vienna subject of the opening section. On tremendous chords and Died November 19, 1828, Vienna contrapuntal complexity the Fantasie drives to its climax, Duration: Approximately 18 minutes only to fall away to the quiet close. The Fantasie in F Minor for Piano Four-Hands is Schubert dedicated this music to the Countess Caroline one of the creations of Schubert’s miraculous final year of Esterházy, who ten years before–as a girl of 15–had been life, which saw a nearly unbroken rush of masterpieces. one of his piano students. Evidence suggests that Schubert Schubert wrote most of the Fantasie in January 1828 but was–from a distance–always thereafter in love with her: to ran into problems and set the work aside for several months, a friend he described her as “a certain attractive star.” Given returning to complete it in April. He and his friend Eduard the intensity of this music, it is easy to believe that his love von Bauernfeld gave the first performance on May 9 of that for her remained undiminished in the final year of his life. year, six months before the composer’s death at age 31. Music for piano four-hands is a very particular genre, Piano Sonata in A Major, D.959 now unfortunately much out of fashion. In early nineteenthcentury Vienna, however, there was a growing market for Duration: Approximately 43 minutes music that could be played in the home, where there might be only one piano but several pianists, usually amateur Schubert’s final year was dreadful. Ill for years, he musicians. Such music often had an intentionally “social” went into steady decline in 1828 and died in November appeal–it was not especially difficult, and it tended to be at 31. Yet from those last months came a steady stream pleasing rather than profound. Much of Schubert’s fourof masterpieces, and few of the achievements of that hand piano music was intended for just such “home” miraculous–and agonizing–year seem more remarkable performers (he often wrote music for his students to play than the composition of three large-scale piano sonatas together), but the Fantasie in F Minor is altogether different: in the month of September, barely eight weeks before this work demands first-class performers and contains some his death. In the years following Schubert’s death, many of the most wrenching and focused music Schubert ever of the works from this final year were recognized as the wrote. Schubert scholar John Reed has gone so far as it call masterpieces they are, but the three piano sonatas made their it “a work which in its structural organisation, economy of way much more slowly. When they appeared in 1838, a form, and emotional depth represents his art at its peak.” decade after Schubert’s death, the publisher dedicated them The title “fantasia” suggests a certain looseness of to Schumann, one of Schubert’s greatest admirers, but even form, but the Fantasie in F Minor is extraordinary for Schumann confessed mystification, noting with a kind of its conciseness. Lasting barely a quarter of an hour, it dismayed condescension that “Always musical and rich in is in one continuous flow of music that breaks into four songlike themes, these pieces ripple on, page after page . . .” clear movements. The very beginning–Allegretto molto Even as late as 1949, Schubert’s adoring biographer Robert moderato–is haunting. Over murmuring accompaniment, Haven Schauffler could rate them “considerably below the the higher voice lays out the wistful first theme, whose level of the last symphonies and quartets, the String Quintet, halting rhythms and chirping grace notes have caused many and the best songs.” It took Artur Schnabel’s championing to believe that this theme had its origins in Hungarian folk these sonatas to rescue them from obscurity. The last of music. Schubert repeats this theme continually–the effect them, in fact, has today become one of the most familiar is almost hypnotic–and suddenly the music has slipped of all piano sonatas: the current catalog lists over forty effortlessly from F minor into F major. The second subject, separate recordings. based on firm dotted rhythms, is treated at length before Still, these sonatas remain a refined taste, and some the music drives directly into the powerful Largo, which is of the problem may lie in the fact that our notion of a given an almost baroque luxuriance by its trills and double piano sonata has been so conditioned by Beethoven that (and triple) dotting. This in turn moves directly into the Schubert’s late sonatas–which conform neither structurally Allegro vivace, a sparkling scherzo that feels like a very nor emotionally to the Beethoven model–can seem fast waltz; its trio section (marked con delicatezza) ripples mystifying. Certainly the opening Allegro of the Sonata along happily in D major. The writing for the first pianist in A Major seems to be in a sort of sonata form, with a here goes so high that much of this section is in the bell-like declarative opening theme-group and a more flowing second upper register of the piano–the music rings and shimmers subject marked pianissimo, but the development does not as it races across the keyboard. The final section (Schubert do the things that a Beethoven development has taught us

Fantasie in F Minor for Piano Four-Hands, D.940

FRANZ SCHUBERT

FRANZ SCHUBERT

L J M S. O R G · 8 5 8 . 4 5 9 . 3 7 2 8

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S49 Program Book Vol 3  
S49 Program Book Vol 3