Thursday, January 28, 2021

Mozart - Fantasia In D Minor For Piano

For any piece of music, there is only so much that can be notated on the page. It is of course the same way with language in a stage play. Stage direction can take it only so far, and to merely recite the words without the proper inflection or emotion would make for a pretty boring evening at the theater or concert hall. Of course that's where the skill, art and experience of the interpreter or performer of a piece comes into play. Within the directions given by the author or composer there exists an interpretive leeway that can make or break a performance.

There has been a slow and steady trend in music by composers to be very specific as to their intentions. Whether this is an all together good thing or not depends on the music in question and of course the listener's taste. But the music of history could be very sparse as to performing directions. Even the most basic tempo directions can be very sparse in the music of Bach. And here is one of the mysteries of Mozart's Fantasia in D Minor; It has very little performing directions outside of tempo indications, and the last ten bars are missing. Mozart evidently never got around to writing out the ending of the work or to notate more detailed dynamics or phrasing. Scholars believe that someone else besides Mozart wrote the last few bars of the work. 

The piece has three unbarred cadenzas, numerous fermatas, and changes tempo often. The name Fantasia does mean a certain amount of freedom in performance, and with the lack of direction in the piece it assures a variety of performances will happen. And they have. But to the player that is also a scholar, there are indications as to a proper performance by the time period it was written in, the composer who wrote it, and the traditions of the time.

The circumstances that have made freedom of expression so prevalent for this piece have also added to the degree of difficulty of it. If the performer doesn't have the ability to blend the sections into a whole, the seams can be heard and it becomes a string of loosely connected musical ideas that no matter how attractive some of them may be by themselves, the overall piece will suffer from sectionalization. The notes themselves are not difficult. Bringing them together and making music with them is. But that can be said for many of Mozart's works. But this particular piece is somewhat of an enigma, and remains an interpretive challenge for any pianist who chooses to tackle it.

For a more in depth analysis of the piece, I recommend the essay: W. A. Mozart: Fantasia in D minor for Piano - Paradoxes of Style and Interpretation or Fantasies about the Fantasia;by Sophia Gorlin. The essay can be found at her website.



  1. I m Studying To Play İt For Months ....

    Thank you for the insights!

    1. What a fine performance of the piece! Thank you for sharing it!