Sunday, July 1, 2018

Schubert - Fantasia For Piano 4 Hands In F Minor, D. 940

Franz Schubert lived but 31 years, with most of those years being absorbed with composition. His total number of known works is over 1,500 and to write that much music he had to be composing most of the time.

The last year of his life he suffered from the illnesses that proved fatal. But that did not dampen his creative spirit as he wrote some of his most profound music. One his most admired works of that year is the Fantasia For Piano 4 Hands In F Minor.  Schubert wrote a sizable number of works for piano 4 hands, more than any other composer of his era, and published his first work in the genre in 1822. The popularity of the piano as an instrument was to be found more and more in the homes of the emerging middle class, and the sales of music suitable for amateurs to play was growing. Music for piano 4 hands became very popular, and along with music originally composed in the form were arrangements of orchestral works. Much of this music was not taxing for amateurs to play, with much of Schubert's 4 hand music intended for amateurs and students. But the Fantasia in F minor is an exception for it has a depth of emotion and artistry that makes it not only one of Schubert's most outstanding compositions in the form, but one of his masterpieces in any genre. 

The Fantasia is in one continuous movement, and consists of 4 distinct sections:

 I. Allegro molto moderato - The music begins with a gentle accompaniment before the entrance of the main theme of dotted rhythms and grace notes. The theme is repeated in  F major until the second theme more emphatic theme enters. These two themes are repeated and developed before the music shifts to F-sharp minor and the entrance of the theme of the next section.

II. Largo - This section's main theme in reminiscent of the French overture style of Bach's time with its double dotted rhythms and trills. The next theme is a reflection of the preceding one and leads to a development of the double dotted theme. This section is short, and leads directly to the next.

III. Allegro vivace - This section is a scherzo in F-sharp minor with a trio in D major. When the scherzo returns, it alternates between F-sharp minor and A major and leads up to the final section.

IV. Allegro molto moderato -  The music returns to the main theme of the first section in F minor, with the 4 sections together resembling one single sonata form movement as the first section can be thought of as the exposition, the second and third sections the development, and the fourth as the recapitulation. After the main theme is heard, the second theme is transformed into a fugue that leads to a dramatic  climax that ends in C major. The initial theme returns, and the fantasia ends in the home key.