FANTASIA IN F MINOR, D. 940 (Op. posth. 103)
Apart from a few dreadful years of hacking away at the piano as a child, I never really studied the instrument. But if I were ever to try again it would be for one reason – to play this piece. This is not one of the greatest works for piano, it is one of the greatest works of art ever created. A bold statement in a week with music by Bach, Bartok, Brahms, and Mozart, but I stand by it. Composed in 1828 during the superhuman output of Schubert’s last year, it was published posthumously. I find it impossible to maintain a clear perspective when I realize in the same year he also wrote the
C Major cello quintet, G Major string quartet, the song cycle “Winterreise,” and his 9th symphony – each one a certifiable masterpiece.
The Fantasia is a transformative journey that starts with a pleading melody over a pulsing bass that eventually ranges over emotional extremes of repressed fury, resigned nostalgia, and rustic vitality, until it rounds a corner and there, shockingly, that first melody reappears. This is followed by a vertigo-inducing fugue that builds to a terrible level of tension until it spins around and we find ourselves full-circle at the opening one last time.
Program notes by David Yang