Work: Fantasy for Piano in C major, D 760/Op. 15 "Wanderer"
About This Work
With its four-movement plan -- Allegro, Adagio, Scherzo, and Finale -- the "Wanderer" Fantasy is a sonata in all but name, though a remarkable one for its time. The work is cyclic in form and played as one continuous movement without
breaks, every section having a thematic relationship, usually a distant one, to "Der Wanderer," a song Schubert had composed seven years earlier. This departure from classical sonata form resembles the equally impressive and demanding Liszt piano sonata; but that is not all. The intimate nature of most of Schubert's lieder, and much of his mature piano music, is here replaced by a work on an heroic scale in which a fragmentary rhythmical pattern -- long, short-short, long, short-short, long, long -- heard in the first few bars of the Allegro is expanded, inverted, repeated and elaborated with dazzling effect. Schubert continues to play hide and seek with the idea throughout the opening section, returning to it in the finale so that, in many places, the effect, is more like set of variations on a rhythmic pattern than a sonata subject in its own right.
But the "Wanderer" is by no means a "one idea" work. Schubert did not give it the title, though it is useful for distinguishing the C major work from his other piano Fantasias. In contrast to the bravura of the first section the brooding melody of the song is revealed (slightly altered) as a lyrical interlude before further excursions. In an unfolding stream of movement come a rondo, an attempted (but soon-abandoned) fugue and, in the Scherzo, a fast waltz. Despite such contrasting elements there is a sense of continuity and integrity in the way Schubert explores each new idea before returning to the now-familiar opening and, in the final bars, releasing it from its obsessional rhythm with a whoop of joy.
-- Roy Brewer
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