Performance Analysis: Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15 (D. 760) (“Wanderer” Fantasy) Schubert composed the Fantasy in C Major (“Wanderer” Fantasy) in 1822. This fantasy became a milestone in music history because it was the first time when a composer “integrated a four-movement sonata into a single movement. ” Schubert did so by matching the sequence of a traditional four-movement sonata (Allegro, Adagio, Scherzo, Finale) to one big sonata form (exposition, development, recapitulation, coda). This exploration opened a new era of composing romantic music because it created an expanded form with more freedom in theme.
Composers in this way were granted more freedom to compose based on their personal imagination and to compose with more virtuosity. The Fantasy in C Major got its nickname after one of Schubert’s biographers, August Reissmann, discovered the theme in Adagio came from an earlier song of Schubert, Der Wanderer (D. 493). The dactylic “wanderer” theme in Adagio becomes a major focus for performers because it is the cyclic theme for the whole Fantasy. More importantly, how performers phrase this poetic melody reflect their different stylistic approaches.
Ever since 1823 when the Fantasy was published, this work was famous for its virtuosity that even Schubert himself broke down in the last movement when he was performing in front of his friends and announced, “Let the devil play the stuff! ” Traditionally, the Wanderer Fantasy is considered as a virtuoso showpiece for performers and often appears in live performances. This makes the general approach to this work pretty much “straight” and modern. Performances of this piece were usually characterized by steady tempi and continuing legato, which fill into the category of mainstream modern style.
Performers of this piece generally “excel in technical detail” as “strait” players. Among them, Maurizio Pollini’s recording in 1974 is a good example of modern “strait” playing. Pollini started every part of the Fantasy with a reasonable tempo and kept the tempo steady for each part. In Allegro, Pollini started with a quarter note equals to 130 and pretty much kept this tempo throughout the Allegro section. The few exceptions was in bar 61 and from bar 181 to the end where he slowed down to around 98. Pollini would not speed up in crescendos.
One of the examples was from bar 14 to 16 (see Example 1) where the dynamic changed from piano to fortissimo. Pollini kept the tempo steady while making the dynamic change as accurate as possible. The wide range of dynamic produced by Pollini’s touch of the piano enables him to play musically impressive without yielding to the tempo. In one of the reviews from Gramophone, Joan Chissell praised Pollini’s playing as “not a single note that has not been precisely weighed, colored and fitted into its context” and a “faithful reproduction of Schubert’ written text. This proved Pollini’s modern “straight” approach to this piece, as well as many other modern performers. Recorded two years earlier than Pollini’s recording, Alfred Brendel made a splendid modern recording with more flexibility in tempi. Brendel started the Allegro with a quarter note equals to 155 comparing to Pollini’s 130. When the dactylic theme appears for the second time at bar 18, Brendel slowed down to a quarter note equals 128, making the theme both rhythmically and dynamically different from the beginning. The climax begins at bar 132 where Brendel eventually speeded up to around 158. Pollini, by contrast, stayed around 128.
By making these contrasting tempi changes in Allegro, Brendel prepared us for a dramatic contrast between Allegro and Adagio. Pollini started on an eighth note equals 67 from the beginning of Adagio and reached the top of his speed by the end of bar 21 where an eighth note equals around 95. Brendel, who started at 59 from the beginning, reached up to 112 at bar 22 and slowed down to 75 when the wanderer theme reoccurred at bar 27. For this wanderer theme, Brendel also stretched the tempi to phrase the melody poetically. He speeded up from bar 31 and reached 90 at bar 33 before he slowed down to around 64 at bar 35 (see Example 2).
But still, Brendel’s performance shares modern “strait” characteristics with Pollini’s recording because of its accuracy from the text. It was more difficult to find recordings earlier than the 1950s, but recordings from Walter Rehberg, Edwin Fischer, Vladimir Sofronitzky and Elly Ney proved that earlier approaches to the Wanderer Fantasy were somewhat different. Their practices of this piece were marked by agogic accent, rhythmic nuance, in a way with more freedom from the romantic approach and less accuracy from the “straight” playing.
The recording Walter Rehberg made in 1927 started with a quarter note equals 158 and slowed down to an eighth note equals to 55 in Adagio. Not only the range for tempo rubato was wider, but there were also agogic accent and rhythmic nuance in his playing. An example would be at bar 32 in Allegro, where Rehberg created an agogic accent by letting the chord on right hand appear slightly later (Example 3). In Adagio, Rehberg spread out some chords from bar 9 to bar 17 to emphasis the melody (Example 4). The arpeggiated chord was a trait of romantic practice and was shared by Edwin Fischer in his recording in 1934.
Fischer spread out every chord as an accent on sforzando from bar 165 to 176 in Allegro (Example 5). Fischer also did not follow every dynamic mark on the score. Instead of starting with fortissimo in Presto, Fischer played a piano. This occurred at bar 277 as well and it proved to be Fischer’s interpretation, not mistake (Example 6). Early recordings from live performances also indicated that earlier approaches to this piece sometimes could be not always following the score. Elly Ney did a truly amazing job when she performed this piece in her eighties.
In Allegro she played many notes in staccatos, not as the score indicated but created a light joyful feeling. For example, from bar 112 to 130, she played the right hand melody under the slur in staccatos (Example 7). Vladimir Sofronitsky also made a recording from his live performance in 1953. Started from bar 307 in Scherzo, Sofronitsky changed the notes and dynamic by resting at beat three in both measures 307 and 308 and stopped after measure 308. Then he started measure 309 from pianissimo and made incalzando to the forzando in measure 320 (Example 8).
This might have been a cover-up for a mistake during a concert but it added color to the performance. Every performance is different not merely based on various interpretations. Sometimes a little accident happened during a live performance might force the performer to make an interpretation decision which in this case brought some mystery in Sofronitsky’s approach. That is why going to a concert is more exciting than hearing a studio recorded and edited, “perfect” version. In general, the earlier approach to Wanderer Fantasy was less rigid in getting everything on the score technically correct and accurate.
However people would get to hear more different personal interpretation because these performances were so unpredictable. More recent, musicians tried to combine both accuracy and freedom in their performances. Lang Lang made an experiment with the Wanderer Fantasy in his live performance in 2003. Lang Lang’s playing was brilliant with his accuracy, however he might be a little bit off the line by exaggerating stretches in tempi to emphasis his “expressive” playing in romantic repertories. He slowed down so much in the beginning of Adagio as an eighth note equals to 44, even slower than Fischer’s 48.
As for the wanderer theme, Lang Lang started normally with 78 at bar 27, however when it came to bar 31 where usually other performers speed up, Lang Lang slowed down to 63 (Example 2). This was kind of eccentric whether compare to Pollini’s “straight” playing or the earlier more romantic approach. By the end of Adagio, starting with bar 54, he slowed down to a 44 where Pollini kept 71 for an eighth note (Example 9). With this tempo and the right hand melody fading away, Lang Lang tried to phrase the left hand where here the left hand was really supposed to be just accompaniment.
Lang Lang’s case indicated that knowing the limits of freedom to interpret musical works would help musicians express their ideas better. In learning these great recordings over time we can see how performance traditions changed and how this change affects future musicians. Like many other musical works, the Fantasy in C Major will always be an important work in music history not only because its’ unique structure but also because it challenges musicians to play and interpret according to their own performance tradition.
As long as this work is still being performed and appreciated by people, this great fantasy will continue its glory in the world of music. Bibliography Arnold, Denis and Lalage Cochrane. “fantasia. ” The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online. http://www. oxfordmusiconline. com/subscriber/article/opr/t114/e2413. Brown, Maurice J. E. “Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy. ” The Musical Times 92, no. 1306 (Dec. , 1951): 540-542. http://www. jstor. org Field, Christopher D. S. et al. “Fantasia. ” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. http://www. oxfordmusiconline. om/subscriber/article/grove/music/40048. Haynes, Bruce. “Mainstream Style (Chops, but No Soul). ” The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Chissell, Joan. Review of Schubert, Wanderer Fantasy, Maurizio Pollini, piano. Gramophone, (January 1975): 92. http://www. gramophone. net. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy C Major “Wanderer-Fantasie” (D 760). Edited for the first time from the autograph; with fingering added by Paul Badura-Skoda. Wien: Wiener Urtext Edition, 1973. Schubert, Franz.
Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Alfred Brendel, piano. Recorded November 1971. CD: Philips 420 664-2. 1989. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Anthony Goldstone, piano. Recorded 1999-2000. The Piano Masterworks. Vol. 1. South Shields, England: Divine Art 809730120220. CD: 2001. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Arthur Rubinstein, piano. Recorded in 1965. CD: BMG 09026-63054-2. 1999. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Edwin Fischer, piano. Recorded on 22-24 May 1934.
CD: ADD APR 5515. 1996. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Elly Ney, piano. Recorded 1962-1965. CD: Colosseum COL 9016. 2. 2001. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Lang Lang, piano. Recorded Nov. 7, 2003. CD: Deutsche Grammophon B0002047-02. 2004. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Maurizio Pollini, piano. Recorded in 1974. CD: Deutsche Grammophon 419 672-2. 1988. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Peter Frankl, piano. Recorded 1974/75. CD: VoxBox3 CD3X 3011. 992. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Vladimir Sofronitsky, piano. Live recording. Recorded December 25, 1953. CD: Pipeline Music 8975/9. Schubert, Franz. Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy). Walter Rehberg, piano. Recorded in 1927. Polydor: 95047/9. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy C Major “Wanderer-Fantasie” (D 760), with fingering added by Paul Badura-Skoda. (Wien: Wiener Urtext Edition, 1973), Preface. [ 2 ]. Maurice J. E. Brown, “Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy,” The Musical Times 92, no. 306 (Dec. , 1951): 541. [ 3 ]. Elaine Brody, “Mirror of His Soul: Schubert’s Fantasy in C (D. 760),” Piano Quarterly 27, no. 104 (Winter, 1979): 30. [ 4 ]. Bruce Haynes, “Mainstream Style (Chops, but No Soul)”, The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 48. [ 5 ]. Quote in Haynes, “Mainstream Style (Chops, but No Soul)”, 62. [ 6 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Maurizio Pollini, piano, Recorded in 1974, CD: Deutsche Grammophon 419 672-2, 1988. 7 ]. Schubert, Fantasy C Major “Wanderer-Fantasie” (D 760), (Wien: Wiener Urtext Edition, 1973), 1. [ 8 ]. Joan Chissell, Review of Schubert, Wanderer Fantasy, Maurizio Pollini, piano. Gramophone, (January 1975): 92. http://www. gramophone. net. [ 9 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Alfred Brendel, piano, Recorded November 1971, CD: Philips 420 664-2, 1989. [ 10 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Walter Rehberg, piano, Recorded in 1927, Polydor: 95047/9. [ 11 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 60 (Wanderer Fantasy), Edwin Fischer, piano, Recorded on 22-24 May 1934, CD: ADD APR 5515, 1996. [ 12 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Elly Ney, piano, Recorded 1962-1965, CD: Colosseum COL 9016. 2, 2001. [ 13 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Vladimir Sofronitsky, piano, Live recording, Recorded December 25, 1953, CD: Pipeline Music 8975/9. [ 14 ]. Franz Schubert, Fantasy in C, op. 15, D. 760 (Wanderer Fantasy), Lang Lang, piano, Recorded Nov. 7, 2003, CD: Deutsche Grammophon B0002047-02, 2004.