About this work
Composed when Bartók was 16 years of age, this Scherzo-Fantasie is obviously lacking virtually all characteristics we associate with his mature keyboard style, yet it is quite deftly conceived, even if it is mostly imitation-Chopin. In fact, this work might well have been taken for a lost Chopin work, but for its somewhat Lisztian middle section.
To many such a work will have dubious value at best; to others -- namely Bartók mavens and Chopin admirers intrigued by a good counterfeit effort -- this will be of tremendous interest and offer a fair measure of enjoyment. The work opens with a theme that seems to start in media res. It sounds utterly Chopinesque, from the fiery theme itself to its rich chromatic harmonies. The subdued middle section veers toward Liszt in its quasi-religious serenity and Romantic warmth. The opening melody returns, first in the subdued manner of the alternate theme, then in its original, stormy guise. Lasting about five minutes, this piece is an enjoyable, strong effort from a developing composer in the thrall of Chopin.