Franz Schubert

Fantasie in C major

D934, Op. posth159

About this work

This easygoing, mainly lighthearted work makes it an exception to the despair and rejection that haunts many of the compositions Schubert wrote in 1828, the last year of his short life. Indeed, it can easily be imagined that in all seven movements the composer was consciously seeking the approval of the notoriously fickle Viennese musical public. Schubert's natural fluency, succulent melodies and elaborate figuration are well-displayed; nevertheless, after its first performance the work -- which lasts approximately 25 minutes -- earned only a sour comment from one critic: that it "occupied rather too much of the time the Viennese are prepared to devote to the pleasures of the mind."

The striking opening Adagio makes free use of the sounds and idioms of traditional gypsy music, the piano capturing the tremolando of the Hungarian cimbalom (a sort of hammered dulcimer) while the violin swoops and pirouettes around it in extravagant arabesques. The Fantasia adopts a plan remarkably similar to that of the better-known (and, let it be said, more profound) Wanderer Fantasy for solo piano. In the third section Schubert again makes use his own song "Sei mir gegrüsst," and its inclusion lifts the work onto an altogether higher plane. As with much of Schubert's chamber music, the harmonic scheme is complex, oscillating in strange ways around the keys of C major (in which the work begins and ends) A major, A minor, and the softly glowing A flat major.