Hyperion Records

Fantasia in C minor, K396 K385f
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Mozart left the Fantasia in C minor, K396/K385f unfinished in 1782 and it was completed by Maximilian Stadler (1748–1833). It immediately announces its darkness of mood, this time with a turbulent ascending arpeggio. Again, it thrives on seering dissonances, diminished chords, a lack of harmonic resolution, copious chromaticisms and unexpected harmonic twists. But it has a greater pathos, with figures of wispy delicacy set high above strong bass-line foundations, and it lacks the seething quality of K475. Even so, when the opening arpeggio reappears in the major, it offers only a brief reprieve, as Mozart soon veers back to more ambiguous harmonic territory, landing once again in the minor with a left-hand accompaniment in the middle of the keyboard while the right hand darts from high to low, as if duetting with itself. Unlike K475, which ends in a mood of defiance, this Fantasia, following a reprise of its opening material, evaporates gently away to nothing.

Maximilian Stadler was himself an accomplished composer, but his posthumous reputation rests principally on his role as music adviser to Mozart’s widow. He was the first to order and catalogue the composer’s manuscripts, completing several of them besides K396. As well as having a sympathetic ear and a light editorial touch, he seems to have been a fascinating figure in his own right, anticipating John Cage in his invention of a kind of eighteenth-century music of chance, determined by the throw of a dice, and making arrangements of chants of the Mevlevi whirling dervishes.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2008

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