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Grosse Fantasie 'Wanderer', D760 Op 15

composer
arranger

 
Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy in C, composed in late 1822, is a development of ideas from a song he had written six years earlier. That was one of many settings he made of poems on this theme—the stranger who, driven by some inner force, finds himself in an alien country without friends, consumed by a longing to find his homeland and hear his own language. The ‘mountains’ from which he comes suggest both a boundary that cannot be recrossed and a place of spirituality that represents his artistic calling, but his search is in vain; at the end of the song as he sighs ‘where?’, the spirits whisper back to him, ‘There, where you are not, is happiness.’ Schubert’s Fantasy follows the song closely, developing and improvising upon each of its four parts, transforming a brief Lied into a fully fledged quasi-sonata. Both start with a strongly marked rhythmic pattern—triplets in the song that become the dactylic phrase of the Fantasy—and the recitative of the song is translated into an improvisatory movement in which melodic fragments are repeatedly interrupted by the impetuous rhythms of the opening. The simple vocal arioso of the second stanza of the song forms the basis of the Adagio section of the Fantasy, appearing, with excursions from the minor key to the major, some dozen times in different guises with two stormy episodes and much underlying rhythmic and textural variation.

A new musical figure introduces the wanderer’s thoughts of his beloved homeland, paralleled in the Fantasie by a lively transformation of the opening phrase of the work into a dotted rhythm, which engenders the thematic material of what is essentially a scherzo with a meditative trio. The final stanza of the song repeats two lines from the first one, the wanderer’s sigh ‘where?’, while in the Fantasie the rhythmic figure of the beginning of the work returns to be developed contrapuntally in a short finale.

What is so remarkable about the metamorphosis of Lied into Fantasie is not the borrowing of the haunting melody that accompanies the words ‘The sun here seems to me so cold, the blossom shrivels, life is old’, but the expansion of the work into another medium that still retains the ideas and emotions of Schmidt von Lübeck’s poem. Schubert wrote in his diary, ‘The works I create come from my understanding of music and my pain! Those brought about by pain alone seem to please the world least.’

from notes by Novelbond Limited © 2007

Recordings

Joseph James: Wanderer Fantasies after Schubert & Schumann
SIGCD095Download only
Schubert: Impromptus & other piano music
CDA67091/22CDs Archive Service

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