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Thread: Wanderer Fantasy by Franz Schubert

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    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Red face Wanderer Fantasy by Franz Schubert

    The Fantasie in C major, Op. 15 (D. 760), popularly known as the Wanderer Fantasy, is a four-movement fantasy for solo piano composed by Franz Schubert in November 1822. It is considered Schubert's most technically demanding composition for the piano. Schubert himself said "the devil may play it", in reference to his own inability to do so properly.

    The whole work is based on one single basic motive, from which all themes are developed. This motive is distilled from the theme of the second movement, which is set in C-sharp minor and is a sequence of variations on a melody taken from the lied Der Wanderer, which Schubert wrote in 1816. It is this set of variations from which the work's popular name is derived.



    The four movements are played without a break. After the first movement Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo in C major and the second movement Adagio, follow a scherzo presto in A flat major and the finale, which returns to the key of C major. This finale starts out as a fugue but later breaks into a virtuoso piece.

    Richter recording of it is legendary.. It is very virtuosic but he successfully combined Schubert lyricism and technical difficulty.

    Hear it:



    What do you think of this piece? Do you have any favorite recordings?


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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    While among my favorite pieces from Schubert, I haven't compared enough to know my ultimate favorite. I like the way Brendelfly understands the piece but not entirely the way he executes it. Still looking.

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    I think it's a strange work. I find the motive, as it is first presented, particularly dumb and rough, and the writing sometimes very strange, and yet he manages to make a beautiful piece of music with amazing moments.

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    This is one of my favourite pieces for solo piano by any composer, and I think its grandeur and drama is on a scale that surpasses Beethoven. Although Beethoven's solo piano compositions no doubt outmatch Schubert's in general, Schubert had moments of sublime brilliance - such as this piece along with the late sonatas - and I prefer these by quite a distance to the best of Beethoven.

    As peeyaj already knows, my preferred recording is Maurizio Pollini:



    However, after having not listened to it for a considerable amount of time, I listened to the Richter recording this morning and was very impressed. I think that the Richter and Pollini recordings are probably on par, though they both have different qualities - we all know why Richter's reigns supreme, because of immense force coupled with subtle emotion where it is needed. At times, though, I find some of the fantasy's details are a little clouded. That's where I prefer Pollini because, as with many of his recordings, his technique and sound are crisp and minutely detailed, so I hear everything that happens. If only you could mix and match the best of both!
    Last edited by Polednice; May-02-2012 at 21:18.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    I am in agreement with Poley re excellence. However, as suggested by Schubert, there is another 'avenue of appreciation'. Clifford Curzon recorded the work, had one of those mental BZZZRT!! things (dreaded in concert by many musicians) at a critical place, had a helluva time recovering - and the recording was issued. Mr Curzon was not a super-duper virtuoso, but his technique was plenty good enough to play the Wanderer... without the BZZRT.

    I just looked at amazon.com, and didn't find a recording of this work by Schnabel. His technique was also plenty good enough. ?
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    I quite agree that this work is at least on a par, if not better, than anything written of a similar nature up to this point in time, including anything written by Beethoven, who was suposed to be the great piano innovator. Rather like a previous poster, I slightly prefer Pollini's version over Richter but there's not much in it. Pollini's playing, as usual, is excellent on this CD. It is slightly longer by almost a minute, which I find a slight negative point, but the sound is cleaner and virtually hiss-free, unlike Richter's which sounds a bit noisy to me. Brendel's version on the Phillips label would be my third choice as it's rather less attention grabbing than either Richter or Pollini, although still techically very impressive. Brendel is better at the more mellifluous piano works of Schubert, like the sonatas, as I generally dislike Richter's very slow, over-ponderous style. I heard a good live version by Paul Lewis at the Wigmore Hall, London last December, which I have recorded as it was broadcast on the radio. It sounded pretty good at the time but upon further comparison it's not in the same league as Pollini or Richter, not having quite the same dynamism as these other versions. In case anyone might be tempted to try it, don't bother with the Berezovsky version of the Wanderer Fantasy as orchestrated by Liszt. It's rubbish compared with the real thing.
    Last edited by Very Senior Member; May-02-2012 at 22:51.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Very Senior Member View Post
    In case anyone might be tempted to try it, don't bother with the Berezovsky version of the Wanderer Fantasy as orchestrated by Liszt. It's rubbish compared with the real thing.
    I quite like the idea of a piano and orchestra arrangement, as the piece certainly has concerto-esque qualities (though of course it would never match the original - it's just for a bit of fun once in a while), but Liszt is the last composer I'd have wanted to orchestrate it, his skills in that department being rather small. There's a better recording of it by Solti and Bolet, but the orchestral part is so dull that no amount of virtuosity can bring it near the experience of a solo version.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    This is one of my least favorite pieces. If I never heard it again, it would be too soon.

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    Senior Member Lisztian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I quite like the idea of a piano and orchestra arrangement, as the piece certainly has concerto-esque qualities (though of course it would never match the original - it's just for a bit of fun once in a while), but Liszt is the last composer I'd have wanted to orchestrate it, his skills in that department being rather small. There's a better recording of it by Solti and Bolet, but the orchestral part is so dull that no amount of virtuosity can bring it near the experience of a solo version.
    Liszt was NOT a poor orchestrator. He only really began starting to learn orchestration in the mid 1840s, and finally retired from the concert platform in 1848. The Wanderer Fantasy arrangement dates from 1851 I believe, and i'd be surprised if it was anything more than an exercise (that, knowing his hectic schedule, didn't have enough time to do well in). The tone poems and symphonies, while inconsistently orchestrated, were highly inventive and original for their time and, while in their final forms may attract heaps of criticism, they were highly influential in developing a new kind of orchestration that many later composers would perfect. Besides, when these works are actually given good performances they are highly enjoyable works and the orchestration actually sounds, for the most part, satisfactory. The last movement of the Faust Symphony is a prime example of brilliant, highly original and innovative orchestration. But, if you look a bit later into the 60s and his oratorio 'Christus,' that's a different animal altogether. Christus, over its 3 or so hours, is a beautifully orchestrated work. It's highly effective and very innovative for the mid 60s. You see, in Weimar, with his hectic schedule, he was still learning how to, and experimenting, with orchestration - and he slowly improved over time. Listen to his two episodes from Lenau's Faust in the early 60s, from just before he left Weimar. The orchestration in these works is remarkable for their time and highly effective. On the whole, posterity shows his orchestration is inconsistent (but sometimes good) in his tone poems and symphonies that were written during the 50s, but from the 60s on he tends to be good-very good. I'll link a couple videos below...





    In the next video, listen from 24:34-33:30.

    Last edited by Lisztian; May-03-2012 at 05:07.

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    I think you made adequate points yourself to demonstrate that Liszt's orchestration was rarely intriguing, and your choice of "satisfactory" is apt in general. I'll leave it at that as I don't want to spoil a nice Schubert thread.

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    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I think you made adequate points yourself to demonstrate that Liszt's orchestration was rarely intriguing, and your choice of "satisfactory" is apt in general. I'll leave it at that as I don't want to spoil a nice Schubert thread.
    There was a recent paper at a conference of music theory that discussed the differences between Liszt's orchestration and Schubert's original notation, entitled "Liszt's Recomposition of the Wanderer Finale, and What It Tells Us About Schubert's Finale Problem." Essentially, the author of the paper, Timothy Best, argued that Schubert actually succeeded in his Finale, in comparison to Liszt's recomposition, which glazed over important elements of the work. I wish I could remember the specifics of the talk, but I remember it being incredibly thought provoking.


    On a side note, I love how this work is in the Dover collection of "Schubert's Complete Shorter Piano Works." Yeah...real short piece!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Praeludium View Post
    I think it's a strange work. I find the motive, as it is first presented, particularly dumb and rough, and the writing sometimes very strange, and yet he manages to make a beautiful piece of music with amazing moments.
    Ok, I know I'm about a month late to the party here, but I wanted to chime in as I've both listened to and played this work a bunch of times. I really don't like it very much, and would happily never play any of it again save for the Adagio. The original motive, as quoted above, really does tend to get on my nerves, and Schubert's transitions between the sections in the opening Allegro can be pretty poor at times. I think Liszt was much more successful in his attempts to link material (like in his tone poems) than Schubert was attempting to do here.

    What has always impressed me about the piece, other than the Adagio, is the form. Schubert was pretty innovative in this regard IMO, and the piece as a whole can be seen as a melding of symphonic form (Allegro - Adagio - Scherzo - Finale) and of sonata-allegro form, where the Allegro is the Exposition, the Adagio is the Development, the Presto is the Recapitulation, and the Finale is a Coda. I am aware that the key areas, particularly in the Presto, don't align with the "perfect" sonata-allegro form, but to me, the way the material is treated and themes return does align.

    And yes, Liszt's orchestration of this was...guh. I have no issue with his orchestration in his later life though!

    Edit: I should also note, that I am a HUGE fan of most of Schubert's writing, and I fully plan on learning all of his late piano sonatas before I kick the bucket!
    Last edited by PianoMan; May-28-2012 at 18:54.

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    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Just heard it today in succession, I am never tired of it especially the Richter's recording. It is such a great piece when you want some kind of uplift of mood. The fourth movement rocks. Liszt is kinda obsessed with it. I wonder why.

    :-)
    Schubert manages that most supreme of feats, to be melancholy without being maudlin, his pain is not a mockery of pain but truly heartfelt, and he manages to pass that though with all of its complexities in his music.

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    I heard the version by Murray Perahia, and it is outstanding.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    This is a fantastic work, especially bearing in mind Schubert himself was not a virtuoso pianist.

    The two best versions are by Richter and Pollini. The playing on both is pretty awesome and if Richter just shades it, it's not by much.

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