Daniel Dennett is a professor at Tufts University who frequently writes about humans consciousness. He thinks the study of the brain can explain the phenomenon much like the study of the kidney will eventually lead to a complete understanding of how it works – well almost complete. His work is engaging , insightful, and informative. But no matter how much he delves into consciousness, its essence remains elusive. I’ll concede he’s succeeded when he can explain Franz Schubert.
The last 18 months of the Viennese composer’s achingly brief life produced a flood of compositions of such miraculous genius that he and they deserve at least one chapter in Genesis. How Schubert attained a divine status unlike that of any other composer seems as mysterious as the Mona Lisa’s smile, though I’m sure Professor Dennett is working on an explanation of both.
The Fantasy in C major for Violin and Piano, D 934, was composed in December 1827 for the virtuoso violinist Josef Slavik who gave the work’s first performance in January of the following year. Hard as the violin part is, the pianist faces an even greater challenge. The pianist Carl Maria von Bocklet joined Slabik at the work’s premiere.
The work is in three movements: I. Andante molto – Allegro vivace II. Andantino III. Allegro presto. The second movement is a set of variations on Schubert’s song “Sei mir gegrüßt” (D 741, 1821-22). The Fantasy combines technical hurdles of the greatest difficulty with compositional genius. It’s not often performed because of these technical demands. Its beauty speaks for itself and defies words. The performance below was given at Alice Tully Hall on March 20, 2015. The performers are Benjamin Beilman, violin; Juho Pohjonen, piano.
I’ve heard Mr Beilman in performance twice. First in Santa Fe and then in Colorado Springs. He was brilliant on both occasions as he is playing the Schubert duet.
Schubert’s Fantasy In F Minor, D940 was completed in March of 1828, the year of his death. It is likely the greatest piece written for piano duo – ie, piano four hands. I have heard it performed as Schubert intended and also on two pianos. The performers are Louis Lortie And Hélène Mercier. The Fantasia is divided into four movements, that are interconnected and played without pause. The 4th movement brings back the great melody that opens the piece.
- Allegro molto moderato
- Scherzo. Allegro vivace
- Finale. Allegro molto moderato
I breathlessly await the research that will explain Schubert’s miraculous gifts and accomplishments. In the meantime, enjoy the music. In case the Youtube videos go dark I have placed a sound file of each performance below the video.