Wanderer Fantasy

Posted by: pianoloverus

Wanderer Fantasy - 11/15/01 03:00 PM

I was just wondering if other people find Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy as boring and overrated as I do. I adore many of the Schubert Sonatas and many of his shorter works, but have never liked the Wanderer despite its immense difficulties. I'd rather listen to the Schumann C major Fantasy 100 times than listen to Schubert's Fantasy once!Does anyone else find the Wanderer bombastic and/or overrated?
Posted by: Bernard

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/15/01 09:36 PM

No. I like it.
Posted by: Brendan

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/15/01 10:16 PM

Unlike most Chopin, the Wanderer Fantasy is not performer-proof. If you hear a bad performance of a Chopin Ballade, you walk away saying "what a bad pianist," but if you hear a bad performance of the Wanderer Fantasy, you walk away saying "what a bad piece." This, indeed, has been the case for me the last few times that I've heard it performed. If you hear someone do it well, the effect is spectacular because the music pushes the limits of formal construction and technique, not to mention is a forerunner of Liszt's thematic transformation.

I remember one of the professors here at CCM did it on his recital two years ago and it was absolutely fantastic. Then I heard a guest artist play it a few months later to much less success, and I found myself seeing the flaws in the piece as well as the performance. It's that way with most of the monuments of the piano literature - late Beethoven Sonatas (especially op. 110), the Liszt Sonata, Prokofiev Eighth Sonata, and the Schumann Fantasy (which I absolutely detest to unthinkable extents but will acknowledge its significance). You've got to play it like it was written for you, and play it as if eveyone else on the planet can't do it the justice that you can. Then, and only then, will a performance of such a massive work be memorable.
Posted by: Mat D.

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 12:49 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Brendan:
[QB]Unlike most Chopin, the Wanderer Fantasy is not performer-proof. If you hear a bad performance of a Chopin Ballade, you walk away saying "what a bad pianist," but if you hear a bad performance of the Wanderer Fantasy, you walk away saying "what a bad piece."

Brendan--So true. Not only is it not "performer-proof", it is an extremely difficult piece to pull-off in live performance because it is so uncomfortable in the hand (maybe Db would have been a better key)it is wrought with traps which can make for a pretty sloppy sounding performance in anything but the hands of the very best players.

Recomended recordings: Richter (plays it like he owns it!!) Kissin (technically perfect, but also very musical, especially the 3/8 movement. Pollini (technically perfect--a little less "lope" in the 3/8 IMO)

It's a great piece of music!! Who else but a composer of Schubert's stature could write an entire masterpiece based on a simple 4 note motif-- da dada da...

[ November 16, 2001: Message edited by: Mat D. ]
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 03:58 AM

 Quote:
It's a great piece of music!! Who else but a composer of Schubert's stature could write an entire masterpiece based on a simple 4 note motif-- da dada da...


Beethoven? Dadada da...
Posted by: Mat D.

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 05:11 AM

Nici---Nice one! thanks.
Posted by: AndrewG

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 07:32 AM

Let me add A. Rubinstein to Mat's short list of outstanding and recommendable recordings.
Posted by: Brendan

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 07:55 AM

Oooohhhh...I didn't know Rubenstein played this piece. How does it measure up?
Posted by: Hank Drake

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 08:31 AM

Rubinstein's recording of the Wanderer Fantasy is on Volume 55 of RCA's complete Rubinstein Collection. Here is the review I wrote for Amazon.com:

The performances compiled on this CD were recorded from 1961-1965.

Rubinstein never played much Schubert in concert or on record. With the exception of one Sonata movement, this is Rubinstein's entire recorded Schubert repertoire. This is a pity, as these performances are more natural sounding and enjoyable than those by many Schubert "specialists."

The Impromptus were recorded in 1961. The G-flat Impromptu is played in Rubinstein's usual straightforward style, with the accompaniment exquisitely balanced against the melody. The A-flat Impromptu is a deceptively simple performance, the repeated note "falling" theme sounding as if it were being pulled earthward by gravity.

For the original LP release, Rubinstein coupled the Wanderer Fantasy with the Liszt Sonata as a demonstration of how Schubert anticipated Liszt's cyclical musical construction. As played by Rubinstein, the Fantasy emerges as more of an architectonic masterpiece than a virtuoso calling card. In some of the more bravura sections, he is clearly holding back a little, but the performance does not suffer from Rubinstein's refusal to show off. Incidentally, Rubinstein, who was never particularly concerned with performing a piece from an authoritative printed edition, does not play the left hand D-natural at the end of the second movement. In the nearly unplayable fugue, where many pianists cover up the difficulties in a haze of pedal, Rubinstein firmly sounds every note. A stunning performance.

Rubinstein had a difficult relationship with the B-flat Sonata, Schubert's final essay in the form. He attempted to record it four times: twice in 1963, again in 1965, and finally returning to the studio for a last attempt in 1969. Rubinstein approved the 1969 version, which was released to lukewarm critical reception. It was generally felt at the time that Rubinstein had allowed himself to "over-think" the piece and the performance was rather bogged down and joyless. The 1965 version, first released in 1987 and included on this CD, is far superior. Phrasing, tempi, and rubato are all unforced and sponteneous sounding. It is noteworthy to compare this performance with Alfred Brendel's various recordings. Though Rubinstein was 78 when this recording was made, the elder pianist sounds far more youthful than the chronologically younger Brendel. It goes without saying that Rubinstein's legendary tone is infinitely more beautiful than Brendel's annoyingly shallow sonority. Many pianists, mostly those of the German School, have tried to impose upon this work the notion of the Winter Wanderer Shadowed by Death. Rubinstein doesn't downplay Schubert's suffering, but his performance reminds us that Schubert was, after all, only 31 when he completed this masterpiece.

RCA has done their usual fine job remastering Max Wilcox's well recorded original tapes. Highest recommendation.
Posted by: AndrewG

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 08:43 AM

Thanks Hank,

for giving us a nice review! Mine is RCA Red Seal 6257-2-RC. A stand-alone CD. I guess it's the same thing. It really best demonstrates what a 'Rubinstein Sound' is: warm, luscious, caressing. This "Wanderer" brought tears to my eyes every time I listened to it attentively.
Posted by: Hank Drake

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 10:55 AM

Yes, that is the original CD release from 1987. That was my first, and remains my favorite, recordig of the Schubert Sonata, D. 960.

The programme is identical on Volume 55, but with a new remastering. It sounds similar, but with a bit more dynamic impact.
Posted by: Mat D.

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 11:16 AM

AndrewG--Oops, I forgot the A. Rubinstein recording. I used to have that on vinyl in the 60's and recently repurchased on CD. His is a great version, maybe the best of the bunch in the long run...

On this same CD is a fabulous Schubert Son. Op. Posth., D.960 in Bb and 2 Op. 90 Impromptus---

Mat D.
Posted by: PianoMuse

Re: Wanderer Fantasy - 11/16/01 07:38 PM

As my piano teacher so wonderfully put it the other day:
" I love Schubert, but sometimes he just doesn't know when to shut up."