Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Franz Schubert

It was the idea of the original publisher of Franz Schubert's Piano Sonata in G major, D. 894, Tobias Haslinger, not to call the work a sonata. Presumably because he felt the gentle opening movement to be so far from the traditional, rigorous sonata-opener that he knew his potential customers would expect, he provided it with the rather misleading surrogate title "Fantasie, Andante, Menuetto, and Allegretto"; the entire Sonata has ever since been known as "Fantasy," or "Sonata-Fantasy". This is ironic, since the opening movement that inspired Haslinger's nomenclature is probably one of the tamest and "most perfect" (as Robert Schumann said of it) sonata-allegros Schubert ever composed.

D. 894 was written during October 1826, and is one of just three Schubert piano sonatas published during the composer's lifetime (in 1827, as Opus 78). Schubert had to take what he could get from publishers, and, however he might have felt about the work's title, his stagnant finances hardly put him in a position to bicker.

The four movements are Molto moderato e cantabile, Andante (Schubert's preferred indication for a sonata "slow" movement), Allegro moderato (the minuet and trio), and Allegretto. The first movement differs from the textbook sonata-allegro only in texture and tone, not in the basics of its actual form: the two principal subjects are both given in their traditional keys and, unlike many of Schubert's sonata-movements, the recapitulation takes place in the home key of G major. There may be no more patient melody in all of Schubert than the pianissimo opening tune, whose animation seems at times to become all but suspended. The unseen force that propels this relaxed exposition comes to the fore in the cataclysmic, triple-fortissimo climaxes of the development.

The tender, almost Schumannesque main melody of the following Andante is made to embrace some wildly contrasting sections of music, during which fortissimo sforzandos spill over into cascading figures. The Minuet is aristocratic, with a gracious, ornamented trio.

The refrain theme of the Rondo finale is nearly as unhurried as the opening theme of the first movement. The delightfully contrasting ideas include a happy peasant dance and, during the central episode, a cantabile tune in C minor. After the last reprise of the refrain idea, to which is appended a witty and wonderful coda, the four bars that opened the movement appear one last time -- un poco più lento, lovingly -- to draw the final cadence.