Recorded on 12/09/2009, uploaded on 03/11/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Some uncertainty surrounds the composition of Mendelssohn’s Fantasy in F sharp minor, op. 28. It is known that the final manuscript was completed in 1833. Though, references in letters to his sister of a “Sonata ecossaise” (Scottish Sonata) suggest the piece may have been composed as early as 1828. This date, however, places the conception of the work prior to his 1829 visit to Scotland, ruling out the possibility of the Scottish countryside as the inspiration of the piece, as was the case with the Scottish Symphony and Hebrides Overture. When the piece was published in 1834, Mendelssohn replaced its original title with “Phantasie.”
Consisting of three movements, the Fantasy in F sharp minor falls into the category of the fantasy-sonata. Following in the pattern of Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight” Sonata, each movement of Mendelssohn’s Fantasy adopts a quicker tempo than the preceding one. A foreboding air opens the first movement with the sound of a low pedal F sharp over which sweeping arpeggios traverse the compass of the piano. Following this introduction, a melancholy Andante tune forms the principal melody of the movement. Despite its reserved beginning, the music becomes increasingly more agitated. The middle section returns to the mysterious arpeggios of the opening, this time forcing the appearance of different tonalities and the adoption of a more improvisatory character. Over a quickly rising chromatic scale, the principal melody returns with passionate distress but eventually subsides into the same melancholic demeanor of the opening. A brief return of the agitated middle section and a lone, monophonic statement of the melody conclude the movement.
After a pause on the final note of the first movement, the second movement begins without further break. A lively Allegro in cut-time and the key of A major, it is a movement somewhere on the cusp of a scherzo. The brief opening melody frames a longer middle section in D major, which features a moto perpetuo of constant eighth notes, first in the bass then moving to the treble. Following the last chord of the middle Allegro, the Presto finale begins after only a brief pause. Fiery and passionate, the final movement embraces the struggles and tensions of a full-fledged sonata form. A cantabile melody in A major, offset by a persistent and restless bass, follows the disjunct first theme. The development section relentlessly takes hold of a motif heard in the closing bars of the exposition, driving the music on with feverish passion. Following the recapitulation of both themes, the coda takes up the same motif from the development. A descending scale and a thunderous trill in the lowest reaches of the piano bring about the final chords of the piece. Joseph DuBose
Exactly when Mendelssohn composed this Fantasy has not been determined. We know that the final manuscript was completed in 1833. However, letters from Mendelssohn suggest that the piece, then titled "Sonate écossaise" (Scottish Sonata), was written as early as 1828. When Mendelssohn had the Fantasy published in 1834, he suppressed the original title.
Mendelssohn builds the Fantasy on simple, elegant themes that can be taken easily through various harmonies and transformed. It contains three movements, each at a faster tempo than the previous one.
The first movement begins with an introduction, followed by an Andante which is melancholy in character. Quiet arpeggios lead to the secondary theme. Flashy arpeggios and octaves form the central section, before the recapitulation brings back the first theme. The second movement is a scherzo, with some thematic transformation of the main theme. After a charming trio section, the scherzo material is repeated, note for note, with an extension. Marked Presto, the finale offers rapid, plummeting scales and a high energy level, even during the cantabile second theme. Both themes appear in the recapitulation, followed by a thrilling coda. Alessandro Taverna
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