Monday, October 8, 2012

Schubert: Fantasie F minor, piano four-hands

Something brief for today. I have been occupied writing program notes for two concerts by a piano four-hands duo and ran across a lovely piece by Schubert that is well worth sharing with you. Perhaps I should explain the terminology a bit. A piece for piano "four-hands" is a piece for a single piano played by two players who sit side by side on the bench. There are also pieces for two pianos, of course. While I am on the subject, a "piano quartet" is not a piece for four pianos, but rather a piece for piano and string trio, just as a "piano quintet" is not for five pianos, but rather for piano and string quartet. However, Steve Reich's Six Pianos is, in fact, for six pianos! Here is the piece by Reich:

Getting that performed is a bit of a logistical nightmare! Even places, like music schools, that have six pianos available, don't keep them all in the same place. But getting back to piano four-hands, it is a very viable medium, even though one not hugely exploited. There is music by Mozart, for him and his sister to play, by Dvořák and Brahms as part of the 19th century trend towards domestic music making, and a couple of lovely examples from the French composers Ravel and Fauré. But one of the very finest pieces for piano four-hands is by Franz Schubert, his Fantaisie in F minor. It is in four interconnected movements. Here is part one:

and part two:

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