Franz Schubert: Fantasie in C Major for Piano, D760. (Wanderer- Fantasie, with Schumann's Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, and Kinderszenen, op. 15). Clifford Curzon, piano. (Decca Legends). Schubert's short life (1797-1828) was probably related to his seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. According to the latest research, Schubert was still a teenager when he contracted syphilis, probably from a male prostitute. Haunted by the inevitability of an early death and frequently suffering from bouts of syphilitic ill health, Schubert allowed music to pour out of him at an unstoppable rate. The man produced over 900 compositions, more than 700 of which were songs; many of these meld extraordinary lyric beauty, a love of nature, and joy at the act of composing with the darker realization of one's impending mortality.
One of the many Schubert compositions that conveys the composer's mood swings is the Wanderer-Fantasie. Comprised of four movements, this symphonically proportioned work's memorable opening theme, which receives Schubert's characteristic theme-and-variations treatment, lingers in the memory long after its conclusion. The Wanderer demands a pianist who possesses supreme technical virtuosity, poetic imagination, and an open heart. Clifford Curzon, in a famed 1946 mono performance, is astounding here. Compare his performance to Andras Schiff's recent so-so version (ECM) or Alfred Brendel's superb 1971 rendition (Philips), and you will discover why Curzon was held in such high esteem.
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