David Fray returns to Schubert with Fantaisie, his much-anticipated second recording of the composer’s piano music, a collection of passionate late works. Along with the Sonata in G D894 ‘Fantasie’ and the Hungarian Melody D817, Fray presents two duets for piano four-hands, both composed in the last year of Schubert’s life: the Fantasia in F minor D940 and the towering Allegro in A minor D947, ‘Lebensstürme’ (‘Storms of Life’). Fray invited Jacques Rouvier, his mentor and renowned teacher from the Paris Conservatoire, to join him in the studio, making this album a true labour of love.
The French pianist’s Schubert interpretations are universally admired, both on disc and in recital. In its review of Fray’s 2009 album of the Moments musicaux and Impromptus D899, The Guardian praised his “discerning musicality… the sheer lucidity and polish of Fray’s playing, its exceptional command of colour and touch and the way he invariably uses that range of sound to point up musical structures in a meaningful way.” Gramophone declared it “a Schubert disc of the rarest distinction”, while BBC Music Magazine joined the fray with: “What’s immediately striking about his Schubert playing is its refinement, and variety of colour.”
Although Schubert composed over 20 sonatas, only three were published during his lifetime, of which the ‘Fantasie’ G Major Sonata D894, published in 1826, was the last. After Schubert’s death, Robert Schumann described this masterpiece as the “most perfect in form and conception” of all Schubert’s sonatas.
Schubert spent the summers of 1818 and 1824 at the chateau of Count Johann Karl Esterházy (of the same Hungarian noble family that had been patron to Haydn), where he taught the Count’s two daughters. There he was exposed to the lively Magyar rhythms and tunes that infuse the Ungarische Melodie D817, a gem he composed in 1824 on his return to Vienna, but which went unpublished until a century after his death.
One of Schubert’s favourite forms of chamber music was the piano duet – he composed some 60 works in the genre. The Fantasia in F minor of 1828 is his last and most poetic contribution to the form as well as one of the most important works in his oeuvre.
In addition to David Fray, Jacques Rouvier – Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire since 1979 – counts some of today’s most illustrious international virtuosos among his former students, including Arcadi Volodos and Hélène Grimaud.