Blog

Fantasia in C major

Fantasia in C major, Hob. HVII:4 was written by Franz Joseph Haydn in 1789. It is based on an Austrian folk song “Do Bäuren hat d’Katz valor”, which mean “The farmer’s wife has lost her cat”. During that time, he was working for the Prince Esterhazy and he was deeply influenced by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The fantasia is an instrumental composition that written in free form and structure. It was started during the 16th century by the lutenists. Later, fantasia work was composed by some important composers. For example, Mozart’s “Fantasia in C minor,” K.475; Robert Schumann’s “Fantasie in C major,” Op.17; “Fantaisie in F minor,” Op.49 by Frederic Chopin. The fantasia usually consists of several motives and sections. It is an independent keyboard piece. During that time, Haydn mentioned “In a moment of great good humour I have completed a new Capriccio for fortepiano, whose taste, singularity and special construction cannot fail to receive approval from connoisseurs and amateurs alike. It is … rather long, but by no means too difficult.” (Wigmore)

Formal Analysis
Fantasia in C major is marked Presto, which mean at a rapid tempo. It is in  time. This is not a very long piece because of the quick and lively tempo. There are several themes in this piece. The first theme starts right in the beginning in bar 1 with soft and detached quavers in C major. It is then modulated to G major in bars 29 and D major in bars 42. The second theme comes in at bars 70. The basic idea of the second theme comes from bars 5 and 6 in the first theme. In bars 124, the first theme returns and modulates to G major. The second theme returns in bars 195. Again, the first theme returns in bars 255 and the second theme in bars 305. Finally, the coda comes in at bars 445 towards the end.
Basically, there are several rhythmic patterns that it keeps on repeating between the right hand and left hand hand throughout the piece. For example, 3-quavers, 6-semiquavers, quaver and 4 semiquavers, crotchet and quaver and so on. It may require fingers articulation and sometime crossing-hand to play this piece. Other than that, the decoration of ornaments makes the piece delightful.

Comparison of two performances
I have listened to two Fantasia in C major, Hob.XVII:4 performances by Szokolay Balazs and Xi Chen. Balazs is a famous pianist from Hungarian while Xi Chen is a talented young pianist. Both of them played a very nice work. They played the piece in very lively and playful manner. However, they expressed differently in some part of the music. In this piano piece, Balazs played in quick and steady tempo. His playing is very clear in tone and equal dynamic contrast. Similarly, Xi Chen performed the piece lively and in very nice articulation work. But, Xi Chen played in slower tempo compared to Balazs’s. His playing is in wider range of dynamic and rich in rubato, for example, he played the arpeggios and trills more rubato in bars 67 and 68.