Franz Schubert had his difficulties with piano sonatas for quite some time: Beethoven’s shadow was all-powerful, and he seemed to have explored all the possibilities of the genre. Between 1815 and 1818 alone Schubert worked on about a dozen piano sonatas, of which most remained mere fragments and were not published. Only in 1826 was Schubert self-confident enough to confront comparison with Beethoven with the printed edition of his A minor sonata D 845, composed in the previous year. That he had long been pursuing his own path as a composer of cyclically conceived piano works had already become clear in the meantime with his Wanderer Fantasy D 760, which had appeared three years earlier. Its four sections, which seamlessly merge with each other but are nonetheless clearly distinguished in terms of tempo, key and expressive character, fall back superficially on the classical model of the four-movement sonata. At the same time, through motivic anticipations and flashbacks, variation techniques and formal intertwinings, the traditional split of the sonata into for the most part independent sections is done away with.
The pianist Seong-Jin Cho, born in Seoul in 1984 – winner of the First Prize at the International Chopin Piano Competition 2015 – already enthralled both audience and critics with his fiery debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in November 2017, when he stood in for the indisposed Lang Lang. This time, in the scope of the Philharmonic piano series, he will present Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy in the context of other piano works which are no less unique in a technically highly demanding programme: the first volume of Claude Debussy’s Images and excerpts from the Préludes, as well as Modest Mussorgsky’s literally “fantastic” Pictures at an Exhibition.