Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, KV 397

— Rita Charbonnier. Posthumous portrait of Mozart by Barbara Krafft

celebre ritratto di MozartOne day, some years ago now, I bought one of those cheap Mozart collections off a market stall. When I got home I put the CD on to listen to. One of the tracks was the Fantasia in D minor for piano, KV 397. As soon as I heard the opening notes I was stunned. I stopped what I was doing to listen properly, then I listened to the piece again, and then again, and then rushed out to a music store to buy myself the score. I kept thinking, who wrote this stuff, how I would love to meet them! What an incredible brain! What strength of character! How wonderfully mad!

It’s astonishing how many different ideas and colours are contained in that single page of music. Those hugely long rests, which resolve into something completely unexpected; and the disturbing finale. It doesn’t finish, it’s a thought which starts off as something dramatic and finishes in a cheeky, laughing smile.

Mozart's Sister

If you want to listen to the piece, you can click here and download it in m4a format along with the other pieces mentioned in my novel, Mozart’s Sister.

By clicking here, here, and here you can watch three videos with three different interpretations of the piece, one by a famous performer and one dedicated to me.

If you want to play it yourself, you can click here and download the score for free.

Nannerl, the protagonist in my story, plays the Fantasia at a special moment (on page 308). In her hands the piece of music becomes a turning point in her life, the reconciliation with the memory of her father and brother. When she plays it, she understands some of the things Wolfgang had told her many years before which she had refused to listen to at the time.

When I wrote that page I locked myself in the house and unplugged all the phones and Internet (which is something I do quite often to be honest). I put the CD on to repeat play and sat down on the sofa, which is next to the piano, with my laptop on the piano stool and the Fantasia score propped on a chair next to it. As I listened to the music, and glanced at the score from time to time, I just let myself go, writing down any and all of the images that came to mind, and then I stopped the CD a moment and played a few lines of the music myself, and then I went back to making notes of whatever I wanted to make notes about, and the tears were streaming down my face the whole time…

If any of Mozart’s music holds any special meaning for you, please let me know. Looking forward to hearing from you.


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