This piece is based on the composer's earlier song entitled `Der Wanderer''. In the lyrics, written by G.P. Schmidt, the wanderer sets out on his journey, at first describing the sights he encounters. Later, however, he shifts to a more reflective mood:
Die Sonne dünkt mich hier so kalt,
Die Blüthe welk, das Leben alt,
Und was sie reden, leerer Schall;
Ich bin ein Fremdling überall.
The Sun itself here seems so cold, flowers wilt and life is old. What others speak's an empty sound: I am a stranger all around.
This is the only line of the song rendered in the Fantasy, but its variations return in every movement, suggesting, perhaps, that this more abstract idea of ``wandering'' is what the composer had in mind.
The first movement is an introduction. The second movement states the theme in its original form, in the key of C# minor. On the syllable ``Fremd'' (=foreign), the composer writes, in the right hand, an unusually difficult chord in two octaves: A, C#, F#, C#. The third movement is a ``scherzo-trio'', and the last movement a fugue. Several passages of the piece (notably the codas of the first and third movements) are considered virtually unplayable by many renouned pianists.