Fantasie #3 "Elegy"
by Danaë Xanthe Vlasse
Piano Solo for advanced pianist. Approximately 13 minutes long.
This 3rd Fantasie, like the previous two Fantasies, is designed to be a transformative journey; this one is a journey of immersion and emergence.
This piece was commissioned by an advanced pianist who will perform it in the 2014-15 concert season in memory of a dear friend who died abruptly 6 months ago. The work begins as a somber funeral to a lost “brother” but rises through a series of passionate outbursts and epiphanies into a great triumph over darkness, and ends with a sense of resolute insistence on “seeing the better side of things” in the face of tragedy. This musical journey “through darkness into light” is designed to celebrate the positive outlook of the friend to whom this work is dedicated.
The piece is based on three themes as well as three motives that reappear throughout the work. The structure of the piece is as follows:
A-section, (at 2’36”)
B-section, (at 4’19”)
Interlude, (at 5’00”), and C-section, (at 6’15”)
A-section, (at 8’20”)
B-altered, (at 10’18”), with Link (10’56”) to Coda,
Large-Coda (11’24”), & Codetta (12’35”).
An outline of important musical material:
The Large Introduction sets the somber tone and introduces two themes as well as two motivic ideas:
About the first two themes:
These first two themes are based on melodic material prescribed by the commissioner, in commemoration of his friend; many years ago these friends shared a joint collaboration to produce a CD called “Life Without Breath” and these melodies were borrowed and inspired by that album.
About the first two motivic ideas:
1st: the work opens with chords that represent a “Veil of Mystery against a back drop of Distant Thunder” – expressed as a gently rolled note cluster in the treble, against deep Bb octaves/note clusters.
And the 2nd motivic idea is “Funeral Bells - both distant and near” which are either high repetitions of Bb, or low descending notes on Bb, Ab, Gb.
About the A-B sections (at 2’36” and 4’19”):
The A-section introduces the final (3rd) melodic material on which the B-section builds. This new theme is less brooding but more emotionally declamatory than the previous themes. The “A-section-theme” is developed in its appearance in the Left Hand in the B-section, where it is simultaneously echoed inside the arpeggios of the Right Hand.
The A-section also presents the final (3rd) motivic material: the notes which spell out the nickname of the lost friend: “Mister” (F, Bb, Eb, F, Eb, Db). These pitches are presented as a counter-melody to the primary melodic material of the A-section, and it is not immediately apparent that these are crucial to the remainder of the work, however, they re-appear very importantly in the C-section, and they lead the final utterances of the Codetta.
About the middle of the work – the Interlude and C-section (at 5’00” and 6’15”):
The Interlude returns to the thematic material presented in the Introduction – as well as reminding the listener of the “Thunder and Bells” motives; these are then carried into a wild array of undulating arpeggiated passagework that explores “a world of unconscious, swirling memories.” The C-section develops the first theme from the Introduction but it is punctuated by the motivic material built on Mister’s name, as well as the descending “Bells” motif, which is inverted in an effort to turn around the darkness of the original funeral setting. Taken as a whole, the C-section’s “swirling memories” are a vast mix of emotions; they are a flight of fancy, sometimes gentle, but also bittersweet, even frightened, and they eventually grow into an overwhelming irrational anger at the unfairness of life’s harsh circumstances.
The return to the A-B sections (at 8’20” and 10’18”):
The intense return to the second A-section is built directly out of the climax of the C-section, and now both A and B-sections are dramatized so that the expression of loss is more sustained than before.
The Link to the Coda (at 10’56”):
Following the second B-section, there is a “glimpse” of where the piece is going – the main theme from A returns in a major key, with a new-found sweetness never explored prior. This section could have concluded the work, but the structural weight of the vast Introduction begs for an equally grand conclusion! …
About the Coda-Codetta (at 11’24” and 12’35”):
The Coda brings cohesion to the whole by presenting the themes from the Introduction in the relative major key, and the sweeping Lisztian-arpeggios that surround the melody give a sense of grandiose “epic Hollywood ending” to the piece! The last 6 measures’ Codetta is the final utterance of the melodic material – in Db major – where the thematic material from the A-section finally reveals its strength: the motivic countermelody of “Mister’s name” comes to the forefront and joins the pitches of Mister’s real name “Jimmy” (Ab, Bb. F, F, Db) to conclude the piece in triumphant salute to a beloved friend!
RIP: “Mister” Jimmy Hepburn 1959-2013