Fantasy-Impromptu

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*Listen*

Fantasy-Impromptu was composed especially for Susan Klick, whose playing I admire greatly. It is a one-movement trio for flute, cello and piano, intended to showcase all three instrumentalists as equal soloists. A little in form like the Chopin piano work of the same name, it is basically a rondo.


The lively principal idea or refrain isn’t introduced at the very beginning, rather there is a slower, more lyrical section that builds in intensity and increases in tempo up to the first statement of the refrain, which is introduced by the flutist, accompanied by pizzicato cello. This lively refrain section is interrupted suddenly by a darker, more somber and slower episode featuring a varied ostinato (repeating melodic pattern) introduced by the piano, joined by the cello playing a dramatic oration punctuated by quadruple stops and recitative-like fragments. It is a nocturnal mood, which is to return later. But first, like the opening of the work, this section also gradually builds in intensity and increases in tempo until it is also interrupted by the lively refrain, again introduced by the flute and pizzicato cello, but joined this time immediately by the piano. The contrasting, slower nocturnal mood returns, this time with the ostinato in the cello, traded off to the flute. Once again the tempo increases, as does the intensity, until yet another variation of the refrain is reprised. This time the refrain itself increases in tempo and virtuosity until the music deserves the indication Presto energico. After several furioso outbursts accompanied by fortissimo chords in the piano part, the music slows and the final variant of the nocturnal ostinato begins, also in the piano. This time the piano extends the idea with a fuller chordal accompaniment that builds to a maestoso mood which subsides after a fiery outburst by the flute. The music subsides to pianississimo after a ghostly melody played by the cello in harmonics. Suddenly the piano reintroduces the lively refrain, and the trio concludes Presto e fieramente, with a flashy coda.

In order to capture a variety of moods and characters, I employed a tonal language which is highly chromatic in many sections, uses synthetic modes, and also features large tonal areas with materials as varied as triads and clusters. Frequently shifting meters and precision ensemble playing make it a piece of challenging, but hopefully rewarding to play, piece of chamber music.

Selected performances of Fantasy-Impromptu

Premiere: March 13, 1999, Susan Klick, flute, Matthew Herren, ‘cello, Steven Graff, piano, F&M Sound Horizons Series, Lancaster, PA  

Performance: October 19, 2003: Trio Fedele. F&M Sound Horizons Series, Lancaster, PA 

© John Carbon 2015