This first set of piano fantasies was initiated for the 2005 Stony Brook University Piano Project, a thematically unified set of concerts and lectures which, in that season, was organized around the topic of the fantasy. As a point of reference, I used the 16th and 17th century model of the fantasy. The improvisatory mastery of virtuosi during this period (such as Francesco da Milano, and Johann Froberger) had always fascinated me. For these pieces, however, I was interested in the notion of a player/composer who possessed all of the dazzling technical mastery associated with the fantasy, but whose improvising was somewhat flawed.
Fantasy I shows the performer uncertain of what type of piece he wants to develop, as light, rapid figuration is answered with a slow chorale. As the delicate chorale proceeds, concurrent outbursts in the lower register suggest yet another direction. When the opening harmonic sequence reappears, now trudging heavily through the low register, the performer superimposes faster staccato flashes above before finally closing with a truncated toccata-like section.
The opening two-bar outburst of Fantasy II announces a series of rapidly moving dissonant chords that eventually yields to a more calm, reflective section. Throughout this section, the player recalls reordered components of the opening outburst in various guises, momentarily lapsing into a reference to the second fantasy of Brahms' Op. 116. Suddenly aware of his wandering train of thought, the performer hastily ends the piece with another aggressive chordal passage.
The compact Fantasy III is more focused in gesture, and features unrelenting scalar runs throughout. Occasional accented pitches or chord groups puncture the fluid surface, but this time, the player is able to keep these interfering ideas at bay. Twice, the piece almost drifts away with a repeated note morendo figure, but both times the player interrupts suddenly with further elaboration on the scurrying passagework. The third appearance of this figure, however, serves as an unassuming close to the player's "improvisations".
II. Presto agitato