Fantaisie concertante


Piano & orchestra

15 mn

• World premiere: 7/11/1995, salle Pleyel, Paris (France) – Émile Naoumoff (piano), Orchestra symphonique français, Laurent Petitgirard (cond.).

• Publisher: Gérard Billaudot.

• Scoring: – – timb & 2 perc. – strings.

• Commissioned by the Institut de France for its bicentenary.

• CD “Orchestre philharmonique de Liège” (Accord/Universal 472 2162).

The work is based on two principal ideas. The first is akin to a luxuriant expanse of strings with broad, repetitive harmonies over which an oboe (then trumpet) melody hesitantly appears, seeming to evoke the memory of a folk tune. The second, with the contours of (an imaginary) Gregorian anthem, takes on the form of a dance in which binary and ternary rhythms alternate in continual renewal. The establishment of this beat, constantly thwarted under these Gregorian neumes turning in loops on themselves, accentuates the haunting effect of what appears to be a ritual dance

Throughout the piece, we see these two thematic ideas come closer through a phenomenon of successive struggles. In the central part, for example, snatches of these diverse thematic elements clash brutally by dialogues, often abrupt, of the different sections of the orchestra (cello, solo violin, piano…), all that in an atmosphere of expectation accentuated by a scansion of low wind instruments.

In the third part of the piece, these ideas end up blending with one another both rhythmically and harmonically in an irrepressible final fit of anger.

 With the entrance of the piano, one has the feeling of being quite far from 'concerto' writing. Most often mixed with the orchestra where it is like a sort of bubbling lava, at times it suddenly appears in short, abrupt irruptions where the somewhat desperate lyricism is quickly crushed by the orchestral mass.

What serves as a cadenza for the piano is a long rise of fast arpeggios within which the initial motif gradually forms again. But there again, a sheet of string tenuti closing in on themselves in a slow chromatic ascension progressively catches the last élans of the solo instrument in a stranglehold.

Commissioned by the Institut de France for its bicentennial, the Fantaisie concertante was first performed on 7th November 1995, at Salle Pleyel in Paris, by Émile Naoumoff and the Orchestre Symphonique Français, conducted by Laurent Petitgirard.

Thierry Escaich
Translated by John Tyler Tuttle