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John Corigliano

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Etude Fantasy (for piano) (1976)
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
18 Minutes
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Programme Note
John Corigliano Etude Fantasy (for piano) (1976)
A 2007 revision to the first movement of Etude Fantasy features a new ending. The movement is available for purchase as a Manuscript Edition from the Rental Library. The original Etude Fantasy may be purchased from your music dealer.

Composer Note:

My Etude Fantasy is actually a set of five studies combined into the episodic form and character of a fantasy. The material in the studies is related most obviously by the interval of a second (and its inversion and expansion to sevenths and ninths) which is used both melodically and in the building of the work’s harmonic structure.

The first etude is for the left hand alone — a bold, often ferocious statement which introduces both an opening six-note row (the first notes of the work) and a melodic germ (marked "icy" in the score) which follows the initial outburst. This etude reaches a climax in which both the row and the thematic germ are heard together, and ends as the right hand enters playing a slow chromatic descent which introduces the next etude — a study of legato playing.

In the short second etude both hands slowly float downward as a constant crossing of contrapuntal lines provides melodic interest. The sustaining of sound as well as the clarity of the crossing voices is important here.

The third etude, a study on a two-note figure, follows — a fleet development on the simple pattern of a fifth (fingers one and five) contracting to a third (fingers two and four). In this section there is much crossing of hands; during the process a melody emerges in the top voices. A buildup leads to a highly chromatic middle section (marked "slithery"), with sudden virtuosic outbursts, after which the melody returns to end the etude as it began.

The fourth etude is a study of ornaments. Trills, grace notes, tremolos, glissandos and roulades ornament the opening material (Etude I) and then develop the first four notes of the third etude into a frenetically charged scherzando where the four fingers of the left hand softly play a low cluster of notes (like a distant drum) as the thumb alternates with the right hand in rapid barbaric thrusts. This leads to a restatement of the opening 6-note row of the fantasy in a highly ornamented fashion.

After a sonorous climax comes the final etude, a study of melody. In it, the player is required to isolate the melodic line, projecting it through the filigree which surrounds it; here the atmosphere is desolate and non-climactic, and the material is based entirely on the melodic implications on the left hand etude, with slight references to the second (legato) study. The work ends quietly with the opening motto heard in retrograde accompanying a mournful two-note ostinato.

— John Corigliano

Sample Pages

  • Soloist(s)
    Caroline Hong
    Fleur De Son:
  • Soloist(s)
    David Jalbert
    Endeavour Classics:
  • Soloist(s)
    James Tocco
    Sony Classical:
  • Soloist(s)
    Stephen Hough
  • Soloist(s)
    Andrew Russo
    Black Box Classics:
  • Soloist(s)
    Michael Sheppard (Piano)
    Harmonia Mundi:
  • Soloist(s)
    Ursula Oppens
    Cedille Records:
The "Etude Fantasy" [is] a forceful, high energy work that begins as a left-hand étude but becomes a forceful, scampering, harmonically free-wheeling piece-sometimes richly tonal, sometimes angular and brash-for both hands.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times,01/01/0001
John Corigliano's 1976 "Etude Fantasy" is a complete success. The piece is in five movements; while each deals with a particular technical challenge for advanced pianists, they flow together quite seamlessly to create a 17-minute dramatic curve. The first movement is for left hand alone, though I for one was completely unaware of this when I first listened, as the music is so virtuosic, and was all the more impressed with Stephen Hough's skills as a result. The Fourth Etude is a reckless, almost out-of-control careening ride through a forest of ornaments and propulsive ostinatos (a neo-primitivist romp), while the final movement is an evocatively barren soundscape centered around a continually rocking minor third (a bit like the Schoenberg op.11, no.2). The language of this piece, while accessible as always with Corigliano, is more chromatic and expressionistic than his current neo-Romantic/postmodern reputation might cause some to expect. But it simply goes to show that Corigliano has always been a composer of great range, more Romantic in spirit than in literal sound, a composer very much of his time and not a throwback. The sound of the recording is full and faultless. [This is] a great piano album, and a loving testament to the strength of a strain of American music that is expressive and humanistic while remaining open to the challenges of its time.
Robert Carl, Fanfare,01/01/0001
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