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Fantasy Variations for Solo Piano

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From the Publisher

I began planning Fantasy Variations after hearing the simple tune from the clock on Copenhagen City Hall. I was studying with the Swiss pianist and musicologist Francis Engel at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. A gifted friend and fellow pupil, John Benson, was to go to London in the hope of studying with composer Herbert Howells; and everyone at the Academy wished him well and had high hopes for John's future. Professor Engel, eager to help his star pupil, duly purchased the flight ticket on John's behalf.

The bleak January day began with joy and ended with abject horror, as that evening news came that John's plane had crashed in the Welsh mountains in heavy rain, and all on board were killed. Words could not describe the grief and shock of John's family, fellow students and teachers. In due course, a concert was organised at the Academy to raise money for competitions in John's name, and Francis Engel suggested that I should complete my Fantasy Variations for the occasion.

On the day of the concert, 9th June 1952, a deep gloom pervaded the corridors of the Academy; practice rooms were deserted and voices hushed. The unbearable silence continued into the evening and was made worse by the decision to dispense with applause. We had to walk silently on and off the platform. Professor Engel suffered unassuageable pangs of remorse at having given John the money to go to London, and eventually left Ireland for his home on the lake of Thun. -Peter Thorogood

1. Encounter - a mood of foreboding dominates the first variation.
2. Dance expresses the joyful expectations and fulfilment of new friendships.
3. Pastoral brings a gentle Arcadian tone.
4. Polka - a time of merriment and good-fellowship.
5. Jig represents the more playful moods associated with happy friendship.
6. Carillon - a celebration of new friendship; the solitary bell in the final bars forshadows the brutal severance by sudden death.
7. Threnody - a song of sorrow as the funeral procession slowly approaches and passes by.
8. Retrospect brings a sense of repose and a note of remembered pleasures.
9. Parade is the remorseless passing of time and the acceptance of loss.
10. Lament - mourning and acceptance of the inevitable, and finally a philosophical calm.
11. Atonement begins with a quiet meditation which leads to a triumphant statement of faith, and the work ends with a tranquil coda.

Performance duration (approx): 19'00


  1. Encounter
  2. Dance
  3. Pastoral
  4. Polka
  5. Jig
  6. Carillon
  7. Threnody
  8. Retrospect
  9. Parade
  10. Lament
  11. Atonement

Item Details


  • Part 1: Piano
Category: Piano Repertoire
Publisher: Goodmusic
Publisher's reference: GM314
Our Stock Code: 1618167
Media Type: Paperback