Charles Wuorinen: Chamber Works

About the Fast Fantasy

“Once a fluent, erudite author of program notes, Wuorinen rarely provides them today. “I just don’t know what to write anymore,” he said. In olden times, when I had a specific compositional method to describe, program notes served a purpose. I had something definite to say, you know, even though it seemed pretty technical to some members of the audience. Now my methods are more general, my solutions more intuitive and local, my preliminary material sparser and sparser, so it is difficult for me to draw any communicable conclusion about what it is that I’ve done.

“Besides, program notes can do more harm than good” he continued. “I’ve heard it said that Milton Babbitt’s music would never have generated the kind of hostility that it did if he had explained it as the ‘yearnings of a passionate soul,’ or something like that. Moreover, to describe the methods that a composer used to create a piece may have absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of the piece as a musical experience. There is often a profound difference between what a composition really is and what we think it is when we are making it.”

Wuorinen allows that the Fast Fantasy is “just what the title implies: a fantasy based on a big lump of notes, intuitively rhythmed, with some quali­ties of recitative.” Like most other celebrated musical fantasies, this one is essentially rhapsodic in form and abounds in pyrotechnical display. From the opening flourish (built around an insistently repeated F note passed, rapid-fire, from instrument to instrument) through the hushed, sus­tained song-like central section, this is a work of charm and unfettered imagination. Particularly effective are the last few bars, when cello and piano join forces to create rich, gonging, multi-textured chords that resound with the authority of conclusion. Yet there is one final surprise in store: As the chords are on the verge of dying out, the cello suddenly scampers off blithely, for an unexpectedly light­hearted ending. The Fast Fantasy is dedicated to Fred Sherry.

– Tim Page ©1990

Release date:
Jan 1. 1990
New World Records
Number of discs:
Total length:
(C) 1990 Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc.