Quattro Esercizi di Fantasia

for amplified harpsichord and stereo tape

on music by Domenico Scarlatti


1. Overture: Flight of Fancy

2. Aria: Dialogue with a Restless Memory

3. Cadenza: Command Performance

 4. Gavota: Fireworks in the Royal Gardens


         Suite is based on three Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti - Sonata in B Major L. 348, Sonata in A Major L. 483, and Sonata in d minor L. 58. In this work I did not want to alter the original musical text with arbitrary interpolations or modifications, but rather to utilize its original compositional premises - the harmonic progressions and the motivic structure - in order to create new relations and gestures from this same material.   

         Throughout the course of the work, the harpsichord remains faithful to the music of Scarlatti thereby serving both as a point of reference for the un-modified sound of the harpsichord and for the original musical material upon which the accompanying tape "collage" of Scarlatti's music is based.

         The material of the tape is exclusively developed from recordings of the previously mentioned Sonatas (with the exception of a few seconds from a fourth sonata cited in the first movement). In this way the musique concrète elaboration of Scarlatti's material - through filtering, reverberation, speed changes, multi-playbacks, etc., - produced not only new, yet harpsichord-like sounds but, even more importantly, it created new, yet "Scarlatti-like" musical ideas - an "amplification" of Scarlatti's original material in every sense of the word. 

         Suite was written in 1973 for the Italian harpsichordist, Mariolina De Robertis. Ms. De Robertis, to whom the work is dedicated, also recorded the Scarlatti Sonatas which served as the basis for the subsequent tape manipulations. The tape portion of this work was remastered in 2003 (the original tape material was still in existence) using computer programs to enhance the fidelity and precision of the original mix. Structurally the pre-recorded material was left relatively untouched with the exception of the addition of a minute of material in the last movement. The harpsichord part, on the other hand, was modified considerably and an extensive Cadenza was introduced between the second and third movements of the original version creating, in fact, a four movement work. In 2007 the harpsichord part was further modified and the dynamic balances within the pre-recorded sound were adjusted accordingly.

         The present version - which assigns a greater role to the solo harpsichord and places it within a more spectacular "theatrical framework" provided by the pre-recorded sound - has, I hope, struck a satisfactory balance between the harpsichord soloist and the pre-recorded sounds, between Scarlatti's music and the 'musique concrète' manipulation thereof and, if you will, between musical thought expressed as logical progression or as dream-like fantasy - the mix of which suggested the subtitle: "Quattro Esercizi di Fantasia".

Richard Trythall

Suite: Quattro Esercizi di Fantasia, Mp3  (Complete performance)

YouTube Video: Suite: Quattro Esercizi di Fantasia for Amplified Harpsichord and Pre-recorded Sounds


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