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For the composer, Fantasia is a particularly significant work. It was her first ever commission. Numerous performances in Europe by Tessa Birnie - including a premiere broadcast on Radio Turkey! - led to subsequent performances by other pianists. Displaying a new technical confidence from her studies with Peter Maxwell Davies, the work's single unified structure marks a turning point in Whitehead's composing method. The title, refers not so much to free fantasy but to the imagination required to create music from minimal material; in this case - the opening three-note motive. The work is in three sections, corresponding to these notes, and fabric of the entire piece is generated from them. There are patterns that emerge within sections, as well as those spanning the entire piece, (trills and tempi changes included). Because of the inherent symmetry of the generated material, with layers building up both forwards and backwards, Whitehead's original intention was to make a palindromic structure, but it became instead a through-composed work with coda. (Programme note by Emma Carle and Jack Body).
Commissioned by Tessa Birnie for the Australian Society for Keyboard Music
21 Mar 1983: Performed by David Guerin
Performed by Tessa Birnie