Project Description

Fantastic Variations
… homage à Duarte Ferreira Pestana
for symphonic band

  • composition date: 2006-09
  • duration: ca. 15 min.
  • commission: Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa [Portuguese Symphonic Band]
  • dedication: «for the Portuguese Symphony Band and it’s conductor Francisco Ferreira»
  • detailed orchestration:
    2picc./ 4fl. (4=alto-fl.)/ 2ob./ eng.-horn/ Eb-cl./ cl.: I, II & III (min. 4 each)/ alto-cl./ bass-cl./ contrabass-cl. (opt.)/ sop.-sax./ 2 alto-sax./ ten.-sax./ bar.-sax./ bass-sax. (opt.)/ violoncellos (opt.)/ 2fg./ contra-fg. (opt.)/ 6hr./ 4trpt./ 2flug./ 4trbn. (4=bass-trbn.)/ 2euph. (or baritones)/ tubas (min. 4)/ cb./ timp./ perc. (min. 6)
  • premiere: 12/July/2009 | Casa da Música, Porto | Portuguese Symphonic Band/ dir. Luís Carvalho

Fantastic Variations is, as the name suggests, a series of variations. More specifically it’s organized into an introduction followed by five variations, each one of which has its own designation, describing the individual mood. Hence, Variation 1 is subtitled batuque, referring to the African usage of groups of several drummers playing altogether in a frenetic and noisy way. The percussions are in the foreground and rhythm is the most important element. In Variation 2, lamento, or lament, small melodic fragments are presented upon a somewhat mournful ostinato on the basses. Variation 3, fanfare, is by contrast brilliant and sonorous, with predominating brass playing potent fanfares. For Variation 4, choral, a more intimate mood returns, and sequences of small “chorales” are presented by different groups of instruments one after the other. Finally, in Variation 5, epilogue, several ideas of all the previous variations are merged into a continuous flow of that serves as a conclusion to the piece.

Fantastic Variations is subtitled “… homage à Duarte Ferreira Pestana”, a reference to one of the most inspired Portuguese composers for wind band of all time, and in fact, there are moments of allusion to his oeuvre (specifically to the one that is probably the most famous of his pieces, “Arco-Íris” or in English “Rainbow”, a fantasy au goûte populaire). But Fantastic Variations is not based on any Pestana themes, nor is it even actually a traditional “theme & variations”. Sure, there are recurring thematic motifs going around, but the “variations” reference here goes more for the process than to the actual substance, since the continuous variation technique is the developing motor of the entire piece.


available on CD («A Portuguesa») by the Portuguese Symphony Band, under the composer’s direction (label AFINAUDIO)

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.09.56 PM

buy sheet music:



2 Responses

  1. Pingback : Luís Carvalho » Presentation of “Fantastic Variations” in Caracas, Venezuela

  2. Ein ausserst eindrucksvolles, gewichtiges Werk, wobei das Ausserste vom Orchester und Dirigenten gefordert wird. Der Untertitel von ‘Fantastic Variations’ ‘homage to Duarte Ferreira Pestana’ verweist an einen der inspirierendensten Komponisten fur hauptsachlich portugiesische Bands. Es gibt Momente im Werk mit deutlichen Verweisungen an das Werk von Duarte Ferreira. Spezifisch an sein beruhmtestes Werk ‘Arco-Iris’ (Regenbogen).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.