Project Description

Fantastic Variations
… homage à Duarte Ferreira Pestana
for symphonic band

  • composition date: 2006-09
  • lastest version: rev./corr. July/2022
  • 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)/ string bass/ timp./ perc. (7) [percussion details here]
  • premiere: 12/July/2009 | Casa da Música, Porto | Portuguese Symphonic Band/ dir. Luís Carvalho

Fantastic Variations is, as the name suggests, a set of variations. More precisely, it’s organized into an introduction followed by five variations, each one with its own designation, describing individual but complementary sections. Hence, Variation 1 is subtitled batuque, referring to the African tradition of percussion orchestras consisting of several drummers playing altogether in a frenetic and noisy way. The percussion section is here in the foreground and rhythm is the most important element. For Variation 2, lamento (lament), small melodic fragments of melancholic character are presented upon a somewhat somber and sorrowful ostinato in the basses. Variation 3, fanfare, is by contrast brilliant and loud, with the brass instruments predominating in powerful fanfares. For Variation 4, choral, the more intimate atmosphere returns, and sequences of small chorales are presented by different groups of instruments, one after the other. Finally, in Variation 5, epilogue, ideas from all the previous variations are merged into a continuous flow, culminating in a varied recapitulation of the introduction segment that acts as a coda and concludes the piece.

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

(rev. July/2022)

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

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buy sheet music:



3 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).

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