Concert recording of Fantasia elegiaca at the 17th Warsaw Autumn Festival, 1969.
Fantasia elegiaca documents Kazimierz Serocki’s sonoristic experiments in a field usually associated with subdued religious music of the past rather than with modernist approach. Nevertheless, by writing a piece for organ with orchestra, Serocki joined those composers who in the second half of the 20th century decided to make use of the avant-garde potential of the “king of instruments”, composers like György Ligeti in Volumina or Mauricio Kagel in Improvisation ajoutée.
Having received a commission from Heinrich Strobel, head of the music department at Südwestfunk, Serocki – as usual – first had to get to know the instrument and its possibilities. That is why he spent some time locked in the Discalced Carmelites Monastery in Czerna (Pomerania) and carefully experimented with the instrument he was provided with.
He described the finished work in the following manner:
The role of the organ part in the piece is dominant – partly virtuoso, partly concertante – and in this respect the composition could be described as an ‘organ concerto’, although in a sense far removed from the classic ‘understanding’ of the term. [...] The orchestral part is largely an element complementing the organ part and plays an integrating role, determining the continuum of the musical progression.
[Kazimierz Serocki, note in the programme book of the Warsaw Autumn, Warsaw 1973, p. 133]
The way the instrument and the musical material are treated in Fantasia fits in with the composer’s concept of “composing with sound colours”. Serocki uses here a range of unconventional articulations distorting the traditional organ sound (e.g. various clusters emerging as a result of the organist’s “action” – e.g. “the open palm of the hand slides slowly from the transverse to the normal position and at the same time gradually releases the keys in such a way that the cluster decreases starting from the uppermost notes down to the lowest”), and highlights “lighter” organ registers, the so-called auxiliary stops. From the combination of organ and orchestra colours emerges a five-stage musical narration, in which various expressive states follow one another, although they are dominated by one character, reflective and elegiac, as suggested by the title. This is because after Heinrich Strobel’s sudden death in 1970 Serocki decided to dedicate his work to the memory of this great friend of Polish music and Polish composers.
Fantasia elegiaca was premiered by the Swedish organist and composer Karl-Erik Welin with Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunk conducted by Ernest Bour in Baden-Baden on 9 June 1972.