Concert recording of Impromptu fantasque at the 34th Warsaw Autumn Festival, 1991.
The writing of Impromptu fantasque is linked to Kazimierz Serocki’s discovery of the sound possibilities of the recorder, in which the composer was supported by Czesław Pałkowski, member of the Warsztat Muzyczny ensemble. Commissioned by Moeck Verlag, in the 1970s Serocki wrote a series of three works (in addition to the piece discussed here they were Concerto alla cadenza and Arrangements), in which he thoroughly explored the potential of the recorders.
Serocki signals the extraordinary nature of Impromptu fantasque already in the tile, combining a suggestion of a free (improvised) form with an adjective conveying its “fantastic” character. What is also extraordinary, the impromptu calls for instruments rarely used in the classical-romantic concert tradition and making up families (there are no fewer than six recorders alone: sopranino, soprano, alto, tenore, basso and gran basso, six mandolins and six guitars).
Impromptu fantasque is built of 20, partly overlapping formal segments, permeating each other, in which 70 different sound colours are presented. The segments are combined into three larger wholes: two of them surround the middle section of the piece, which uses “normal” sound colours and determinate pitches. Alongside various swooshes and murmurs, they are a rightful part of the musical material of the composition. The material sometimes assumes a highly original form. For example, the extended technique (murmuring of the vowel “U” on the mouthpieces of low sounding recorders with the simultaneous opening and closing of the mouthpiece outlet) produces a variety of indeterminate pitches resembling electronic sounds. All colours are arranged to shape a form that would be comprehensible to the listener; their kaleidoscopic variability and aural attractiveness are astounding.
Serocki’s Impromptu fantasque is undoubtedly among the composer’s most striking works. As Wilfried Brennecke wrote after the world premiere of the piece in Witten and the Polish premiere at the 1974 Warsaw Autumn,
Listeners who try to understand the composition in its purely musical sense surely have no more right to enjoy it than those who see in Impromptu fantasque a night scene filled with ghosts and mystery or than those who hear in it the voices of nature, of the forest and its denizens. No matter what the individual listener heard, the fact remains that they were unanimous in their opinion, that is that they had listened to the voice of musician of our time who has something personal to say independently of the trends that prevail in contemporary music at this moment.
[W. Brennecke, “Impromptu fantasque by Kazimierz Serocki”, Polish Music 1975 no. 1, p. 21]