Concert recording of Fantasmagoria performed by jury members of the 4th International Kazimierz Serocki Composers’ Competition, 1993.
Fantasmagoria (1971) for piano and percussion
Kazimierz Serocki’s Fantasmagoria was written for a line-up that has a respectable point of reference in 20th-century music in the form of Béla Bartók’s Sonata for two pianos and percussion (1937). However, the Polish composer did not want to continue the idea of giving the piano a more percussive function with the percussion instruments often playing a melodic role. Instead, he demonstrated that the piano could play a role of a “colour-creating” instrument just as well as the percussion group. Among the 65 sound colours used in Fantasmagoria about 40 are generated through the percussion (there are 37 instruments placed on stage and played by a single performer), with the rest being created by the piano prepared by two rolls of modelling clay. The pianist plays not only the keyboard, but also the strings of the piano as well as internal and external elements of its structure (e.g. metal ribs dividing the register, string pegs, side of the wooden casing), using various sticks and jazz brushes.
Fantasmagoria is a continuous, very lively and fascinating stream of music, which sparkles not only with instrumental colours, but also with various expressive hues. At the beginning, for example, against the background of the sound of the piano the strings of which vibrate thanks to rapid movements of the fingers, there emerge “metallic” colours of the triangle, cymbal and note B in the bells. This is how the composer himself described what happens next:
The B note is taken over by the piano (nails rubbing against the strings) and slowly expands to a 12-semitone cluster; at this point the percussionist starts to vibrate the vibraphone and both sound colours merge in a way that makes it possible to speak of [...] hallucination, only for these sound colours to be taken over, in segment five, by the piano (highest register, tremolo with nails against the strings).
[Kazimierz Serocki, Klangfarben als Kompositionsmaterial (Analysen I), Basel 1976, p. 2]
Thus, Serocki referred to the title of his composition, which suggests unique, non-musical associations. All, sometimes very sophisticated, technical means are used in Fantasmagoria to build a mood that is reflected in the title – they transfer the listener to a world between sleep and wakefulness, on the one hand full of frenetic delicacy and mystery and on the other – of dramatic eruptions.
Fantasmagoria was premiered on 12 January 1973 in Zurich. The performers were Georges Martin – piano and Willy A. Wolgemuth – percussion.