Fantasy Variations on a Gregorian Chant

Fantasy Variations on a Gregorian Chant


  • Trumpet, Flugelhorn and Chamber Orchestra (2012)
  • Trumpet, Flugelhorn and Piano (2012)


Technical Information

Duration – 16:45 

A) Trumpet, Flugelhorn and Chamber Orchestra (2012)

Solo trpt,fhn./1(1=picc).1.1.1./

(string parts can be played by a section or a single player)

B) Trumpet, Flugelhorn and Piano

Program Notes

I have composed several works that have been inspired by various types of classical music from the past, but this is the first time I was inspired by the music of the Middle Ages. Barton and Steve Woomert approached me to compose a work featuring two trumpets and piano in an expressive and melodic style. I thought of the possibility of composing a set of variations based on a Gregorian chant, and that it could be colourful to use a trumpet and a flugelhorn instead of two trumpets. Then we decided to expand the project by creating two versions, one for piano and one using chamber orchestra to accompany the two brass instruments.

For the theme, I chose the Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor, a musical setting of the Kyrie that was written in the 10th century and was appropriate to be sung on Christmas Day as part of the Mass. In the early 1360s, Guillaume de Machaut chose this chant for the Kyrie section of his La Messe de Nostre Dame. I start my Fantasy Variations with the piano playing a quote from the beginning of Machaut’s Kyrie. The Kyrie chant main theme enters, played first by the flugelhorn then by the trumpet. The introductory Machaut material returns, in varied form, at the beginning of variations 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7. In variation 1, the trumpet and flugelhorn play the theme transformed by music from classic Hollywood epic biblical films such as Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. Variation 2 (Echoes), seeks to have the trumpet and flugelhorn create the sound of echoes, as found in nature. Variation 3 (Hocket) is based on a Hocket, a device used in polyphonic music of the 13th and 14th centuries which is characterized by the splitting of a melodic line between two voices. The trumpet and flugelhorn use this devise, where one instrument sounds while the other is silent, to play the main melody of this variation. Variation 4 (Romanza) is influenced by the film music of Film Noir movies, featuring a seductive and slightly disturbed atmosphere in honour of the “femme fatale”. In variation 5 (Turkish), inspiration comes from Turkish classical music, with the trumpet playing a short cadenza followed by a rhythmic section in an unusual 14/8 time. Variation 6 (Danza) is inspired by the rhythmically intense music of the Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera. Variation 7 (Epilogue) returns to France, the country of origin for the opening Machaut music. However, inspiration has now fast forwarded to the music of French Impressionism. A part of the original Gregorian chant returns before the music builds to a celebratory and triumphant finish.

Fantasy Variations was recorded by Barton Woomert, Steven Woomert & Rachel Kerr for the Tandem album