Prelude and Fantasia for harpsichord

2006, 7 minutes

Commissioned by Tami Morse

My first piece for harpsichord, or any other period instrument. Faced with this strange and magnificent instrument, I did what any young composer might: I borrowed from Bach. My Fantasia would be like the two-part Inventions, contrapuntal and serious; not exactly a fugue, but bigger, with six voices instead of two. (It takes some experience to recognize that needing more than two voices is not necessarily a sign of strength!)

One of TamiÕs suggestions was that I write an unmeasured prelude after the model of Louis Couperin, because this 17th-century form was particularly associated with the harpsichord. In such a piece, the composer indicates what notes to play, whether a note should be held or immediately released, and the approximate phrasing, but the player decides how long the notes should last.

Discovering the unmeasured prelude was a turning point for me. It was my first exposure to the "Baroque way of playing" Š a looser, more spontaneous thing than contemporary instrumental style. Working with Flying Forms, watching them interact with each other and their bare-bones scores, I have become immersed in this performance practice. The different ethos to playing this repertoire has transformed my approach to composing, whether I'm writing for early or modern instruments.


Prelude and Fantasia was recorded by Tami Morse of Flying Forms on their album, New Music for Old Instruments, which is available for purchase at iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.


If you are interested in a score for Prelude and Fantasia, please contact Nissim.


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  • June 29, 2012: Performed by Tami Morse at The Baroque Room, St. Paul, MN
  • April 11, 2007: Dutch premiere by Anthony Romaniuk at the Conservatory of The Hague, the Netherlands
  • May 4, 2006: performed by Tami Morse on the Emerson String Quartet's Annual Chamber Music Festival at the Staller Center for the Performing Arts, Stony Brook, NY.
  • April 2, 2006: world premiere by North Shore Pro Musica (Tami Morse, harpsichord) at the Ward Melville Education and Cultural Center, Stony Brook, NY.
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