General information
Title CZFantazie a toccata
Subtitle CZpro klavír
Title ENFantasy and Toccata
Subtitle ENfor piano
Title DEFantaisie et toccata
Subtitle DEfür Klavier
Title FRFantaisie et toccata
Subtitle FRpour piano
CategoryWorks for Keyboards
Halbreich number281
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Fantasia: Andante - Moderato - Poco allegro - Allegro - Andante; 2. Toccata: Allegro
Dedicatee Firkušný, Rudolf
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationÀ | Rudolf Firkušný
Place of compositionAix-en-Provence
Year of origin1940
Initiation of composition08/1940
Completion of composition09/1940
First performance
Performer Firkušný, Rudolf
Date of the first performance02.02.1943
Location of the first performanceNew York, Town Hall
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
OwnerNadace Bohuslava Martinů
Note on the autograph depostitionTitle on title pages of both autographs: "Fantaisie et rondo".
CopyrightAssociated Music Publishers
Purchase linkbuy
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
About the composition

The Fantasy and Toccata is one of Martinů's most exceptional works. Equally exceptional were the circumstances under which it was composed in September and October 1940. It was not written on commission: Martinů composed it in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France for pianist Rudolf Firkušný as an expression of gratitude. It had been Firkušný who had convinced Bohuslav and Charlotte Martinů with an urgent telephone call on 10 June 1940 to leave Paris because the German army was approaching, and he helped them organize their escape from occupied France to the USA. From their departure from Paris on 11 June until their arrival in the USA in March 1941, the Martinůs slept, according to Charlotte's memoirs, in more than forty beds, but also in trains and train station waiting rooms. From the time when Paris was taken by the German army, Martinů no longer received royalties for performances of his works, so he found himself practically without funds in his refuge. Moreover, a mere two months before composition of the Fantasy and Toccata his pupil and lover Vítězslava Kaprálová died in Montpellier at the age of twenty-five.

At first this work was titled Fantasy and Rondo, and under this title it was premiered by Firkušný on 2 February 1943 in New York. When and why it was renamed is not known, but in the printed score it already bears its present title; a case can be made for both variants. Here we encounter an unusually wild and expressive Martinů. In this two-movement colossus restful passages are rather an exception. The frequent changes of mood seem to be motivated by a sort of internal program; the composer did not reveal it, but in view of the circumstances of his life, it is not difficult to imagine it at least in rough outlines. Frequent use of more than one key at the same time, strong chromaticism, and complicated rhythmic structure drawing on both the motoric patterns of late Baroque instrumental music and syncopated jazz rhythms contribute to the complexity of this unique work which understandably arouses contradictory reactions. Harry Halbreich wrote in his catalog of Martinů's works: "Both parts, very free in terms of form and rhythm, achieve internal closure and in a perfect performance create a shocking effect. This is one of the pinnacles of modern piano literature."

On the other hand a New York critic, the young composer Irving Gifford Fine, wrote in his Modem Music review of the 1943 premiere: "The Czech pianist, Rudolf Firkušný, dazzled a pathetically small audience at Jordan Hall with, among other things, a first performance of Fantasy and Rondo by Martinů This piece should be gotten out as a text book on how to string together a series of introductions to introductions. It must be quite a feat to write several minutes of music without a consequent phrase."

Aleš Březina, Bohuslav Martinů: Selected Masterpieces, © 2001 Supraphon Music a.s

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