Fantasia Ispanica

Jonathan Powell (piano)

Altarus Records: AIR-CD-9084 (2004)

Web page for Altarus Records

Cd cover image Fantasia Ispanica

Duration: 63:56

Track listing

  • Track 1-5: Fantasia Ispanica (63:56)
  • Track 1: I Preludio; Introduzione (4:19)
  • Track 2: II Molto moderato (15:48)
  • Track 3: III (12:13)
  • Track 4: IV Quasi habanera (24:26)
  • Track 5: V Coda; Finale (7:07)


  • “Sorabji was drawn to the atmosphere and temperament of southern Europe, and this work of 1933 is perhaps his most striking statement of this aspect of his multi-faceted creative personality. Unlike the vast architectural constructions of his most familiar style (the fugues, passacaglias and variations sets of works such as the 4th Sonata and Opus clavicembalisticum) and the sinister, poisoned atmosphere of his ‘tropical nocturne’ genre (Gulistan, Le jardin parfumé), his ‘Spanish’ works turn out to occupy yet another kind of territory (though in the highly sophisticated use of the piano, unmistakably charted by the same fertile imagination). Like the much smaller Fantaisie espagnole of 14 years earlier (at just over the hour, this piece is three times the size), Fantasia ispanica is a sun-drenched tone-poem, alternating ecstatic dance-rhythms and languid sensuousness, almost unmatched elsewhere in music. Beginning with a bold, quasi-improvisatory recitative, establishing the saturated colors of the composer’s palette from the outset, the work consists of five movements, two slow and three fast, vividly evoking the richness and color of the landscape and life of the Mediterranean. The second section is a sinuous and dangerously somnolent slow movement, abruptly displaced by the third, which alternates two lively dance rhythms, beginning with the swagger of the bull-ring and building through a sequence of ever more wildly energetic tableaux. By contrast, the extended habanera that follows, which contains the most elaborate writing in the piece, is an exquisitely decorated study in chiaroscuro texture. One has the impression of sunlight passing over an ornate Baroque altar, illuminating a jewel here, a delicate carving there, casting rich, luminous shadows in between. The work ends with a return to the opening material, leading to a riotous and emphatic conclusion. Anyone intrigued by this unique figure in 20th century music but who may have been wary of the apparently forbidding aspects and scale of the composer’s most familiar style will find this a perfect place to start; diehard aficionados will need no encouragement to acquire this disc.” (Records International)