Hyperion Records

Fantaisie et variations sur der airs nationaux américains variés, Op 158
using Jackson's March/Chapel Hill Serenade, Hail Columbia, Yankee Doodle

'Herz: Piano Music' (CDA67606)
Herz: Piano Music
Track 10 on CDA67606 [10'52]

Fantaisie et variations sur der airs nationaux américains variés, Op 158
The Fantaisie et Variations sur des Airs nationaux américains variés Op 158 is an early (the earliest?) example of the many sets of variations on American national airs composed by visiting European pianists with the aim of ingratiating themselves with their audiences. It seems that, like Gottschalk a decade or so later, Herz was inspired to write a work wherever he visited, for there is also a Fantaisie mexicaine Op 163, La Californienne Op 167 and La Brésilienne Op 195.

Herz sets the scene for his Fantaisie and Variations with a maestoso introduction, a cadenza and a sentimental music-box theme before arriving at his first American national air entitled ‘Jackson’s March’. Assiduous research has failed to unearth any source or score for this tune, though there is an obscure folk song of this name with the alternative title of ‘Chapel Hill Serenade’. It is not one of America’s best-known national airs. ‘Hail Columbia’, on the other hand, which follows, is one the country’s most recognizable anthems. It was composed for, and played at, the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 and is attributed to the German-born Philip Phile (1734–1793). Herz sets this in F major following it with a strange tremolando interlude in D flat major that leads into a brief fugato section in A major. After a vapid scale passage we arrive in the home key of E major for ‘Yankee Doodle’ (or ‘Dondle’ as the score prints it), a tune familiar since pre-Revolutionary days and sung to various different lyrics. Three brilliant variations follow before Herz combines ‘Yankee Doodle’ and ‘Jackson’s March’ by the unusual expedient of scoring the right hand in 2/4 and the left in common time (c). Forceful octaves and brilliant arpeggios bring the drama to a rousing conclusion.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2008

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