Closely contemporary with the Élégie
, but of very different temper, is Ernst’s Othello Fantasy
, Op 11, or to give it its full title the Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de G. Rossini
. Published in 1839 as a work for violin and orchestra, this brilliant essay in operatic reminiscence quarries its thematic material from Rossini’s opera (first performed in Naples in 1816), taking melodies from the first act and also the celebrated Romance (the ‘Willow Song’) sung by Desdemona in the final act. Though the result is a feast of violinistic pyrotechnics, one of the pleasures of the work is the subtle, almost organic way in which Ernst links its various sections and themes. After an Andante non troppo instrumental introduction in which we hear the beginning of Rossini’s Act I March, the violin enters in lyrical vein but with increasing brilliance, working up through double-stopping, chromatic scales in thirds, and a passage in octaves, to a short cadenza. The March is then stated in full, followed by a pair of bravura variations on the tune, including a striking passage in harmonics. An interlude leads into Desdemona’s Romance, which the violin proceeds to embellish with highly expressive decoration, accelerating to a further cadenza. A third and final variation on the March leads back to a reprise of the introductory material before a thrilling conclusion.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008