The Bourrée fantasque
is Chabrier’s final work for the piano and justifiably the most celebrated. It was composed in 1891, following a journey Chabrier made to his native Auvergne, the traditional dance of which is the Bourrée. The epithet seems badly chosen, unless Chabrier used ‘fantasque’ in the German sense of ‘fantasy’ and ‘phantasmagoric’. There seems to be a connection between this work and the celebrated frescoes of the Dance of Death in the Chaise-Dieu Abbey, close to Chabrier’s home town. Chabrier dedicated the work to the eighteen-year-old pianist Édouard Risler, warning him that each note presented a particular difficulty to be overcome, and that he had counted 113 different sonorities in the piece! The first part consists almost entirely of motifs of repeated notes (similar to the Andalusian zapateado) interspersed with tiny ascending phrases played staccato. Once again we encounter Chabrier’s inordinate penchant for staccato playing, which gives a percussive and very modern character to his works. The second section is, as it should be, more lyrical and expressive with sporadic violent episodes and repeats of the initial zapateado. The end is a veritable firework display in sound.
from notes by Jean-Paul Sévilla © 2006
English: Roland Smithers