Following hot on the heels of its success at the 2011 BASCA awards, Julian Anderson’s mighty work Fantasias was given just the vigorously virtuosic performance it deserved, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski on 3rd December 2011 at the Royal Festival Hall. The critics agreed:
'This work, virtually a symphony... was written for the Cleveland Orchestra in 2009... and had its premiere from the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, who brought it to the Proms in 2010. I remember being particularly struck then by the third movement and most fantastical of its five movements, a great static continuum filled with aqueous, vegetal, ornithological inventions that plausibly evoke, as intended, a rainforest. This came off splendidly at the RFH, suggesting an unusual kind of symphonic slow movement. The scherzo that follows is brief, effective and very fast. But the opening of the sizeable finale is even faster, which would be another interesting subversion of expectations if this really were a symphony. The first movement is a fanfare for the brass, who stood to play, and seems to remember the opening of Janacek’s Sinfonietta... By freeing himself with fantasia from the inhibitions of undertaking a symphony, Anderson has produced a strikingly successful one anyway.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 11 December 2011
'It starts with a brilliant movement for the brass alone, in which the rhythmic complexities set off lightning flashes of electricity. Then the rest of the players enter as if in a concerto for orchestra, each section with its own brand of technical wizardry – especially the wind, whose music fizzes frantically like sparks from a sorcerer’s wand.'
Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 6 December 2011
'Fantasias is an extraordinary challenge for both players and listeners, with its complex, multifaceted texture, its improvisatory appearance, yet its need for meticulous control. From the opening ricocheting brass, to the subsequent whirling and skirling dance, and on to a cartoon-like scherzo, Vladimir Jurowski and his players spared nothing to realise the work’s virtuoso kaleidoscope of craft. At its heart is a long nocturne, an insect-play of jungle reverberations and avian song – with two wonderful pauses for silence – brave in these applause-hungry days.'
The Times (Hilary Finch), 6 December 2011
A podcast featuring Julian Anderson explaining the piece is available here.