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Obscure Music Monday: Holmès' Fantaisie

Augusta Holmès (Dec. 18, 1847 - Jan. 28 1903) was a pianist and composer, born in Paris, of Irish descent. Despite showing great talent as a child, she wasn't allowed to take piano at the Paris Conservatory. Instead she took private piano lessons with Mademoiselle Peyrnnet, and later on, harmony and counterpoint with Henri Lambert, and composition lessons with Hyacinthe Klosé. Holmès became a student of César Frank in 1876, and considered him her greatest teacher.

Holmès' output included operas, cantatas, orchestral works, and works for the piano. She also wrote Fantaisie for clarinet and pianoThe clarinet starts the work off with a strong statement, which involves a descending arpeggio.  Before the work really gets going, the clarinet almost has its own cadenza of sorts, with several ascending and descending arpeggios, and some intricate technical work. The main theme begins with a sense of gravitas; the piano sets the mood with somber, intense chords. A little over halfway the key changes to major, with the clarinet having some more technically challenging  lines, before the piece ends with cheer and pomp. It's obvious that while Holmès was not a clarinetist, she had a very good idea about the instrument's abilities, and wrote well for it.

Here's a CD for you to enjoy this wonderful work!

Luigi Magistrelli

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