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An Analytical Discussion of Jules de Sivrai’s

Grand Welsh Fantasia and Grand Scotch Fantasia

Jules de Sivrai's Grand Welsh Fantasia and Grand Scotch Fantasia bear immediately apparent similarity, as they both operate by exposing a series of folk melodies and then entering into variations of those melodies. The overall style of the two pieces is similar; but differences in local compositional procedure may usefully be observed. In order to highlight the way in which similar compositional procedures enable musical logic to operate, without affecting the surface-based 'flavour' or 'style' of a piece, the two De Sivrai works will later be contrasted with Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu (op.66) in C# minor.

In order to maximise clarity, the following tables are presented, giving details of motivic development and labels accordingly, to which reference will be made in the ensuing discussion.

The formal articulation in the Chopin is no doubt much better defined than in De Sivrai's pieces; far from being evidence of any shortcomings, Chopin's economy of means in using only three themes (as opposed to six in the Scotch) and his wise choice to recapitulate the opening section almost verbatim to form the last of the three main sections combine to form a most convincing short piano piece. For example, would it not have constituted stronger writing for De Sivrai to recapitulate the theme that opened the Welsh Fantasia (A Carol Tune) rather than the last theme to have been heard (The Dairy House)? The sprawling and over-blown indulgences of De Sivrai's work belie the syntactic and structural similarities with Chopin's work. De Sivrai's compositional technique, to be sure, was sound, there are some elegant sections of thematic variation and truly pianistic writing throughout, but the overall impression left by the Scotch and Welsh fantasies is rather sickly in comparison to the Chopin.

The points raised in this analytical discussion of two closely related pieces and one unrelated (in social and cultural senses) serve to reveal the power which compositional devices such as theme and variation, and the principle of development have over all Western art-music, both tonal and non-tonal. A composer might choose to work with any melody, be it folk-music derived or of his own invention, and achieve a pleasant result if he studies the technique of great composers. Little is known of Jules de Sivrai, save that she worked under said pseudonym. I would contest that she made close study of Chopin's works, and the motivic and structural successes she achieved in her own works are largely due to that effort.

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