Four Fantasies on American Folk Songs for Piano Four-Hands

Douglas Townsend

About this work:
This tuneful and festive piece premiered in Carnegie Recital Hall on Jan. 5, 1957, performed by Alfred Kaine and Robert Abramson. It was well-reviewed the next day in the NY Times and Herald Tribune ("lilting," "catchy rhythmic settings," "cheerful contribution"). The folk songs on which the fantasies are based are: Follow the Drinking Gourd, New River Train, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, and Two in One (Old Joe Clark and Sourwood Mountain). "Follow the Drinking Gourd," an underground railroad song, was described by a reviewer as "a dramatic, movie-overture-like epic, which develops the simple folk melody into anthem proportions. Octaves, marching rhythms, and shifting tonalities characterize this stirring fantasy." (Keyboard 2/84) These are true fantasies and not arrangements. The style is slightly chromatic and of medium difficulty for both primo and secundo. All four fantasies were most recently performed by Miriam Brickman and Thomas Schmidt on Nov. 25, 2008, at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan. "New River Train" was performed at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, on April 13, 2008, by the team of Marina Porchkhidze and Vladimir Shinov. It was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) on March 7, 2006 (Maria Choban and Kenn Willson). All four fantasies were recorded in 2000 by Ivory Crush, pianists Maria Choban and Kenn Willson. (See Townsend's Discography) Choban and Willson's recording of all four fantasies was broadcast on September 8, 2010, on 103.3 WPRB, Princeton, NJ (by Marvin Rosen on his program Classical Discoveries). The work is published by C.F. Peters. These folk song fantasies are now well-established in the repertoire of music for one piano, four hands, and are performed all over the U.S., as well as internationally. For example, all four fantasies were recently performed on October 10, 2010, in Tokyo, Japan at Musicasa's Acoustic Concert Hall, by Duo 176 GT. In the U.S. in the last 2.5 yrs, one or more of the fantasies have been performed by at least twelve duos in almost as many states (NJ, NY, Calif., Oregon, LA, Maine, Wisc., Kansas, W. VA), plus four of the five boroughs of NYC.. All four folk song fantasies have also been orchestrated (see the orchestral version listed among my compositions here).
Version: Concert Piano Four-Hands
Year composed: 1956
Duration: 00:15:00
Ensemble type: Keyboard:Piano 4 or More Hands
Instrumentation: 1 Piano
Instrumentation notes: pno 4 hands
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