Program notes

L’Oiseau Fantastique II for string quartet and piano, opus 18 (1984)

  1. 1. Prelude
  2. 2. Passacaglia

L’Oiseau Fantastique II was written in mid-1984 in response to a commission from the Brisbane radio station, 4MBS-FM, with financial support from the Music Board of the Australia Council. The work is the second in the series that takes its title from a scene in the French film, Diva (1981), in which the two main characters laughingly describe an elaborate mechanical bird as “l’oiseau fantastique,” or a fantastic bird.

In both of my works, minimalist processes are used to explore a thematic idea. In the Passacaglia movement of this piece, the work’s material is based around a short keyboard piece, Le Rappel des Oiseaux by Jean-Phillippe Rameau (from the Suite, 1724). I contrast Rameau’s smoothness of tone and character with the brash sounds of local, Australian birdsong. The piano has minor preparations that are not evident until the final stages of the work.

Commissioned by 4MBS-FM for performance by Bernard Lanskey and the Ambrosian Quartet with funds provided by Australia Council, Music Board. Duration is approximately 15 minutes.

© Andrew Schultz, 1984