John B Hedges

composer & musician

Fantasía sobre Yma Sumac (2012) for solo clarinet & orchestra

3222 4320 timp., 3 perc., pno., hp., strings

Duration: 18'

"Hedges has done the instrument a great service by writing this piece. It is modern and up-to-date without assaulting the audience. It has a fusion of classical, folk and pop elements that are both intellectually challenging and crowd-pleasing at the same time. It should be welcomed into the repertoire with a ticker-tape parade."

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones

Program Notes:

Fantasía sobre Yma Sumac is a musical fantasy-portrait of Peruvian vocalist Yma Sumac.  Her recordings from the 1950‘s may stir emotions, raise eyebrows, cause head-scratching, induce dancing, singing, or unbidden laughter.  Quite often at the same time.  There is something inherently astounding in Yma’s legendary vocal range, stylistic explorations and exotica mystique that could sometimes steer those recordings towards the surreal, absurd or sublime.  However, the crossing of stylistic barriers, musical juxtapositions, and genuine expressive power of her voice are maintained in a tenuous balance which hold the listener rapt.  As someone who is constantly drawn to pull in external musical influences from my life into and to comment on them in my work without losing my identity in a foreign body of sound, Yma Sumac has my admiration and envy.

This work is one of several ‘musical portraits’ I have composed.  Each is made up almost exclusively of small moments, groups of pitches and rhythms from the artists’ work as its fundamental material.  These are then utilized to develop a soundworld through which I can explore whatever variety of styles, feels, and emotions which the subject’s work inspires.  In Fantasía, Yma Sumac’s exotica, lounge music, mambo, folk melodies, and my own musical language swirl around the virtuosic linchpin of her vocalizations with the solo clarinet serving as surrogate.

In November 2008 Yma Sumac died.  It was coincidentally just two weeks before the premiere of an earlier version of this work.  Her  death transformed the piece, and that first performance, instantaneously into a memorial.  Since then the piece has been revised and greatly expanded including the addition of a cadenza and elegiac middle section.  The work was commissioned by clarinetist Victoria Luperi, who premiered this final incarnation with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya in 2012.  In addition, a version of the work for chamber orchestra was completed for the Caminos del Inka ensemble.

The piece is composed in one continuous movement broken up into the following sections:

I. Invocation       --       II. Cantilena       --       III. Cadenza       --       IV. Elegy       --       V. Cumbia

Performance materials for both versions available for rental. For more information contact

* The solo part to the chamber ensemble version has some very minor changes.  It will be available soon and included with the purchase of the orchestral version's solo part.