The Four Fantasias for unaccompanied bass were created for the same purpose as my Preludes and Fugues – to fill a gap in the baroque era literature for the double bass. Since we do not have any pieces of this kind, nor did anyone write anything similar, I thought: why not to write music in this style.
There are plenty of different and interesting techniques to use and many ways to imitate polyphony on the bass, and a set of Fantasias began to come to life. The modern performer may easily notice the scarcity of dynamic and articulation markings, yet this doesn’t mean we play the music without any musical nuances. Genuinely, it is the opposite. It is deliberate and is meant to give the performer greater freedom, as in past times, allowing us to and a variety of interpretations - hence the name Fantasia.
Gran Fantasia No. 1 in D minor is one of the most complex works for solo double bass I have written to date and is one of my favourites too. It’s in two parts and each part starts with a different subject. At the end of the piece both of them mix together in a short stretto and going through a highly chromatic, diminished cadence finally resolving with a Picardy third. Writing it, I was especially inspired by J.S. Bach and his organ and viola da gamba pieces. However, a keen eye can also trace influences of composers such as Egilsson, Fryba, Podbielski, Stanley, Sperger, etc.
The piece received its concert premiere by my friend Yuval Atlas on 14 November .2018 in Germany.
Fantasias No. 2 and No. 3 in A minor were written for and dedicated to my dear friend and mentor Korneel Le Compte. I wrote them whilst a student in his bass class at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel. They are very different from each other and similarly between No. 1 and No. 4. Each piece is one of a kind. Fantasia No. 2 starts as an Allemande and follows in an English-French taste. Fantasia No. 3, echoes the style of high baroque, almost classical and was originally written for Viennese tuning (original key in b minor). Hence some of the motives may not seem to be meant for tuning in fourths.
Both pieces were premiered by the composer in Brussels in 2019 in front of Menheer Le Compte.
Fantasia No. 4 in E minor is the latest of the series and is dedicated to Severiano Paoli who is a great friend and bassist. Thanks to him a few of my compositions were premiered in Italy and the Netherlands. The piece is the shortest of all four but is quite rich in content at the same time. It offers the performer a great variety of colours and will hopefully bring much joy while playing.
It was premiered by Yuval Atlas on 16 May 2019 at the Opera in Paris (France).
[Programme notes by Michal Bylina]
Classical bassist, early music bassist, composer and one of the few Viennese bass specialists, Michał Bylina received his Bachelor degree at the Academy of Music in Kraków with Dr. Krzysztof Firlus in 2018, graduating with distinction. Since then he has studied with Korneel Le Compte at Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussels, who described him as: “Exceptionally talented, very enthusiastic, with positive attitude. A model student in all areas.” Michał was awarded with distinction during the Bonawentura Nancka Double Bass Competition (2015) and the IX International Franz Simandl Double Bass Competition (2018).
As a composer, Michał Bylina writes mostly for the double bass. His most important works include Preludes and Fugues, Baroque Fantasias and Ricercars all for double bass solo. His music was recently recognized by Bertram Turetzky, who commented: “Thank you for all that music! I'm overwhelmed with the quality of the music and the extent of your productivity.” Many of his compositions have been premiered in different countries including USA, Germany, Venezuela, Italy and Great Britain.