A chromatic fantasia is a specific type of fantasia (or fantasy or fancy) originating in sixteenth-century Europe. In its earliest form, it is based on a chromatically descending tetrachord which arises naturally out of the dorian mode. Consequently the chromatic fantasia is almost invariably in D minor (D-E-F-G-A-B♭-C rather than D-E-F-G-A-B-C) even as late as Bach.
The Fantasia Cromatica is Sweelinck’s most famous work—probably because of the spectacular nature of the theme (a chromatic descending fourth) and the extreme turbulence at the end when the theme appears double-diminished.
Others of his fantasias show an even surer, more inventive and subtler hand. In these massive, tripartite pieces (theme in normal note values, augmented, and diminished)
Sweelinck forges the two major keyboard genres of his time into an improbable unity: the monothematic ricercar invented by Andrea Gabrieli, and the wide-ranging, virtuoso “fancies” of the English virginalists. He plays off his theme against a succession of countersubjects and passage-work of increasing velocity.
Because the exact chronology of Sweelinck’s and his contemporaries’ keyboard works is indeterminate, it is very difficult to say exactly what rôle he played in developing this form; but that he raised it to its greatest and remarkably short-lived heights is beyond dispute.
I intended to record it on the organ first, but could not get it to work for me. I felt, perhaps wrongly so, that it needed the sharp bite and rythm that the harpsichord provides.
As you don't normally listen to a harpsichord with your head stuck under the soundboard at 30 centimeters from the strings and the recording is very direct, I added the ambience of the ballroom of Castle De Haar to it, which made it a lot more life-like.
So here it is; hope you like it.