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Fantasy Variations on a Theme by Nicolo Paganini

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James Barnes

James Barnes

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General Info

Year: 1988
Duration: c. 16:25
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Southern Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $195.00   |   Score Only - $39.50


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Fantasy Variations was commissioned by John R Bourgeois and the U.S. Marine Band, which premiered the work at the 1988 MENC Convention in Indianapolis. Since its premiere, it has been performed over 150 times by the Marine Band. Twenty variations, based on the theme of Paganini's 24th Caprice in A Minor (for solo violin), showcase every soloist and major section of the modern symphonic band. Although variations of this work were written for other media by both Brahms and Rachmaninoff, this is the first setting for wind band.

- Program Note by Program Notes for Band

The set of twenty variations is based on the famous theme of Paganini's 24th Caprice in A Minor; for solo violin, which, or course, is the same theme used by Brahms and Rachmaninoff for their famous compositions, as well as by more contemporary composers (such as Lutoslawski and Blacher).

I decided that, like Brahms and Rachmaninoff, I would stay with the basic harmonic progression that Paganini used. The reason I wrote the piece in A minor is because Paganini's Caprice (which is itself a set of nine virtuosic variations) is in A minor. I did this out of respect for the composer's original intentions. My overall concept was to use the variation technique to showcase every solo instrument and/or every instrumental section of the modern wind band. In doing so, it was my intent to give the Marine Band a work they could play almost anywhere for almost any kind of audience: a piece full of energy, drama, and even a little humor.

- Program Note by composer

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) Festival Wind Ensemble (Lowell E. Graham, conductor) – 2 February 2020
  • National Taipei University of Education (Taipei City, Taiwan) Symphonic Band (Ching-Chun Lin, conductor) - 20 December 2019 (2019 Midwest Clinic)
  • Philadelphia (Penn.) Wind Symphony (Wesley Broadnax, conductor) – 18 March 2019
  • O’Fallon (Ill.) Township High School Wind Ensemble (Philip Carter, conductor) – 15 February 2019
  • Alabama Intercollegiate Band (Birmingham) (Dennis Ziesler, conductor) - 18 January 2019
  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.) Peabody Wind Ensemble (Harland D. Parker, conductor) – 4 December 2018
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble (John R. Locke, conductor) – 27 September 2018
  • Encore Winds (Traverse City, Mich.) (Timothy Topolewski, conductor) - 20 May 2018
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan J. Nowlin, conductor) – 25 March 2018
  • Metropolitan Wind Symphony (Lexington, Mass). (Louis J. Buckley, conductor) – 4 March 2018
  • Ohlone Wind Orchestra (Fremont, Calif.) (Tony Clements, conductor) – 21 May 2017
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Joseph Manfredo, conductor) – 17 November 2016
  • The Hartt Wind Ensemble (West Hartford, Conn.) (James E. Jackson III, conductor) – 1 October 2016
  • Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) Wind Symphony (Don L. Peterson, conductor) – 13 February 2016
  • Orange County (Calif.) Wind Symphony (Anthony Mazzaferro, conductor) – 4 October 2015
  • California State University, Fresno, Wind Orchestra (Gary P. Gilroy, conductor) - 21 March 2014 (2014 Sutherland Wind Festival, Fresno, Calif.)
  • South Carolina All-State Senior Band (Anthony Maiello, conductor) - 2013
  • Indiana Wind Symphony (Charles Conrad, conductor) - 21 September 2010
  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (William V. Johnson, conductor) - 1 December 2001

Works for Winds by this Composer


  • Barnes, J.; Paganini, N. (1989). Fantasy Variations on a Theme by Nicolo Paganini: For Symphonic Band [score]. Southern Music: San Antonio, Tex.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). ‘’Program Notes for Band.’’ Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 37.