Fantasy Variations

From Wind Repertory Project
Donald Grantham

Donald Grantham

Subtitle: On George Gershwin's Prelude II for Piano

General Info

Year: 1927 / 1999
Duration: c. 11:50
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: Alfred Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $200.00   |   Score Only - $50.00


Full Score
C Piccolo (doubling Flute III)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
C Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III-IV
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Piano (doubling Celesta)
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Hi-hat
  • Marimba
  • Slapstick
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tom-toms (4)
  • Trap Set
  • Triangle (small)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Donald Grantham wrote this of his Fantasy Variations on George Gershwin’s Prelude II for Piano:

My attraction to the work is personal because it was the first piece by an American composer I learned as a piano student. In Fantasy Variations, both of the “big tunes” in the piece are fully exploited, but they do not appear in recognizable form until near the end. The work begins with much more obscure fragments drawn from the introduction, accompanimental figures, transitions, cadences, and so forth. These eventually give way to more familiar motives derived from the themes themselves. All of these elements are gradually assembled over the last half of the piece until the themes finally appear in more or less their original form.

Brian Taylor (DMA, University of Southern Mississippi) provided the following backstory for the source material in his 2008 dissertation: “Gershwin spoke of composing a set of twenty-four etudes for piano, having been inspired by Chopin’s set of preludes, exploring all major and minor keys; the set was to be named The Melting Pot. In 1927, only three preludes, all dedicated to William Daly, were published.” The three piano preludes were the composer’s only work for solo piano, and the second prelude specifically has proven immensely popular fodder for transcription. Gershwin himself referred to it as "a sort of blues lullaby." An intriguing additional thread: according to biographer Howard Pollack, one of the never-fully-realized preludes became the foundation of Gershwin’s duet for violin and piano called Short Story.

Amy Carr-Richardson, in her 2011 article in Gamut: Online Journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, wrote “Because Grantham sets the fragments from Gershwin in ways that exploit every possible musical character inherent in the Prelude – as a scherzo, a lyrical waltz, blues, swing, etc. – the work provides a survey of stylistic traits, especially those associated with American popular music from the early 20th century.” She also provided a quotation from theorist Joseph Straus:

In recomposition, a composer takes a familiar object from the shared world of our inherited musical culture and, by altering it and presenting it in a new context, forces us to hear it in a new way. In the process, the composer attacks our normal, customary ways of approaching these familiar objects.

- Program Note from the University of Nebraska Wind Ensemble concert program, 28 February 2016


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Virginia: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Grantham, D.; Gershwin, G. (1999). Fantasy Variations: (on George Gershwin's Prelude II for Piano) [score]. WB Music: Miami, Fla.
  • Miles, Richard B. 2000. Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Volume 3. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 666-670.