Elliott Carter: Night Fantasies

“Night Fantasies,” which concluded the recital, was the evening’s clear triumph. A ceaseless roil of shadowy impressions fleeting and half-sensed, the piece is one of Carter’s grandest, most poetic achievements. With subtlety and finesse, Mr. Kigawa produced a haunting palette of crepuscular shades while providing a sensation of flowing continuity across the work’s full span." - Steve Smith, The New York Times

"Night Fantasies (1980) is probably Carter's masterpiece for piano; its fragmented form and sudden changes of character echo the miniatures of Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana. Kigawa's version was intense and poetic at the same time, with a feeling of romantic enchantment. His technique was again astonishing; but it was a sober virtuosity of precise gestures in humble submission to the score. The proof of this humility came in the end: while receiving his applause, Kigawa opened one of the scores and reverently pointed at Carter's name." - Pablo Gianera, La Nación

"The two most exciting pieces on the program were Elliott Carter’s Sonata and Night Fantasies of 1945 and 1979–80, respectively. Throughout both of Mr Kigawa’s interpretations, I found myself nearly in awe, both that a human had composed this music and that another human was playing it. The sonata alternated between stately chords and choral sections with frantic notes split open and running in all directions, an effective display of the complexity and challenges of Carter’s music. The Night Fantasies, a “modern-day Kreisleriana”, oscillated between intricate harmonies and scattered dissonances. The swift mood changes were reminiscent of Kreisleriana composer Schumann himself, giving me the sense that even the most “random” chords or phrases had an underlying (though perhaps inexplicable) meaning. Rather than parse this out, I set aside my pen and notebook and rode the choppy, uneven waves of Carter’s music to the end. Does this music’s arguable “lack of coherence” make it any less worthwhile than Schumann’s Kreisleriana itself? I don’t think so, and I think Mr Kigawa did a spectacular job of reminding us all that modern personalities and harmonies can be rendered in such a way that is both dramatic and meaningful. Carter’s music, while well suited to the slightly unfocused vibe of LPR, sounds just as grand – beautiful, even – in a formal recital hall. The people and the setting might change, but the extraordinary notes will always flow from one to the other in the invisible pattern of their seemingly random existence." - Rebecca Lentjes, Bachtrack

"Night Fantasies (1980) is Carter’s weightiest solo piano work from his later years. Carter has mentioned Kreisleriana by Robert Schumann as a touchstone for Night Fantasies. In interviews, he sometimes discussed bouts of insomnia, cured by declining Latin and Greek irregular verbs; his program note for Night Fantasies alludes to sleeplessness and the thoughts it evokes. An interesting way of framing the piece is as a nocturne for insomniacs. The Schumann work may be a kindred spirit; however, it is structurally different from Carter’s piece. While Kreisleriana has eight distinct movements, Night Fantasies is instead cast in a single movement, over twenty minutes in duration. Within this structure, there are any number of ephemeral sections and fleeting gestures; the frequent shifts of demeanor are dazzling. Of course, undergirding all of this surface busyness are long range rhythmic relationships. Carter carefully worked out the architecture of Night Fantasies, copiously sketching, even by his exacting standards of precompositional planning. To successfully pull off performing Night Fantasies, a pianist must connect its mercurial foreground with the structural processes of the piece’s spine, making both evident to the careful listener. The four estimable co-commissioners of the piece – Gilbert Kalish, Paul Jacobs, Ursula Oppens, and Charles Rosen – give one an idea of the caliber of pianist needed for Night Fantasies. Their varying renditions also supply notions of the mutable nature of the work; this in spite of its score’s detailed and abundant markings. Kigawa’s rendition makes a claim for him being in the same weight class as the aforementioned quartet of pianistic heavyweights. It embraces both the micro and macro aspects of Night Fantasies, all the while inhabiting it with technical skill and abundant brio." - Christian Carey