A light fantastic round
for string orchestra

John Burge
John Burge
Composition Date: 2004
Duration: 00:18:00
Genre: Orchestra / Large Ensembles, String Orchestra


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x String orchestra
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Programme Note:
A Light Fantastic Round, for string orchestra, was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in 2003. The title of the work is taken from a rhyming couplet found in John Milton’s dramatic work, Masque, and reads as follows, “Come, knit hands, and beat the ground, In a light fantastic round.” Given that a musical ‘round’ is really just a simple canon (think of Three Blind Mice), John Burge has taken this image as a starting point for writing a piece that is primarily concerned with canonic writing. Indeed, throughout the work, there are at least two instrumental lines playing a canon and sometimes these canons involve as many as five parts. To be fair to the listener though, these canons can often be difficult to hear as they sometimes make use of a variety of intervals of transposition or the answering voice’s rhythmic values are altered. At some points even, the canonic writing is inverted (for example, an ascending series of notes becomes a descending series of notes).

While the description above details the mechanical aspect of the work, the composer’s primary desire was to write a piece that was very much in keeping with a Baroque Fantasy or Fantasia. These works were generally single-movement pieces that had a certain element of structural freedom. In this case, A Light Fantastic Round’s one-movement design can be divided into four tightly connected sections. The music begins with a lyrical passage built above a slowly moving bass line that is joined to a fast, fugal section. The fugue theme is characterized by a repeated, falling glissando gesture, or slide, on the first two notes. The third section moves at a slower speed and contrasts expressive dissonant writing more consonant sonorities. The final section returns to the faster tempo of the second section and pulls together some of the thematic ideas heard earlier as the music builds to the final cadence.

Commissioned by: CBC for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra

Premiere Information:
10/11/2004 Westminster United Church Winnipeg, Manitoba Manitoba Chamber Orchestra Conductor: Scott Yoo


  • Call Number:
  • MI 1500 B954li
  • Genre:
  • Orchestra / Large Ensembles, String Orchestra
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • November 4, 2009
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (40 p.); 28 cm.
    40 Pages
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
    Parts page count: 54
    5 parts ((54) p.) ;
    Height: 32 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • String orchestra
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