Fabrezan Preludes

Denis Smalley

Fabrezan Preludes

  • Denis Smalley
  • Year of composition: 2015-16
  • Duration: 20:58
  • Instrumentation: 8-channel fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: School of Music and Fine Art — University of Kent
  • ISWC: T9190985592

The central prelude, Debussy’s Cathedral, is based on the transformation and development of a pair of resonant chords taken from Debussy’s piano prelude La Cathédrale engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral), which evokes the story of the mythical city of Ys, submerged off the coast of Brittany. Legend has it that the city’s church bells can be heard in calm seas. Debussian intervals and scale patterns provide the framework for the prelude — rising, open fourths and fifths, pentatonic allusions. The spaciousness of a cathedral nave is suggested through textures of undulating, oscillating patterns and reflections, and wave-like surges, embellished by mobile strands of bell partials.

In the opening prelude, Portal, the listener crosses over the threshold into the cathedral nave.

The Voices of Circius (also known as Cercius) refers to the relatively unknown Roman god of the Cers wind to whom the Emperor Augustus dedicated an altar near Narbonne, in the south of France. The Cers blows across the country from the northwest, gathering force and circular motion as it travels over the plains through the broad valley corridors, moving towards the Mediterranean. It can be impetuous, emerging suddenly, chasing away clouds and rain, initiating sunny, luminous skies. Recognised as having health-inducing properties, it brings welcome cool breezes in the summer heat, but can be bitingly cold in winter. This prelude aims to capture aspects of its “voices.”


Fabrezan Preludes was realized between 2015 and ’16 in the composer’s studios in Fabrezan (France) and London (England, UK), and premiered on May 21, 2016, in a concert to mark Denis Smalley’s 70th birthday, at the Colyer-Fergusson Hall in Canterbury (England, UK). The work was commissioned by the School of Music and Fine Art of the University of Kent (Medway, England, UK). Thanks to Aki Pasoulas, Director of MAAST (Music and Audio Arts Sound Theatre), for initiating the commission.


  • May 21, 2016, Denis Smalley’s 70th Birthday Celebration, Colyer-Fergusson Hall — University of Kent, Canterbury (England, UK)