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Musical composition free in form and inspiration, often for an instrumental soloist. Most fantasias try to convey the impression of improvisation. The first were Italian works for lute (c. 1530). Keyboard fantasias became common in the late 16th century; both organ and harpsichord fantasias flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain, Germany, and France. Fugal, imitative texture, sometimes highly learned in character, was common from the beginning, often alternating with running passagework and highly chromatic chordal passages in free rhythms. Ensemble fantasias were widely composed as well.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fantasia, visit Britannica.com.