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John McCabe

Publisher: Novello & Co

Basse Danse (1973)
Work Notes
Also available for two pianos.
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
12 Minutes
Programme Note
John McCabe Basse Danse (1973)
This 12-minute work was originally commissioned by University College, Cardiff, as a work for two pianos, in which form it was first performed in January 1971. However, as I worked on it I realised that I would want to make an orchestral version of it (much as Ravel often orchestrated pieces written first in another medium), and I began immediately to make notes for the orchestration as I wrote the two-piano piece. This version, completed in 1973, was premièred by Vernon Handley and the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra in May 1975.

The basic idea came from the renaissance dance type, which had as its basis a two-part form, one part slow and the other quick - it was often the case that the second part was a quicker version (sometimes simply at double speed) of the first. These ideas became somewhat changed in my piece, but the relationships between the various sections are of a similar kind, with the basic pulse remaining the same throughout the work. After a short, quick introduction, there is a slow section (containing a kind of scherzo-like middle part) and a final quick "movement", closing with a return to the opening introduction. I hope that I have reflected in this music both the dance element and a certain degree of forthrightness characteristic of the Middle Ages.

© 2005 by John McCabe

  • Ensemble
    Joseph Tong, Waka Hasegawa, piano 4 hands
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