a dance he thinks little of

Michael Nyman (1944)

a dance he thinks little of 2001

3332 - 4331 - timp - perc(4) - piano - strings
Duration 
15
Genre 
Publisher 

A commission from and for Yorkshire orchestras demands a Yorkshire hero - who better than York-born, Coxwold and Stillington resident Lawrence Sterne, author of Tristram Shandy - a novel I have been trying to turn into an opera since 1981. After writing THE ABBESS OF ANDOUILLETS, I’LL STAKE MY CREMONA TO A JEW’S TRUMP and NOSE-LIST SONG in the 80s, it was a pleasure to have an excuse to return to Sterne’s novel with an orchestral work which, however, explodes the rather well-behaved, quasi 18th century feel of my earlier Tristram Shandy settings. And - as with Cremona - the subject is death (as it is in a considerable part of my output - for example, SONGS FOR TONY, TANGO FOR TIM, MEMORIAL, TO MORROW and so on) as it is conjured up by Sterne in Book VII, Chapter 1:
‘When DEATH himself knocked at my door - ye bad him come again; and in so gay a tone of careless indifference, did ye do it, that he doubted of his commission.....then by heaven! I will lead him a dance he little thinks of....’

The work is in three movements of which the outer two are both fast and possibly dance-like. The third movement is linked to the second by a common augmented 4th bass part and to the first by the use of identical percussion rhythms (which refuse to conform to rhythmic straightjackets).

© Michael Nyman
May 2001

Performances 
20.7.01 Harrogate International Festival: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky
2.2.03 Karlsruhe, Germany: Badische Staatskapelle/Hannu Koivula
22.3.03 St Polten, Austria: Niederösterreichische Tonkünstler Betriebsges/Michael Nyman
30.10.09 Groningen, Netherlands: Noord Nederlands Orkest
4.1.11 A Coruna, Spain: Galicia Symphonic Orchestra/Michael Nyman,
11.11.11 Catania, Italy: Orchestra Teatro Massimo Bellini/Paul McGrath
15.3.14 Oviedo, Spain: Oviedo Philharmonic/Marzio Conti
3
Flute
2nd & 3rd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet
2
Bassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
4
Percussion
1
Piano
(Esc)