Universal Edition - David Sawer – Rumpelstiltskin

David Sawer

David Sawer

Year of composition: 2009
Subtitle: Ballett
Scored for: for ensemble and six dancers
Composer: David Sawer
Instrumentation: 1 1 2 1 - 1 1 0 1 - hp, vln, vla, vc, cb
Instrumentation details:
oboe (+c.a)
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
horn in F
trumpet in C
Remarks: The work is scored for 13 instruments and 6 dancers.
Duration: 70′
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Audio Excerpt


World Première

Location: CBSO Centre Birmingham / Great Britain
Date: 14.11.2009
Orchestra: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
Scenery: Richard Jones
Remarks: 2 performances (6-7pm Perf 1 / 8-9pm Perf 2)

Work Introduction

A grotesque fable for our time

Once upon a time there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the King, and in order to make himself appear important he said to him, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold". The King said to the miller, "That is an art which will please me well. If your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her tomorrow to my palace, and I will put her to the test."

David Sawer’s work stretches the idea of what a ballet is. As he says “I’ve called it a ballet; it is a ballet score, but there are no conventional ballet steps. It’s more in the feel of a silent film.”

In the world première series, Sawer joined forces with director Richard Jones and designer Stewart Laing to present a thrilling spectacle, praised unanimously by the press. See the reviews.

Photographs from the Birmingham Contemporary Music Groups performance of Rumpelstiltskin, taken by Keith Pattison, can be seen online at Blurb, where you can also buy a copy of the book.

Audience feedback from the world première of Rumpelstiltskin, performed by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Groupon on 14 November:


“Sawer’s score is a tour de force of mostly ominous effects and gradually mounting frenzy, admirably conducted by Martyn Brabbins” (Richard Morrison, The Times)

“The score is a tautly structured mosaic of ideas, each relatively simple, but infinitely suggestive; like everything about this deft show, it’s a model of economy.” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

“Sawer calls it a ballet on the printed score, but in reality what he and [David] Jones have devised defies accurate categorisation, vividly unfolding the sinister story through music, mime and movement across its 70-minute span.” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

“The wordless reworking of a classic fairy tale makes its timeless message more alarming than ever. Sawer’s score is a rich broth of Petrushka-esque carnival music, Depression-era dance music and melancholy doynas, with 13 instruments providing the voices of the silent actors. It’s a work that is hard to categorise, neither dance nor opera, but storytelling through music and movement. …

From the ever-darkening timbre of the alchemy music to the expansive horn solo, the brittle, syncopated wedding music, mocking flute and stuttering speech-rhythms, Sawer tightens his score with unerring focus.” (Anna Picard, The Independent)

“From the ever darkening-timbre of the alchemy music to the expansive horn solo, the brittle, syncopated wedding music, mocking flute and stuttering speech-rhythms, Sawer tightens his score with unerring focus and is handsomely served by BCMG’s virtuosic instrumentalists and conductor Martyn Brabbins.” (Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday)

study score - Rumpelstiltskin

  • for ensemble and six dancers
  • Edition type: study score

1 Ensemble that has played this work:

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