Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Earth Dances

Sir Harrison Birtwistle Earth Dances
Earth Dances

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Earth Dances

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for orchestra
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
3 3 3 3 - 4 4 4 2 - perc(5), hp(2), pno, str(30 0 9 9 9)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute (+picc)
3rd flute (+picc
alto fl)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
3rd oboe (+c.a)
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
3rd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb)
bass cl)
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon (+cbsn)
3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in C
2nd trumpet in C
3rd trumpet in C
4th trumpet in C (+picc.tpt)
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
4th trombone
1st tuba
2nd tuba
1st harp
2nd harp
1st/2nd violin
3rd/4th violin
5/6th violin
7/8th violin
9/10th violin
11/12th violin
13/14th violin
15/16th violin
17/18th violin
19/20th violin
21st/22nd violin
23rd/24th violin
25/26th violin
27/28th violin
29/30th violin
1st/2nd viola
3rd/4th viola
5/6th viola
7/8th viola
9th viola
1st/2nd violoncello
3rd/4th violoncello
5/6th violoncello
7/8th violoncello
9th violoncello
1st/2nd contrabass
3rd4th contrabass
5.6th contrabass
7.8th contrabass
9th contrabass
Table of contents:
Earth Dances for orchestra
Commissioned by BBC
Dedicated to Pierre Boulez
More Less


Earth Dances

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Dedicated to Pierre Boulez

Almost thirty years after it was composed, Earth Dances seems quite romantic; it is one of the most imposing works in the composer’s oeuvre and, indeed, all of postwar British music. Enormous masses of sound move slowly and menacingly, long sustained pitches are interrupted by lightning-like strokes – a procession, as so often with Birtwistle, or the inexorable rotation of an object – the earth?

The sonic image is made up of six layers, each with its own characteristic intervals. The instruments are divided into groups according to their common registers: violins coupled with high winds, for example. The dynamic changes constantly, as crescendi range from pp to ff.

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World première

Royal Festival Hall, London (GB)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Peter Eötvös

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