Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Earth Dances

  • for orchestra
  • 3 3 3 3 - 4 4 4 2 - perc(5), hp(2), pno, str(30 0 9 9 9)
  • Duration: 38’
  • 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
    percussion(5)
    1st harp
    2nd harp
    piano
    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
  • Composer: Sir Harrison Birtwistle
  • Table of contents:
    Earth Dances for orchestra
  • Dedication: Dedicated to Pierre Boulez
  • Commission: Commissioned by BBC

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.

Audiosamples

Earth Dances
00:00

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Location:
Royal Festival Hall, London (GB)
Date:
14.03.1986
Orchestra:
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Conductor:
Peter Eötvös

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