Programme Notes – Dances From Crete (2003)

This work was commissioned by Timothy Reynish as part of a series of commissions to commemorate his son William Reynish who tragically died in a mountaineering accident in 2001. The world premiere took place at the Royal College of Music in London in November 2003.

Dances From Crete is in four movements and is intended to celebrate the good things in life, drawing much of its material from the dance music from the Greek island of Crete , where many of the ancient Greek myths took place. The first movement, Syrtos is intended to serve as a portrait of the Minotaur, the famous creature that was half bull, half man, and fed upon young men and women that were sacrificed to him every year before being killed by the hero Theseus. The character of this movement is harsh and ruthless.

The second movement, Tik is a more graceful dance based on the sinuous movements of young women, but it is also characterised by a certain roughness; and is in 5/8 time. Tim Reynish writes that ‘in this movement the whole orchestra should feel the pulse like a Cretan Peasant on the threshing floor.’ Following on from this the third movement in a slow 7/4 time is darker in mood and inspired by a steep and perilous walk down the Samaria Gorge; one of the most spectacular of all walks. The movement eventually rises to a triumphant peroration, depicting a welcome plunge into the Libyan Sea . Following distant offstage fanfares the finale, a modern Greek dance, Syrtaki, which bursts in with the offstage trumpeters swaggering back on stage playing a deliberately vulgar theme. The music soon becomes very fast and eventually ends in total festive anarchy, although before the final apotheosis the ghost of the Minotaur can briefly be heard joining the party.

Dances From Crete lasts about eighteen minutes.