Programme Notes – French Dances Revisited (2003-2004)

(Wind Ensemble)

French Dances Revisited was conceived during an exercise I set some of my students, which was to write a variation on the Bach keyboard prelude in C BVW 939 for double wind quintet. Subsequently I thought it a good idea to take this same prelude and use it as a basis for a kind of Baroque suite for the same combination. I hope that what I’ve written doesn’t sound too much like a pastiche, but more as an act of reverence for the music of Bach which I have always found so life enhancing. The six movements of the work follow the model of the Baroque French suite. The first movement is an Overture featuring an angular introduction followed by a fugato in 5/4 time. There follows a stately Allemande led by flute and bassoon, a lively Courante in fast triple time, a mournful Sarabande featuring solo oboe and horn and a Gavotte that also pays homage to Neo-classicism. The piece ends with a Gigue, which makes much use of canonic writing. Towards the end the stern dotted rhythms of the opening of the work reappear before the mood lightens for an exuberant ending.

In this piece I’ve also tried to follow a procedure of a certain flexibility of instrumentation which has been perhaps the hardest challenge. The two horn parts can be played on saxophones, the music of the second bassoon can be played on a bass clarinet and the oboe 2 part should also work on a clarinet.

French Dances Revisited lasts about fifteen minutes.