Commissioned by David Starobin

  • Guitar
  • 8 min

Programme Note

NIGHT DANCE was written between September 1986 and January 1987 to a commission from David Starobin who gave the first performance on 5 April 1987 at the Wigmore Hall, London. It is a miniature tone-poem depicting a scene which came to me as I began work on the piece and which gave me many formal ideas. An old man sits in a doorway at dusk. He is playing a guitar and begins by plucking the lowest string, as though searching for what he wishes to play. As the music gathers momentum, it gradually moves upwards by means of the guitar's open strings and breaks into a dance. Now it is dark and a nightmarish band of dancers passes by the old guitarist. (I imagined them to be the terrifying types of characters who people Goya's later paintings.) The dance, jerky and uneven, develops melodically and harmonically the initial material of the piece. After a climax, the dancers move on - the dance music subsides and a nocturne is heard, interrupted periodically by the music of the dance in the distance. Maybe this is not geographical distance, but the distance of time, perhaps the whole episode has been mere memories. The piece ends musingly with the motive from which it began.

© Robert Saxton 1987