• hn, 2tpt, tbn, tba
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

Urban Dances was commissioned by Chamber Music America with financial support from the Pew Charitable Trust. Work on this piece began in the last days of November 1988 and was completed on New Year’s Eve of that year. While the piece was commissioned by and written for the Saturday Brass Quintet, I had in mind from the outset a piece with a choreographic possibility. Although the work was performed just 15 days (!) after its completion, the fist performance with dance did not occur until April 1990 at the Marymount Manhattan Theatre with choreography and staging by Debra Fernandez.

Each movement of Urban Dances is an attempt on my part to evoke and embody some of the various energies (as I experience them) of the city in which I was and now live. The first movement, Riddle Dance is about confronting crisis, on a daily basis, (“It’s always something…”) while the second movement, the Burlesque, involves and invokes the sexual energy between men and women in New York.

The Shadow Dance is the longest of the four movements and is a dirge with variations set in a style somewhat reminiscent of a chorale prelude. This movement is preoccupied with the death, dying, and desolation one becomes witness to in New York as a result of violence, neglect, and disease (this movement was written almost completely during evening hours, which for me is quite unusual as I almost always compose in the morning).

The last movement, Peripetia, is a cross between perpetual motion and vicissitude – it is the most positive and optimistic of the four dances while being perhaps the most challenging music in the set for the performers. In this movement all the ideas in the previous three movements return in various guises for a final appearance.

Urban Dances is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein with admiration and was presented to him in October 1989.

— Richard Danielpour