• Geoffrey Burgon
  • The Golden Fish (1964)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 22224320timpstr
  • 4tpts/hn/4tbn/tba[timp]
  • [Narrator]
  • 3 min

Programme Note

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

Based on a Russian folk tale as told by Pushkin which tells of a poor and humble fisherman and his greedy and overambitious wife. The fisherman catches a beautiful golden fish which begs to be returned to the sea, promising the fisherman anything he desires. The fisherman replies he is quite content: but on his return home he is rebuked by his wife who tells him to ask for a new wash tub. This he does and it is granted. But the wife is not satisfied and asks for more and more, until finally wanting to be Queen of the Sea, with the fish as her servant. This is too much; the fish is angered and when the fisherman returns home he finds that all his wife’s wishes have been revoked.

PROGRAMME NOTE

The ballet The Golden Fish was written in collaboration with the choreographer Anna Paskerska whilst I was in my last year at the Guildhall School of Music in 1964. It is based on a Russian folk tale and tells of a poor and humble fisherman and his greedy and over-ambitious wife. Whilst fishing, the fisherman catches a beautiful golden fish. The fish begs to be returned to the sea, and promises the fisherman anything he desires if he will do so. The fisherman replies that he is quite content and does as the fish asks. On his return he tells his wife of his adventure and she replies ‘You fool, you should have asked for a new wash tub.’ So the fisherman returns to the sea and calls to the fish, who appears and says ‘go home and your wish will be granted’. The fisherman does so and there is his wife with her new wash tub. But she is not content. ‘Go back and ask for a new house.’ This he does and this wish is also granted. But again the wife is not happy. Her demands become more and more ambitious until finally she wants to be queen of the sea with the fish as her servant. This is too much’ the fish is angered; and when the fisherman returns home, she is as before, holed was tub, tumble-down house, etc

The work begins quietly with a horn solo that becomes the basis for much of the musical material. After this introduction comes the first sea episode, identified by a rising bass figure and then the first appearance of the fish, depicted by a fanfare-like motif in the woodwinds. The work proceeds with the alternation of music that depicts the sea and the fisherman’s life at home, the sea becoming rougher as the wife’s demands increase until, finally, after a stormy climax, there is a return to the opening mood of gentle melancholy as the fisherman discovers the results of his wife’s folly.

November 1985