Night Dances, Op. 114

Vincent Persichetti

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Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Lines of poetry, floating about in my head, seemed to suggest a kind of music that flourished in the fertile climate of the Symphony [Sinfonia Janiculum (Symphony No. 9)]. I believe these two companion pieces are linked spiritually, but subconsciously.

As in my three volumes of Poems for Piano (1939), each reflects, or parallels, the mood of a single line recalled from a poem. After the last page of music in the score, I have listed the titles of the seven poems from which these lines came, but the music is a parallel of these specific lines only, and has nothing necessarily to do with the respective poems in their entirety (though my choice of title may have been influenced by that o f the Sylvia Plath poem quoted in the penultimate section).

These Night Dances do have to do with what we all dream in a different reality from that of our waking thoughts. In dreams things appear, bidden or unbidden, as an underside of something made of a fabric that will hold together because it is part fantasy. These seven pieces form a crystal created by a melodic pair of dew drops.

1. ?Shadow dancers alive in your blood now? (Carl Sandburg, For You). A low flute tries to rise but is brushed by a dropping two-note figure in the strings. The clarinets try to change the direction of the string figure, but the tuba?s descending melodic line causes a glissando reaction in the strings. Drooping percussion fashion a close while the strings sigh.

2. ?Their radiant spirals crease our outer night? (Daniel Hoffman, Instructions to a Medium) begins as a nonchalant dance by the bassoon, seemingly unaware of the first movement?s directional problems. This could have been an easy-going dance had the strings not complained about radiant spirals in the winds. A flute and oboe close the dance with a question.

3. ?Sleep to dreamier sleep be wed? (James Joyce, Chamber Music XXII) is a dream-break from the first two movements. The strings? descending two-note figure begins to ferment and a rich harmonic mixture about beautiful unrealities evolves.

4. ?The incendiary eve of deaths and entrances? (Dylan Thomas, Deaths and Entrances) is a disturbing group of thematic figures formed by upward tonal complaints. There are tutti cries, dangerous horn descents, a worried oboe and a distress call by the xylophone. It ends in muddy gloom.

5. ?The loneliness includes me unawares? (Robert Frost, Desert Places), from the start, finds the flute caught in a quiet chromatic tangle. Sympathetic comments by the xylophone and a low woodwind prayer response prepare for a closing gentle hug by the solo horn.

6. ?Through the black amnesias of heaven? (Sylvia Plath, The Night Dancers) dissects the original melodic figure and dismembers all motives created by that figure. High, cold harmonies cause the dew-drop nucleus to become numb in a frozen clustered string chord.

7. ?Where at midnight motion stays? (Robert Fitzgerald, January Night). Every thematic gesture of the work is freed in this concluding section. All rhythmic elements swirl, free of care. Everyone joins in to fashion an accelerated and rowdy close. It ends with a non-retrogradable WOW!

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Scores & Parts

Night Dances - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Composition Date 1970
Duration 00:22:00
Orchestration 3 3 2 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
Premiere December 9th, 1970. NYSSMA Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Fennell, Kiamesha Lake, New York.

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