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Composed in celebration of the 20th season of the Carson City (Nevada) Symphony Orchestra (1984-2004), David Bugli -- Music Director
This suite of five dances is intended to be both celebratory and fanciful: celebratory to suit the occasion (the 20th season of the Carson City Symphony Orchestra); and fanciful as an expression of the composer's imagination roaming freely.
"Prance" is subtitled "A Two-Step." This lively dance opens with triumphant chords to introduce the entire suite. Then, the brass present the "two-step" theme, "stepping" up and down the scale in syncopation. A middle section features dyads (two-note sonorities) in the violins, winds and piano, scampering playfully up and down the scale in response to the brass. The "two-step" theme returns, with everyone joining in to close the dance.
"Petite Waltz/Grande Waltz" ("Dance of the Fireflies and Elephants") displays a Minuet and Trio form, with extended Coda (closing section). The Oboe and Violins present the principal waltz theme (Minuet). A middle section (Trio) features a duet between the Piccolo and Piano (the Fireflies). The Minuet returns to close the movement, but is interrupted by the entrance of the brass (the Elephants), gamely attempting to imitate the dainty waltz theme. The strings re-enter with a grand, final statement of the theme.
"Dance of the Wild Ponies" was inspired by an actual encounter between composer and galloping residents of Nevada. In this musical description, the emphasis is placed on the joyful, free-bounding nature of the ponies. They trot by, with manes flying high the air (as expressed by upbows in strings and the piano visual effects). They dance. And, eventually, they gallop away! [The astute listener might hear some "whinnies" in the middle section.]
This "Tango" might well have been titled "Tango Glissando." For this is an especially slippery piece. Strings slide. And the principal theme, part B, is a descent of the scale, in tango rhythm. At the end, all slide together.
"Charleston" borrows the familiar "secondary dominant" harmonic progression found in songs of the 1920s (such as "Five-Foot Two"). A theme based on this progression introduces the dance in a stately manner. The Percussion enters at a lively tempo, and the music races to an energetic and celebratory conclusion.
Symphonic Dances were composed during the summer of 2003 at the composer's studio in Braintree, Vermont.
Notes by the composer
Notes from Maestro David Bugli, who conducted the world premiere of Symphonic Dances:
"With Symphonic Dances, Dr. Gwyneth Walker has achieved yet another success in the area of orchestral literature. Gwyneth brings a wealth of knowledge concerning instrument colors to her works for this medium, from the simplest solo line to the full-throated ensemble. Her music is full of imagery, much of it touched with a puckish sense of humor. I have had the privilege of commissioning and conducting several of her works, including several premieres. I keep returning to her works because of their accessibility and appeal to our audience. Gwyneth always delivers a quality product, especially suited to the demands and abilities of community orchestras. I recommend Symphonic Dances and her other orchestral works to community, college, and professional orchestras in search of crowd-pleasing, performer-satisfying compositions." -- David Bugli, Music Director and Conductor, Carson City Symphony, Carson City, Nevada, 8/3/2004