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by Guy Woolfenden

Grade 5 duration c. 9 minutes

   
 

I

Shepherds and Shepherdesses
  II Florizel and Perdita
 

III

Dance of the Satyrs
 
  Click the movement titles above for 30 second samples
 

One of my favourite Shakespeare plays is The Winter’s Tale, and I have written music for three completely different productions during my time as Head of Music to the Royal Shakespeare Company. One, starring Judi Dench as both the mother, Hermione and her daughter, Perdita, had a big band Tribal Love-Rock score; another had a more classical, but timeless feel to it, and the last was an excellent small-scale touring production, for which I was allowed only a handful of instruments. It is from this source that the basic themes for Bohemian Dances, and an earlier version Three Dances for Clarinet Choir, have emerged. Act IV of the play is set in the kingdom of Bohemia - hence the title of the work.

Shakespeare calls for “A Dance of Shepherds and Shepherdesses”, which gives Florizel, the son of Polixenes, (King of Bohemia) a chance to become better acquainted with the beautiful Perdita, the lost daughter of Leontes, (King of Sicilia). This movement is written in seemingly tricky and ever-changing metres, but is rhythmically quite logical and melodically catchy.

The slower second movement ‘Florizel and Perdita’ is the lovers’ pas de deux: a gentle, slow waltz-like tune, initially presented by the principal oboe, is contrasted with a lšndler-like double time melody, at the end of which a solo clarinet makes a link to the last movement.

‘Dance of the Satyrs’ is a rip-roaring, foot-stamping dance performed in the play by ‘three carters, three shepherds, three neat-herds, and three swine-herds’, who enter in outrageous costumes representing the lecherous half-man, half-goat of Greek mythology. This dance is referred to as a “gallimaufry of gambols” - now where have I heard that word before?!

Bohemian Dances was commissioned by the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble, St Paul, Minnesota, which gave the first performance under the direction of Dr Matthew J George on 6th May 2005.

Short solo passages create many colourful melodic lines which characterise much of this work. The technical abilities required of each individual instrument are well within the performing range of excellent non-professional players. Bohemian Dances is a welcome addition to the repertoire of every wind ensemble.

James P. Callahan, Winds Magazine

 
Recording

Premieres & Encores Vol.2

Birmingham Symphonic Winds

Bohemian Dances conducted by guest conductor Guy Woolfenden

Dinmore Records DRD 137 ©2008

 

 

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