Gazebo Dances

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        John Corigliano is certainly one of the new generation of composers that are equally at home in the theater and the concert stage.   He is a native New Yorker, educated there at Columbia, and worked for WQXR, Columbia Masterworks, and with Leonard Bernstein on the Young People’s Concert series.  He has taught at the Manhattan School, CUNY, and Juilliard.  His compositional style has varied widely during his career, ranging from a conservative, accessible, tonal idiom to aleatoric, experimental, and serial techniques.  He was the recipient of a commission from the Metropolitan Opera that resulted in The Ghosts of Versailles (1991), an opera that makes much use of eighteenth-century musical styles.  He is obviously at home in a variety of musical idioms--you may remember his scores for the films, Altered States (1981) and Revolution (1985).  His music for the 1999 film, The Red Violin, won an Academy Award for “Best Original Score;” he and Aaron Copland are the only “classical” composers so honored.

        Gazebo Dances (1972) is an example of his relatively early style, and originally was composed for piano four hands.  Later he arranged it for both concert band and orchestra, and it has enjoyed great success in both media.  It was written for pianists who are friends of his, and each of the movements bears a specific dedication.  Lighthearted and a bit nostalgic in its references, it begins with a little overture redolent of the great early nineteenth-century opera composer, Gioachino Rossini—listen for the typical, gradual building of tension characteristic of Rossini. Next comes what the composer calls a “rather peg-legged waltz” in which the accents tend to be all over the place, not conventionally on beat one.   The following melodic adagio grows to a tense apex, is interrupted, and concludes somewhat as it began.  The concluding “bouncy” tarantella (a spirited Italian dance) is the shortest movement, and ends appropriately with great excitement.  The title, Gazebo Dances, alludes to the little bandstands that used to mark the village squares in an America of a more innocent time, when band concerts marked warm summer evenings.

--Wm. E. Runyan

© 2015 William E. Runyan