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Dance Suite

for piano

Richard Uttley first contacted me about the possibility of writing a new work for him shortly after he’d heard the premiere of my commission for the LSO two years ago, and he was keen that we work on a project together soon after. It was a great pleasure to receive this commission from him. We’ve been friends for a long time and I have enormous respect and admiration for Richard as a musician and champion of new music. 

Solo piano can be a daunting genre for composers today: the existing repertory is so vast and varied that it can be a struggle to create idiomatic and interesting textures for the instrument that don’t sound hackneyed or impersonal. While I’ve certainly come up against this issue with this piece, I’ve tried to allow myself to embrace the works from the canon that I feel drawn to rather than attempting to completely reinvent the medium. In particular, I’ve long felt drawn to dance movements written for the instrument, especially the Mazurkas of perhaps the very greatest composer in history for solo piano, Chopin, and all of the dances commonly found in the traditional Baroque Suite for keyboard.

The first two dances I’ve selected are very contrasting: the set begins with a Mazurka as mentioned above, which along with many references to Chopin also alludes to other more Eastern European composers, such as the Romanian George Enescu, as well other Poles such as Szymanowski. This is followed by a Sarabande in an almost infinitely slow tempo, for which the inspiration was largely the movements of this genre found in Bach’s English and French Suites, which number, to my mind, among his most sombrely lyrical, vivid and harmonically richest works.

Finally, the Suite ends with a much more whimsical and playful movement in the shape of a Gigue. The fugal form of Bach’s Gigues is certainly reflected in some of the contrapuntal thinking here, but the material is also interspersed with several lyrical episodes that hark back in mood and character to passages from the Mazurka.


Dance Suite was commissioned by Richard Uttley with the generous support of the Britten-Pears Foundation, RVW and Arthur Bliss Trusts.


10 December 2016 Richard Uttley, BBC Radio 3: Hear and Now

29 February 2016 Richard Uttley, Cité des Arts, Paris

28 May 2015 Richard Uttley, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge

7 May 2015 Richard Uttley, St John's Smith Square, London

5 May 2015 Richard Uttley, BBC Radio 3 live broadcast, In Tune

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