Ophelia Dances Book 1


chamber ensemble of 9 players
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
fl.ca.cl - hn - pno.cel - vln.vla.vlc
Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of congress on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Serge Koussevitzky
First Performance
9.5.75, Alice Tully Hall New York: Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center/Michael Tilson Thomas

Score 0-571-50665-8 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

Why is Ophelia dancing? Partly as an instrumental response to Shakespeare’s description of her chanting ‘snatches of old tunes/ As one incapable of her own distress’, and partly because I wanted to write a piece whose light-headed and giddy qualities would suggest a crossing of the line that divides laughter from tears. The ‘old tunes’ in this piece are Schumann’s Carnaval, whose mottos provided much of its melodic and harmonic material, and two late works of Debussy, La boîte à joujoux and Gigues. There is an introduction, four dances (which become more and more compressed) and a long slow coda, all played continuously. Ophelia Dances was commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and first performed in New York in May 1975 by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

© Oliver Knussen

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