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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 Turtles dance cancan
Turtles dance cancan PDF Print E-mail

by Luca Segalla

Precisely like this. In The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns turtles move at the beat of the theme of Orphée aux enfers, cancan by Offenbach. Naturally at the beat... of turtles. The effect is absolutely grotesque. A doubled result, because already in Offenbach’s original version, the cancan was danced by shadows in hell and gave an estranging effect.
Private divertissements. This musical or zoological gallery written in 1866, had been written for few intimates. Only in a second moment the composer, to please the will of Anna Pavlova, gave his permission to dance on the melody of The Swan. Nothing strange. Today, the listening experience takes place in the artificial dimension of concert halls, places which are physically and emotionally separated from reality. Listeners must sit in silence and with lights turned off to taste sound’s essence: listening becomes a ritual experience. Still, analyzing the history of public concerts, it is easy to see that instrumental music, before the birth around 1730 of paying concerts, and of their widespread diffusion among the Nineteenth century middle class, was almost always functional music, thought for a performance in a precise everyday milieu, public or private.
An example is certainly Water Music made up of two shiny suites, composed by Händel in July 1717. This composition had been written to entertain the king of England George I during a cruise on the Thames. The king was so pleased that he immediately asked for a second performance. Sumptuous music, (popular is the movement Alla hornpipe), between the triumph of  brass instruments and frequent pointed rhythms, almost composed to underline the boat’s movement on the Thames. The shiny pages by Giovanni Gabrieli were surely functional, written to be played during religious and civil ceremonies in Basilica di San Marco, during Venice’s late Renaissance period. It is an exhibit of sumptuous sounds to celebrate the institutions of La Serenissima. The same thing can be said about waltzes and marches composed by the Strauss dynasty for Vienna’s high society during the entire Nineteenth century, as Amor Marsch by Johann Strauss senior.
The aesthetic reason of Contrapunctus IX of Bach’s The Art of fugue is different, entirely dedicated to counterpoint experimentation. Another vision gives birth to the Quintet no. 2 op. 6 by the Russian composer (born in St. Petersburg in 1860) Victor Ewald. His life divided between  being an engineer, a composer and his ethnomusicological studies, Ewald left us several quintets for strings and winds, belonging more to late Romantic Western tradition, than to Eastern music. In particular, the second movement of the Quintet op. 6, is a theme with variations that presents a strong Brahmsian flavour.