»To Izumi Tateno, and to the memories of his inspiring instruction and guidance at the Sibelius Akatemia in Helsinki«


For Piano left hand and Orchestra (2 flutes; 2 oboes (2nd doubling on English horn); 2 clarinets in Bb (1st doubling on clarinet in Eb, 2nd doubling on Bass clarinet); 2 bassoons; 2 horns in F; 2 trumpets in C; 2 trombones (2nd doubling on contrabass trombone); 3 percussionists (see below); 1 harp; strings: 10-8-6-5-4 (while this is the recommended size for the string sections, adding one further desk to each section would do no harm))
Percussion disposition:
I: Timpani, snare drum
II: Snare drum, xylophone, crotales, triangle, pair of cymbals, tambourine, glass chimes, sizzle cymbal, 5 temple blocks, suspended cymbal, horse hooves, 2 tom-toms, 2 empty 1.5 liter plastic bottles, claves, darbuka
III: Suspended cymbal, bass drum, 2 bongos, triangle, snare drum, 2 congas, tam-tam, vibraphone, car horns in Ab and D, mouth whistle, duck whistle)

Premiere: June 18, 2016, performed by Izumi Tateno and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic conducted by Ms. Kenshiro Sakairi, at the Daiichi Seimei Hall (Tokyo)
Further performances: November 10, 2016, performed by Izumi Tateno and the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mr. Ken Takaseki, at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall

Duration: 18 minutes

Manuscript of the Score (Extract, Pdf)

Dance and its motions are for me as for many other composers a continually recurring element of inspiration.
Starting with the early Miniatures for two violins (composed in 1974-76 and included in the first volume of my Violin Method), and then going through pieces such as Hommage à un temps perdu (1980) or Just an Accident? (orchestral version 1983-85), up to Time Recycling (2102-13), the occupation with the rhythms of the most diverse folk and social dances runs through my works like an invisible thread. In my project Pop Revolution, dance also becomes one of the fundamental elements.
The Fantastic Dances for Piano left hand and Orchestra were written for the Japanese pianist Izumi Tateno, who had been my piano teacher at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki in 1968-69.
In 2011, after more than 40 years, a long-yearned-for reunion took place in Tokyo, and I spontaneously decided to comply with his wish for a work. The Fantastic Dances emerged, which approach the subject in an unconventional way, and which (like La Fontaine de Sang Op.22b) can in the sense of form hardly be designated as a concerto.

Striking at first is the five-movement layout of the work. Three longer movements apparently leaning on fantasy, suite, and rondo forms are interposed with two short movements, each of which concentrates on one specific dance rhythm. The work becomes homage to the diversity of dance form and expression that confronts us around the world: social dances, traditional dances, ritual dances, war dances, and dances of death.
The movements are titled:
I. Memories and Dreams
II. Quofou special
III. In pentatonic modes
IV. Suomen Polkka
V. Antiphon Dances

The first movement—Memories and Dreams—presents us the theme, in a kind of exposition. A first thread of dance elements develops out of the interplay between a free piano cadenza and various rhythmic elements in the orchestra, a kind of homage to the variable meters that Igor Stravinsky built out of groups of 2 and 3. During this, the harmony follows rules I laid down in my method of working with chord realignments.
The further parts of this »fantasy« display fixed as well as evolving structures, which successively take on the characters of a sarabande, a courante, a tango, and finally a pedal-point-like ostinato dance of death (Danse Macabre).

The second movement—Quofou special—is, apart from the introductory measures for solo piano, occupied exclusively with one single rhythm and its variants. »Quofou« is my playful designation for a development of the Habanera rhythm into 5/4 meter. Here the first, second, fourth and fifth quarter notes are divided into triplets, the third into eighth notes. The alternating successions of long-short and short-long note values serve to characterize the triplets. Manifold processes expand or contract this original structure, at first through the displacement of the duplets onto other parts of the measure, then through various syncopations of the rhythm, through increase in the number of duplets and reduction in the number of triplets (for example, three beats with triplets and two with duplets instead of four beats with triplets and one with duplets), and finally by staggering, by changing the point of emphasis, and by shortening the measure. For example, the first half of the measure can be halved in length: instead of triplets-triplets-two eighth notes-triplets-triplets, one has just two beats with eighth note triplets and then only one eighth note, yielding a 5/8 measure. In the short stretta only the eighth notes remain, in accelerated tempo, lightly scurrying into nothingness …
In the first movement, the piano part sometimes moves independently from the orchestra; in the second movement the actions of piano and orchestra are homogenized. The first movement passes into the second quasi attacca, with just a little breathing space in between, whereas the third movement is to be clearly separated from the second.

Given the title In pentatonic modes, it seems clear that the connection to dance forms is in the third movement not that pronounced. The contrapuntally woven nature of the recurring rondo-like pentatonic movement allows the most diverse syncopations to dissolve into one another, whereby piano and orchestra are equal partners. This ramified fundamental movement contrasts with clearly structured sections, from out of which the piano exfoliates and unfolds, as if an acoustic fruit were being peeled. Particularly striking here is an evolving 5/8 section, which strives in chorale form towards a fermata effect notated through increasing note values, and also at the end the three-part coda, which alternates between sections in linear movement and five-part homophonic wind chords that counterpoint the piano part.

A scale-like descent of the solo piano leads directly into the short fourth movement, a Finnish Polkka, which, like the second movement, concentrates on one single rhythm.
This gruff movement is marked by intense variations of tempo. A stance of continuous forward striving is repeatedly »broken« through sudden slowing and then revived by repeated accelerations.

The last movement’s title Antiphon Dances already indicates that here attention is drawn onto the dialogue between piano and orchestra.
One of the most dangerous areas in the world lies between northeastern Iran and Kashmir, a region divided between India and Pakistan. But even here, in a region torn by war, terrorism, tribal conflicts, and apparently irreconcilable religious differences, festivals are celebrated.
The remarkable multisegmented Raghse Choob is danced primarily by Kurdish tribes in the Iranian province of Khorasan. The Attan is the most popular folk dance of the Pashtuns, who have their tribal regions in Iran, in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan’s warlike province Waziristan. Both dances are danced in numerous variations, from wedding to war dance, in Waziristan with rifle in hand. The Raghse Choob has repeatedly aroused the interest of composers, since its many segments are linked through the element of tempo relation.
Particularly in recent decades, a gender-divided application of these dances has emerged in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Men openly dance and sing together; the women’s dancing often takes place only in hidden private spaces. One should not underestimate the explosive sociopolitical force of these dances—a reason for the Taliban’s fundamental outlawing of dance, with the exception of the men’s Attan.
Here the 3/8 and 6/8 rhythms have been taken from this folk art as fundamental structures, as well as the 2/4 of the fast dances, in which the melody often covers no more than three or four pitches. In the course of events the 2/4 movement is transformed into an irregularly built up 5/8 measure, with 2+3 or 3+2 eighth notes. In the course of this metamorphosis connections to other folk dances of the region emerge, dances that also have irregular metric patterns, for example 7/8 divided as 3+2+2. In the stretto, the piece then returns to its 2/4 origins.

Even though this piece was begun in 2012, the work on Time Recycling, premiered in May 2014, delayed its completion until 2015.