duration: 20 minutes
composed in 2004
commissioned by Harlequin
dedication: to the members of Harlequin
first performed by Harlequin, Purcell Room (South Bank Centre), London, 4 July 2004
Feroce, quasi selvaggio
Andante: Arioso accompagnato
Quasi recitativo: nel modo d'una cadenza
The dance known in France as canaries is described in Arbeau's Orchesographie of 1588 as possessing a vigorous dotted rhythm, intended to evoke a deliberately primitive style of performance such as might have been attributed to 'wild men' from the Canary Islands.
Dotted rhythms may be created in terms of a melodic line, or by interaction between instruments. Both methods are used in the opening section of Canaries, the pulse alternately asserted and undermined by dotted rhythms moving at different speeds. The five sections are played without a break; the second is an Arioso for horn in a somewhat al fresco manner, while the Adagio is more reflective in character. A recitative-like passage then becomes a cadenza for all the instruments; this in tum acts as an upbeat to the finale, where the dotted rhythm is again emphasised in competing and overlapping contexts as it passes rapidly from player to player.
Canaries was commissioned by Harlequin, to whose members it is gratefully dedicated.