Length: 13 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd=piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd=English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons (2nd=contraforte), 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, percussion (1=vibraphone, tambourine, bass drum, castanets; 2=glockenspiel, chime, hi-hat, clash cymbals, tam-tam, snare drum, tom-toms), harp, and strings
About this Piece
Thomas Adès composed these four Märchentänze (“Dances from Fairytale”) in 2020, originally as a work for violin and piano, then a year later in this orchestral version. Each of the four dances draws on English folk sources.
The first is light and buoyant. A pensive movement follows, with the violin singing a chant-like melody which is presented as a round.
Originally cast for violin a cappella, the third movement (“A Skylark”) becomes a collage of sprightly birdsong, with each orchestra member freely placing their imitating part alongside the soloist. The impression is of an “exaltation” of skylarks, as can be heard in the hills and fields of England in the spring. It moves through the orchestra in waves before the violinist is brought to silence by the full stop of a harp.
The final dance begins with an energetic, murmuring iteration of an elfin theme in compound meter. It fizzes with restraint and builds through the course of the piece, joined by a second theme in regular time, punctuated by explosions of activity as the two themes grapple and combine towards a decisive close. —Courtesy of Faber Music