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Ancient Dances for harpsichord

By Joseph Dillon Ford

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Harpsichord - Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by Joseph Dillon Ford. 20th Century, Baroque Period, Neo-Classical. Score. 26 pages. Published by David Warin Solomons (S0.432277).

Item Number: S0.432277

The Ancient Dances might be described as compositional études for keyboard (harpsichord, piano, synthesizer) in Elizabethan/Jacobean style, as they summon to mind similar works for lute and virginals written in England during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries by such composers as John Dowland, Anthony Holborne, William Byrd, and John Bull. It would be more accurate, however, to consider the pieces in the collection--each of which bears the distinctive stamp of Ford's individual creativity--as fresh, musically mature essays about one of the most artistically brilliant eras in Western history.

As an advocate of the concept of panhistoricism, Ford sought to empower composers by encouraging them to draw upon various historical styles in the interest of exploring, interpreting, and illuminating the full spectrum of human experience. With the exception of the two corrantos (which date from 1975-76), the Ancient Dances were composed during and shortly after the composer's study of renaissance music with Professor John Ward at Harvard University. The last four dances in the set comprise two pavan/galliard pairs, whereas the other pieces may be performed individually or grouped together into miniature suites.
In accordance with renaissance practice, tempos, dynamics, phrasing, and other interpretive elements are left to the discretion of the individual player.

The movements are:

1 "His Folly" [3/4, a, M]
The title "His Folly" evokes the brilliance and extravagance of this galliard-like piece, which consists of three sections, each of which is subject to varied repetition.

2 "Mr. Ford, His Galliard" [3/4, a, M]
This galliard is a musical self-portrait of the composer in the style of the English Renaissance. Each of its three sections includes a varied reprise, and the middle section is further distinguished by canonic imitation.

3 Corranto [3/4, a, E+]
The corranto, whose name suggests the act of "running," is a dance which enjoyed widespread popularity by the early seventeenth century. The Fitzwiliam Virginal Book contains numerous examples of this musical genre from the time of Shakespeare.

4 Corranto [3/4, C, E]
Unike its companion in a minor, this corranto falls into two sections, each of which is repeated (most likely with some variation improvised freely by the performer). Its bright, mirthful character also conveys a distinctly different mood.

5 "La Giuseppina" [3/4, b, M]
"La Giuseppina" is a set of variations based on an original eight-measure theme in b minor. Although the style of this piece is typically English renaissance, the sixth variation shifts unexpectedly from three-quarter to four-four time and introduces a running bass that can only be characterized as Italian baroque. Thus the piece goes by the nickname "La Giuseppina"--the feminine Italian equivalent of Ford's given name--Joseph.

6 "Amoretto" [3/4, f-sharp, E]
The title "amoretto" is a short poem on the subject of love inspired by the sonnets of Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser, whose Amoretti were published in 1595. This musical selection might be described as a slow galliard without reprises which revolves around the rather unexpected tonal center of f-sharp minor. Its character is meditative and serene, but at the same time deeply passionate.

7 Pavan [4/4, g, M+]
The Pavan in G Minor consists of three sections with varied reprises. The "strummed" central section and highly florid ornamentation are particularly reminiscent of the works of the master Jacobean lutenists.

8 "La Dolorosa" [3/4, g, M]
"La Dolorosa"--"The Sorrowful One"--is cast in the rather grave key of g minor, although the mood of melancholy is counterbalanced by subtle modulations to related key areas and Picardy thirds. Unlike the other pavan-galliard pairs in this collection, "La Dolorosa" and the Pavan in G Minor are thematically independent, each remaining a distintive yet complementary companion to the other.

9 Pavan [2/2, c, M]
The Pavan in C Minor relies primarily on simple but effective melodic and contrapuntal means to carry forth its heartfelt musical message, growing more ornamental only in the varied reprises of its second and third sections. The last strain is especially touching as it is sung in a higher register than the earlier sections of the pavan.

10 Galliard [3/4, c, M]
The Galliard in C Minor is closely modelled after its prefatory pavan, serving as a spirited elaboration of the latter's dark but tender sentiments.

11 Pavan [2/2, f, M]
The Pavan in F Minor is a slow, stately dance, movingly straightforward and comparatively spare in its expression. Like a well-designed building, it succeeds chiefly by virtue of the harmony of its proportions and the intrinsic beauty of its materials.

12 Galliard [3/4, f, M]
The Galliard in F Minor bears all the hallmarks of a traditional work in this genre: three sections in triple meter, each with a varied reprise; emphasis on the first beat by prolonging it with a dot; flowing figuration; etc. But Ford has invested this piece with a peculiar vigor through effective use of imitative counterpoint in the central section and some unusual syncopation right before the final cadence.

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