OGDON'S DANCE SUITE FOR PIANO
Dedicated to Alun Hoddinott and given its first public performance by the Composer at the Cardiff Festival of Twentieth Century Music, March 1967.
- Prelude Presto
This is a virtuosic, helter-skelter piece of composition, with the initial time signature of 6/8,2/4, to indicate a constant change of rhythm from triplets to duplets. The movement hurls along then is abruptly halted by a mfz treble chord, diving onto a single accented note, and the pace is somewhat slackened with a series of disjointed single rhythmic notes into a brief meno mosso passage in canon. There follows a bass theme marked cantabile which leads to a treble mfz chord held by the middle pedal against a veloce forte cadenza spread between the hands, to brilliant effect. The episode that follows is another passage of rhythm changes from duple to triple, the opening octaves are repeated and then Ogdon uses his familiar device of presenting brief snatches of all the themes and ideas heard earlier and the movement closes with three firm chords, forte, fz with an attacca into the next movement.
- Sarabande Andante
A hauntingly beautiful theme opens this movement utilising high treble intervals against a low bass of octave A's. The effect is of bleakness, almost space-like. This is developed with a crescendo into a brief cadenza marked velocissimo rising — resting — then suddenly falling. The theme appears in the bass in single notes, and then crescends to a mezzo forte repetition of the opening bars. This increases in dynamics to a tremendous double forte then triple forte tremolando chords passage, of real technical difficulty for the pianist, in both hands. There is one bar in 15/8 with the theme forte in unisons in both hands, then a brief return to the bleak landscape of the opening bars. A cadenza follows (ad libitum) composed of chords in both hands, gently rising and falling melodically and dynamically — a bar of 5/4 (ad libitum) using most of the keyboard veloce climaxing in a ffz single high treble note followed by a ff chord in the bass, which is sustained over the entire next bar by means of the middle pedal again, while the left hand finishes off the theme with two chords, and the treble sings the sarabande theme simultaneously. One bar in 4/2 continues this theme, only with altered rhythm. Finally a simple statement in C major of the semiquavers followed by quavers idea and the movement ends on a bass unison C major octave marked sfz. Attacca into the next movement.
- Arabesque Allegro leggiero molto
The theme of this movement consists of repeated pp staccato treble A quavers, interspersed with brief passages of legato, scale-like semiquavers. The effect is like Debussy at his most ethereal and economical. Ogdon marks the arabesque to be performed con due pedali tenuti al, then due pedali, una corda etc. throughout. There is a section of double-thirds rising in the bass chromatically against broken double-thirds falling in the high treble, which he marks una corda only. The music continues to dart around these ideas in different formats, i.e. pp staccato single notes — broken octaves — augmentation of note-values to the double 3rd chromatic chords, then returns to the first idea of repeated, staccato pp A quavers, but now in quadruplets. There is a quasi arpa swoop followed by a crescendo to tremolo trilling in high treble chords: a sempre staccato mf right hand against a secco forte four bar sequence of octaves punctuating chords in the bass and the movement ends with a bravura demi-semiquaver short swoop to a single note fffz.
- Cortège Andante sostenuto
The feeling of an inexorable funeral march is set immediately, in this movement, by the opening chords, marked ff ma cantabile, held by the middle pedal, and intensified by a triplet, staccato, drum-like motif in the bass, which is heard 4 times throughout the movement. The entire piece is written on three staves, for clarity. The rhythm changes to 3 against the 2/4, the chords always moving melodically, accompanied by wide-interval triplets. The drum-beat motif is heard periodically in different variations of duplets. Finally we return to a regular 2/4 with the cortege moving into the distance against a fragmentary drum-beat, ending on a simple false-relation chord.
- Finale Con fuoco
This is a furious toccata-like movement displaying all the familiar technical devices that Ogdon has used in other works requiring tremendous digital dexterity. The onward rush of semiquavers is abruptly halted by a series of widely spaced octaves, these octaves being further punctuated by impressive grace notes. There follows a rhythmic tune featuring the use of a dramatic pause, then the grace-note octaves return in triplets, before the onward rush starts up again. The movement carries forward relentlessly until the rhythm enters 6/8 with the octaves thundering towards a final statement of the ffz grace-note octave, followed by the rhythmic tune plus pauses, this idea repeated 5 times. On the 6th and last time, the final treble chord is held by the middle pedal, against two false-relation ffz 10ths, most effectively.