Hayes, Morgan: Dances on a Ground
Version for Clarinet in A, Violin, Violoncello, Piano and optional Double Bass
Score and parts
The ground bass, a type of theme-and-variations much favoured by English composers from Purcell to Britten, receives a 21st-century makeover in Morgan Hayes’s Dances on a Ground.
The ‘ground’ in this case is, appropriately, a robotic, march-like tune for cello that asserts itself in unrelenting mechanical repetitions according to the rules of the form. But among the other instruments there is little consensus about the path the music should take. Though the theme resists for a time, increasingly assaulted by their capricious flights of melody and spiky pizzicatos it abandons its stubborn resistance, is turned to fragments, then dissolves in a fierce conclusion, leaving only an outline of its former self.
Premiered in Vilnius, Lithuania, in May 2009 by the Composers Ensemble with pianist Huw Watkins, Dances on a Ground revisits an earlier work written for the Smith Quartet, and presents its material in terms of a carefully chosen instrumentation of clarinet in A, violin, cello, piano and optional double bass. The same performers gave the work’s UK premiere last September, at Kings Place, London.