Last Dance? A Baroque Tango
Last Dance? : A Baroque Tango
The BBC and the Dunedin Consort commissioned me to create a new piece to conclude Bach's Orchestral Suite No.1 in C major, BWV 1066, for the 2019 season of Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. The work was premièred at the Royal Albert Hall during the BBC Proms on 11 September, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. On listening to the orchestration and dance rhythms of Bach’s original, I composed a Baroque tango called 'The Last Dance?'
The idea that sprang to mind was to add a modern dance onto Bach’s sequence of Baroque dances. I wanted to keep flying with the birds by combining the sounds of Bach’s orchestration and the dance form of tango with the call of the Argentinian hooded grebe podiceps gallardoi, because its movement is tangoesque and its song is so rough and spiky. In reaction to finding out that this remarkable bird is on the ‘critically endangered’ list, I used his call in all the musical themes.
The work’s title draws on its plight.
Listen to (excerpts from) Last Dance? here
View the score, which is also available to buy, here
"The most flamboyant and mood-breaking of the pieces was Stevie Wishart’s “Last Dance?” She juxtaposed string writing with the punch and heft of the “lorification” scene from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with field recordings of the song of the endangered hooded grebe." (theartsdesk, BBC Proms, September 2019)
"... an unambiguously environmentalist subtext: The Last Dance?, a new movement appended to a Bach suite, an inventive way of smuggling polemic into the tightest of commissioning briefs. Her short work is a baroque tango drawing on birdsong, which she tells me she has been increasingly using while holed up in a remote village in Belgium. Her tango mimics the dance of the Argentinian hooded grebe, which is a critically endangered species. The piece uses the song of the grebe, which Wishart says happens to be in the same key as the Bach suite. It’s a delightful conceit. Wishart believes using birdsong and writing nature-inspired work has reconnected her with her audience. “Contemporary music can be rather exclusive and self-referential. I feel that as composers we have lost sight of our audience. Nature is a way to rewild listening and to bring music back into an inclusive way of thinking about sound, but without any sense of dumbing down.”
Stephen Moss in Crisis Crescendos: How the Proms is sounding the alarm for a planet in peril (The Guardian)