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18' 00"
picc2222; 4231; 3 timp, 2 perc inc. bass drm, cymb, trngl, glock, xylo, marimba, drum kit with tom toms, log drum, tam tam; strs
10 dances

External Media on Demand

Performed by Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Erich Bergel on 15 September 1994

Programme Note

In New Zealand there has been a reluctance on the part of pakeha men to move to music. Perhaps it is our Victorian background that makes us feel silly and self-conscious when dancing. We pefer to sit back and be still, like the Tuatara.

In this piece, the old reptile (Tuatara) shakes off his passive past and moves to some more contemporary-sounding dance rhythms. The work is in a continuous movement, divided into several sections. It opens with an ironical glance at the atonal past before flicking it away, like a fly. A jaunty ‘Tuatara’ theme is played on clarinet over bass ostinati, leading to a more vibrant and lively theme. While the first section is earthy and physical in character, the second is a fantasy, full of ethereal images. The initial delicate waltz theme develops and grows into a more menacing idea, before fading back into the ‘Tuatara’ theme. The rest of the piece comprises various dances that adopt certain styles: jazz, folky, rock. A gypsy-like theme combines with a version of ‘God Defend NZ’ in a section where pakeha men are on their feet! The finale uses log drum and Pacific Island rhythms to bring the piece to an exciting conclusion.

Commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Performance History

World Premiere for P: Tuatara Dances; APO c. Bergel 15 Sep 1994 Performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Erich Bergel
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra


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