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The Tuatara Dances

for full orchestra

Year:  1994   ·  Duration:  18m
Instrumentation:  3*222; 4231; timp, 2 perc.; strings | (Perc: bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glock., xylo., marimba, kit, log drum, tam-tam)

Year:  1994
Duration:  18m
Instrumentation  3*222; 4231; timp, 2 perc.;...

Composer:   Anthony Ritchie

Films, Audio & Samples

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

Anthony Ritchie: The Tuatar...

Embedded audio
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Sample Score

Sample: Page 1-8.

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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 note

Commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Contents note

10 dances

Performance history

15 Sep 1994: Performed by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Erich Bergel