by Bruce Stark
Symphonic Dances is unlike any other work I have known. It is masterful and inspired music. The language is fresh, original, and instantly engaging to the audience . . . Mr. Stark has a unique voice.
- Timothy Muffitt, conductor
Symphonic Dances was composed during the summer of 2015, and given its world premiere by Timothy Muffitt with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra on October 21, 2016. Mr. Muffitt gave a second performance at the 2017 Chautauqua Music Festival, and in 2018 Rebecca Tong led the Jakarta Symphony in a performance in Jakarta.
Timothy Muffitt conducts a performance of Symphonic Dances at the 2017 Chautauqua Music Festival in New York.
Symphonic Dances was composed in the summer of 2015, with the intention of creating a group of short, lively, fun pieces for orchestra. The pieces draw from my musical roots in diverse musical traditions. Dance No. 1 (Hoe-down) is inspired by music I heard a great deal when growing up, as I spent many an evening playing guitar accompaniment to my father's blue-grass mandolin playing. Both of my grandfathers were self-taught fiddle players, and family gatherings were always brought to life with these sounds. Dance No. 2 (Jazz) comes from a musical world that has been a love of mine since high school. For many years I made a livelihood as jazz pianist, and my experiences as a jazz player often inform and inspire my writing for the concert stage. Dance No. 3 (Daydreamer's Waltz) draws from an older, classical tradition, and is perhaps the most orthodox and tradition-influenced of the set. In this movement (dare I confess?) I wanted to compose music that my teenage daughter—whose ballet dancing over the years brought me to rediscover the splendor, broad lyricism and compelling physical sweep of Tchaikovsky's ballet masterpieces—would enjoy. When I began to compose Dance No. 4 (Sevens) the only thing I was sure of was the meter. Perhaps because drums was my first instrument, odd meters and syncopation have always held a special appeal; Dance No. 4 grew out of an essentially rhythmic genesis.Themes from the first three dances weave together with a new theme to bring the fourth dance to a finale-like conclusion.
— Bruce Stark