Brett Dean – The Siduri Dances (World Première)

by 5:4

From the recorder to the flute, and a typically dramatic concerto for the instrument by Australian composer Brett Dean. Composed in 2007, The Siduri Dances, for flute and string orchestra, began life three years earlier in Dean’s work for solo flute Demons. The inspirational scope here is broader, drawing on the mythological goddess Siduri who lives by the sea and, in the eponymous epic, gives advice to Gilgamesh, attempting to make him rethink the necessity of his quest for immortality and focus instead on the here and now:

Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
You will never find that life for which you are looking.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
but life they retained in their own keeping.
As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things;
day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice.

Dean’s intention seems to be to tap into the spirit of Siduri’s admonition. Although not overtly dance-like—in the conventional sense of metric regularity—the piece exhibits an overwhelmingly extrovert display of merriment. It gets there via an opening tinged with both mystery and magic, and despite the subsequent histrionics (which kick in within moments), Dean’s gravity-defying flute is weighted down by melody, resembling an unstoppable, rapturously headstrong songbird. The soloist is unquestionably in charge of proceedings, leading the strings in a borderline romp, but its boistrously playful tone has a softer side, ostensibly not introspective but acutely sensual, captured in a collection of sighing glissandi that sound audibly hot under the collar. This extends throughout the second half of the piece, returning to the hints of mystery at the outset, contrasting hugely with what came before, not only giving the piece a wonderfully effective binary progression, but also testifying more authentically to the tone of Siduri’s original sentiments. Although advocating a simple acceptance of life’s more immediate delights, she doesn’t appear to be a mere hedonist, qualifying the above words with adjurations to be mindful of one’s holistic well-being, in order to establish a stable foundation upon which true and lasting joy can be founded. The Siduri Dances captures that perfectly, passing from a reckless (but wildly exciting!) lack of inhibition to more subdued considerations, calm, sober, and ultimately revealing a deep inner beauty.

The world première of The Siduri Dances was given at the opening concert of the 2011 Arcomis International Flute Event, by Adam Walker with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Thierry Fischer.

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