Edward Gregson’s recent concerto for flute and ensemble, Aztec Dances, is to be broadcast next Tuesday 28 October at around 4.05 pm, on the BBC Radio 3 programme ‘Afternoon on 3’. The performers are Wissam Boustany (flute), with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Bramwell Tovey. The same performers have recorded the work on Gregson’s latest CD on the Chandos label.
Aztec Dances was originally commissioned by Christopher Orton, with the assistance of the BBC Performing Arts Fund. The premiere was given by Christopher Orton (recorder) and Magdalena Nasidlak (piano) at a concert in the Manchester Midday Concerts series at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, in March 2010. The composer then made a version for flute and piano, and further to that a version for flute and ensemble.
The idea for the genesis of this work, and indeed its title and individual movements, came after visiting an exhibition at the British Museum entitled Moctezuma – Aztec Ruler. Part of the exhibition explored the role that music and dance played in Aztec life. The primitive recorder together with trumpets and drums were used as an important part of the formal ritual ceremonies (including, rather gruesomely, human sacrifice) that took place to appease the many Gods whom the Aztecs worshipped, as well as for other formal and informal occasions in their social and cultural life.
The composer writes that ‘I have tried to reflect some of these highly contrasting and dramatic ideas in this four-movement work, where many colours and textures are exploited, as are lyrical and highly charged rhythmic ideas. The final movement makes reference in passing to Stravinsky’s Danse Sacrale, the final section of his iconic work Le Sacre du Printemps. The titles of the movements are: Ritual/Pastorale, Fertility Dance, Ghost Song, Sacrificial Dance.