Release Date:

October 6, 2023

Gavin’s Notes:

Dido and Orfeo

This music, originally written for Edouard Lock’s ballet New Work, involves a reworking of music from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, just as a previous collaboration, Amjad (BCGBCD10), had taken Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty as its source. The music had been selected from many extracts from the two operas as material for me to recompose. Many of these extracts were very short – sometimes only forty seconds or less – and all had to be extended into longer compositions. This is unlike Amjad, where the new compositions were about the same length as the music in the original Tchaikovsky ballets, and where recognition and memory of the source, both dance and music, were critical.

In addition, and importantly, this music was from the world of baroque opera not from ballet, and a great deal of it would be unfamiliar to ballet audiences and even to many non-specialist music audiences. This had not been the case, of course, with Tchaikovsky and so in this new situation I felt that I needed to stay closer to the originals. I composed over 30 pieces and 23 of them of them appear in the ballet. The process of writing this music was immensely pleasurable since, as with Tchaikovsky, through the act of composing, I learned a great deal more about the source music and its compositional ethos and craft, and developed a great respect for the composers.

The live musicians were an integral part of the ballet’s staging and were on-stage throughout the performance and, like Amjad too, the ballet was to tour for a considerable period. And so, for both artistic and practical reasons, this limited the ensemble to just four players. In the case of Amjad I had reduced Tchaikovsky’s orchestra to 2 violas, cello and piano. I had also suppressed my natural inclination to include a double bass, chiefly for the increasingly real problems of transporting the instrument. Here, I had thought initially to include voice because of the music’s operatic origins, but I soon realised that it would only take a sore throat to put a performance at risk and in any case, the original words would not work with new music. So, instead, I included a saxophone because of the saxophone’s vocal quality and range. And because one player can play a number of different instruments (mirroring the vocal types: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone) it also gave me more instrumental options.

The music was played live on tour by this small ensemble of four players, directed by pianist Njo Kong Kie, who had directed Amjad, and compiled from different recordings. The other instruments are viola (Jennifer Thiessen, who also performed Amjad), cello (Jean-Christophe Lizotte) and saxophonist Ida Toninato – who plays soprano, alto and baritone saxophones. I had originally written for soprano, alto and tenor, but replaced the tenor sax parts with baritone, as this turned out to be Ida’s preferred instrument – and mine too…

Tracks 1-13 are based on Purcell, 14-23 on Gluck

Gavin Bryars

NB. Playable tracks are number 6, 13 and 17

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Ida Toninato, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones
Jennifer Thiessen, viola
Jean-Christophe Lizotte, cello
Njo Kong Kie, Piano/musical director


1 Overture 2:02
2 Banish Sorrow 2:05
3 Ah, Belinda 2:03
4 To the hills 1:29
5 Prelude for the witches 3:49
6 In our deep vaulted cell 1:56
7 Haste Haste 3:17
8 The Triumphing dance 1:35
9 Thanks to the lonesome vales 2:38
10 Cupid only 2:44
11 Dance B (After Gluck: Orfeo et Euridice) 4:11
12 With drooping wings 2:30
13 Dido's lament 4:24
14 Air 2:00
15 Pantomime 1:51
16 Ah, si intorno 3:18
17 Dance of the Furies 2:57
18 Ah quale incognito 1:36
19 Dance A 1:25
20 Vieni a regni 2:06
21 Sposa 5:31
22 Men Tiranne 3:44
23 Trio 5:54

Playable Tracks

Gavin Bryars