Dance to the Music

Date and Time
Sat 19 Nov, 3pm
Adult $40 / Student $20
The Lab (63 Light Square, Adelaide)
1 hour (without interval)

Two themes in the 19th century have fascinated painters, writers and musicians: they are the countryside with its charms of nature, and the world of the ballroom, with its romance and sparkling delight. Painters were particularly happy translating nature on to canvas, and they often took their inspiration from celebrated writers of the time, who searched for natural beauty and a sense of contentment away from the cities. 
Both the enjoyment of the wilderness and the delight of the ballroom shared the common theme of relaxation and escape. These pursuits were highly romanticised by artists who required a certain standard of living, to be able to enjoy such pastimes. Country folk found the countryside more demanding than romantic, and the only dances they knew took place in the village square.
Schumann wrote many songs and piano pieces about his visits to the countryside. This collection of Woodland Scenes of Op 82 is one of his later sets, and the titles of each piece are exactly mirrored in the music. There is also an “Entry” and “ Farewell” to bookend the vivid scenes he describes.

Chopin wrote music in many dance forms: mazurkas, polonaises and valses. Many of the mazurkas and polonaises reveal their Polish origins, while most of the valses are more French in style. Some of the dances are simple and danceable, but many of them have left the ballroom behind, and what were once simple dance forms have been transformed into more sophisticated evocations. You might find it difficult to dance to most of the valses, as they are often very fast. This programme also has two slow valses, which might be more comfortable for the dancers.

Ernesto Nazareth was born in 1883 and died in 1934. In his lifetime, he studied classical and popular music, which he combined successfully in his compositions, and his many performances. Brazil is a country with a rich popular music tradition, and much of it is dance music-samba, tango and choro being the most famous. These two Brazilian Tangos were written in the 1920s, and he would have played them himself in the bars and cabarets where he worked.

Ravel’s late work La Valse was commissioned by Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes, but after hearing it in a piano duet version, Diaghilev refused to stage it, as he said it was not a ballet, but rather the picture of a ballet. Its original title was “Wien”(Vienna), the European city most famous for its balls, and the waltzes that took pride of place at them. It is written for a very large orchestra, and Ravel arranged it for piano solo, and also for two pianos. He said, famously, “I have attempted to  arrange the piece for pianists, but undoubtedly they will now re- arrange it for themselves”.

Ravel’s description of the storyline of the work is as follows:  Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples can be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually disperse: one sees an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated, and at the climax, the light of the chandeliers bursts forth. We are in an imperial court, about 1855.

Stephen McIntyre is one of Australia’s most eminent pianists and teachers.

After initial studies in Melbourne, Stephen McIntyre studied in France and Italy with Nadia Boulanger, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Guido Agosti. He was Head of Piano at the Victorian College of the Arts until 1993. His performances of the complete piano music of Ravel won the National Critics Award. 

Stephen McIntyre has performed as concerto soloist with all major Australian orchestras; he has presented solo recitals throughout Australia, and in the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, and India.

He was a founding member of Australian Chamber Soloists, Principal Artistic Advisor for Musica Viva during 1995/96, and Director of the chamber music program for the Melbourne International Festival from 1989-99. He was Artistic Director of the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival from 2005 till 2009.

Stephen McIntyre is Associate Professor in the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. In 2003, he was the recipient of the Sir Bernard Heinze Award for distinguished contribution to music in Australia, and in 2007 he was awarded the Order of Australia (AM).


 Stephen McIntyre


Waldszenen (Woodland scenes) Op 82.

Valse Op. 42
Valse Op. 69, 1 and 2
Polonaise Op. 26, 1

Two Brazilian Tangos

La Valse

Image: Dead tree at Kruger National Park, South Africa / Alamy