NACmusicbox.ca Concert Program Notes

Music For Dancing

John Beckwith: Born in Victoria, British Columbia, March 9, 1927; now living in Toronto

Music for Dancing was Beckwith’s first professional commission. It came in 1948 from a small concert series in Toronto, the Forest Hill Community Centre. In its original form, it was written for piano four hands and was intended to have choreography, but this did not materialize, so the premiere was given in concert form. Shortly thereafter, Beckwith scored the work for large orchestra in which version it received several performances, including by the Toronto Symphony. However, the composer “became dissatisfied with this version and eventually withdrew it.” Beckwith then rescored Music for Dancing for a smaller orchestra upon commission from the National Ballet of Canada in 1959. In this form it was danced, but far more often the work is heard simply as a concert piece.

“The music is light and humorous,” writes the composer, “though there are moments of quiet reflection. Even though quite detached from it now (after all, I was 21 when it was composed!), I am pleased if it continues to prove interesting to players and listeners. The interest may lie in the way it exemplifies an early stylistic position of someone of my generation; obviously I was involved at that time with Ravel, Poulenc, the Walton of Façade – though I hope I didn’t just copy them. It seems I was also exposed to Satie, if one listens to the “Valse”; but as far as I recall, I knew none of his music in 1948.”

Robert Markow