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Composition Date: 1990

Duration: 15'

Instrumentation: Fl(Picc)-Cl(ClEb)-Vln-Vlc-Pf



First performed by the Premiere Ensemble at St John's Smith Square, on 21 November 1990.

Commissioned by the Premiere Ensemble, with funding from Mr John Wates.

Programme Note:

Commedia is a 'theatre piece without actors' an imaginary Italian Comedy based on scenes from real commedias of the 17th and 18th centuries. These scenes are interspersed with Lazzi: slapstick or improvised sections, which were part of the Commedia dell'Arte.


Scene I Harlequin (cello) is ill. The doctor attempts to diagnose the problem.

Lazzo I The doctor (piano) chases Harlequin with a syringe.

Scene II Harlequin is unexoectedly delivered of a baby boy. He and the doctor rock the baby.

Lazzo II The rocking becomes more violent, causing Columbine (flute) to become alarmed, and to take the child into her own safe keeping.

Scene III Columbine's lullaby

Scene IV Pulcinella (clarinet) attempts to seduce Columbine and, failing, steals the baby.

Scene V Columbine weeps. Pierrot (violin) comforts her and agrees to help recapture the baby.

Lazzo III Chase – in which Pulcinella disguses himself as a windmill, but lets go of the child.

Scene VI Pierrot's dance (on rescuing the baby from Pulcinella). Harlequin reappears and recognises his child. Columbine agrees to marry him and to help care for the child. Pierrot, who has fallen in love with Columbine, weeps.

Finale In which Pulcinella is marched to the scaffold.

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