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Eine Trilogie
Edition: Performance material

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The music of the triptych Tanzstunden (Dance Lessons) first appeared in the winter of 1995-96 and in the order in which they are now presented. The two side panels, Le Disperazioni del Signor Pulcinella and Labyrinth, rest for their content and music on two fragmentary pieces of work from my early days as a composer: the Pulcinella scores derive from stage music written in 1949, which I had long promised myself to take up once again. In the newly written work, much of the old material has been removed; what remains has been developed, expanded in so far as seemed to me suitable. New musical ideas and a few (instrumentally set) “Alla Napolitana” dance songs were added. The plot, something of an abbreviated representation of the action in Molière’s “Georges Dandin”, is translated to Naples, not the fairy-tale dream of Naples of the past but to a present-day crude and unromantic urban sprawl, in which nevertheless there are still human hearts beating and tragedy is relieved through sentiment and comedy, two decisive values in this context – so that tenderness should not be forgotten, the ideal of individualism not lost and friendliness might be extended, a new kind of happiness. 
Labyrinth was once a mini-ballet of around seven minutes that was never danced and was only heard a few times as a concert piece. I have taken the main theme into the new score but have placed it into a new tonal and rhythmic context, have transformed and developed it analogous to the new plot worked out together with Mark Baldwin, to which the music throughout closely adheres in gesture and narrative. Thus it is that in this collaboration, action and music react to each other especially closely. 
The Labyrinth orchestra consists exclusively of percussion instruments. Like the early sketch (1950), our new dance piece is based on André Gide’s “Thesée”. There, as is known, the terrible minotaur is a quite entertaining contemporary – Theseus would much rather no longer have left his presence and would have preferred to forget Thebes and even Ariadne, who then, naturally, rolls up the thread and thereby in fact tears from the covetous grasp of the monster the heroe attached to it. Here, with Baldwin, it is similar: Theseus befriends the monster, softens him by the beautiful art of classical dance and then teaches him the first steps in this field. 
The Son of the Air: in the early ‘60s, Jean Cocteau and I started to work on an idea for a ballet. The poet had already made notes on the scenario, and now wanted to add a text, in which certain parallels to the childhood and life of Arthur Rimbaud were to have been drawn. And I, the composer, still had to wait for precise instructions as to the way in which music was to have functioned within this Cocteau context. Illness and death prevented the execution of this plan. What remained were the scenario and Cocteau’s poem « Le fils de l’air » from 1934, which he first wrote in German (with the title “Das Luftkind”) for a journal and in the (unfulfilled) hope for a setting by Kurt Weill, and of which he not long after made a gramophone recording in French. The ballet scenario written thirty years later refers rather indirectly to the old poem, even if it does speak of bohemians, gipsies who abduct, seduce and transform boys with their spells, and of their mothers who cannot find their offspring and fall into despair. In the ballet, as in the poem, can be found allusions to the German Shock-Headed Peter and to the German Erl King myth; to the traumatic contact of children’s souls with the charms and curiosity-arousing mysteries of travelling folk, players and circus acrobats.

Orchestral Cast

siehe Einzeltitel / see individual titles


[It is possible to perform the ballets "Le disperazioni del Signor Pulcinella", "Le fils de l'air" and "Labyrinth" on one evening under the title "Dancing classes
a trilogy".]

More Information

Eine Trilogie
Performance material
Schott Music
Year of composition:
110 ′
World Premiere:
May 25, 1997 · Schwetzingen (D)
Schwetzinger Festspiele 1997
Conductor: Sebastian Weigle · Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart
Costumes: Yoshio Yabara; Anish Kapoor · Set design: Anish Kapoor · Choreography: Dieter Heitkamp; Jean-Pierre Aviotte; Mark Baldwin · Ballett der Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin

Technical Details

Product number:
LS 2136-01


Set Ascending Direction
  • Tanzstunden
    Schwetzinger Festspiele 1997
    Conductor: Sebastian Weigle
    Orchestra: Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart
    May 25, 1997 | Schwetzingen (Germany) , Rokokotheater — World Premiere
  • Set Ascending Direction


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