ll rallentamento della sarabanda, op. 12 (1993-1995)

Il rallentamento della sarabanda is an attempt to comment musically the history of the saraband, its presumably Aztec origin and its repression for almost 200 years. (rallentamento (I): Verlangsamung (deceleration); sarabanda (I): 1. (Musik) (music) saraband, 2. (fig) Lautes Spiel, Lärm, Krach (loud play, noise, crash)
The first Spanish moralist having heavily condemned the saraband is Juan de Mariana (Tratado contra los juegos pùblicos, 1609). He calls it a lascivious dance song that infiltrated Spain like other vices. The earliest mention of Iberic source is a royal edict dated 3.8.1583, which prohibited the singing of the "Zarabanda" on penalty of whip and galley and even on threat of exile. Four years later, the word exists to designate a woman of bad reputation.
1614 Francisco Ortiz describes the saraband as a pest coming from a female demon; there are two views about its origin: either it emanates from Sevilla or from the New World and has been brought from there to Sevilla, the only port allowed to communicate with the New World. The oldest dated saraband is in "Ramo de la Inquisiciòn" CXIII of the national archives in Mexico. 1569, it was sung during the celebrations of Corpus Christi in Pàtzcuaro, and the author of the text ("el criador es ya criatura, çarauanda ven y dura"), Pedro de Trejo, had to answer for it and for other impieties before the inquisition in 1572. Diego Duràn (1537-1588) quotes an Aztec dance as an analogon to the Spanish saraband. He indicates having seen himself the Aztec dance, which was allowed by the clergy inspite of its indecency, with Indians who appeared in women's costumes. Inspite of all the protestations, the saraband was deemed worthy to be danced at the Spanish court in 1618 and at the French court in 1625. About 1635, even the serious Richelieu is said to have danced a daring saraband with castanets and triangle, "he jumped, made pirouettes, fooled about and whirled with joy".
In France, it was not before 1650 that the saraband has transformed ist impetuous character into charm. But before 1700, it is again in France where can be observed the final stage of the saraband, with diminution of the speed as far as the extremely prolonged "Grave". In 1768, Rousseau calls the saraband "outdated and out of use". Thereafter, it appears only sporadically, mostly slow, in mesured elegance and "recalling an old portrait in the Louvre" (Debussy).
1. Ritual/II rito: The musical basis is the old Aztec "Song to Chac" which, consisting of only few fundamental elements, corresponds to the aesthetics of not only the Aztecs, i.e. not to repeat a formula exactly but always to modify and to vary the elements. The formal and spatial basic dispositions were derived from the two Aztec calendars ("Yearly calendar": 18 months comprising 20 days and "Ritual calendar": 20 weeks comprising 13 days) and from descriptions of old Aztec rituals. The ideas for the instrumentation are likewise partially based on old descriptions of Aztec instruments (e.g. "Omichicahuaztlis", a carved human bone producing a scratching noise).
2. Begegnung (Encounter)/L'incontro: As to the quasi dramaturgical situation: on the one hand "Macuilxochitl" (god of music, dance, play, laughing and poetry) encounters "Holcan-okot" (ritual martial dance), on the other hand the European intruders.
3. Überfahrt (Crossing)/La traversata (Intermezzo): A sort of transformational music from the old (Praetorius) to the (attacca)...
4. Quasi Stillstand (Quasi standstill)/Quasi fermata: ...new saraband. A play with two quoted sarabands by the two Couperins.
Sources:
1. "Song to Chac, the god of the rain" (presumably of Aztec origin, very old, written down by Bernardino de Sahagùn) 2. Michael Praetorius Nr. 33 (Sarabande) and Nr. 38 (Courrant Sarabande) from "Terpsichore" (1612, Wolfenbüttel, collection of 312 dance melodies from dancing instructors of Paris; with the first actually printed sarabands) 3. Louis Couperin (1626-1661) "Oeuvres" Nr. 51, Sarabande, undated 4. François Couperin (1668-1733, nephew of Louis) Sarabande grave "Les vieux Seigneurs" drawn from "Pièces de Clavecin, 4e livre" (Paris, 1730)
Dedicated to the soloist Jacqueline Ott, to the Academic Orchestra of Zurich and their conductor Johannes Schlaefli. Commissioned by the Präsidialabteilung der Stadt Zürich.