The unusual instrumentation of the Suite de Danças, op. 63 (1984), is due to the fact that it was written for (and dedicated to) the Opus Ensemble, which premiered it on May 18, 1986, at the Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Gulbenkian. It is in 3 movements, like a brief Baroque Suite, with Prelude, Sarabanda and Tarantela.
The Prelude is an energetic ‘Allegro’ (212 measures), in which the 5/8 meter ensures rhythmic liveliness. In a generic AA-Coda form, the emphasis in the instrumental writing is on a concertante style, always extremely appropriate to the “personality” of each of the instruments, with the predominant cantabile of viola and oboe being occasionally “disturbed” by a more angular exploration from the piano.
The Sarabanda (‘Lento’), in its characteristic 3/2 meter, immediately establishes a very different type of material (chromatic) and atmosphere. The atonal singing of the viola (piano espressivo) is responded to by the oboe with material of an (almost) symmetrical intervallic profile to that of the viola. The piano, when it enters, “leads” the discourse towards different, soulful environments, before the oboe, recovering the initial theme, restores the atmosphere of the beginning, to which the Coda lends a quality of undisturbed serenity.
In total contrast the Tarantela (in the usual 6/8), is marked Vivacissimo here we have inexhaustible energy and momentum with the impulsive rhythm, typical of this dance originating in the south of Italy, at once splendidly evoked from the initial interventions of the viola, with the oboe in imitation (or vice versa) and with the piano “meddling” thematically here and there in this almost frantic race. The condensed recapitulation reveals itself with no interruption of the natural flow and precipitates the brilliant Coda, marked by the densification of the piano texture.