Four Dances from CLORINDA AGONISTES (2021) for string quartet


Four Dances

(2021) for string quartetLMP046

Browse the score here.

Performed by the Sheffield Chamber Players

Sasha Callahan and Zenas Hsu*, violins

Stephanie Fong, viola*

Leo Eguchi, cello​~*guest artist

I. Transitions

II. Pursuit

III. Shawq شوق (Yearning)

IV. Unity (We dance together)

Program notes:

These Four Dances from CLORINDA AGONISTES (Clorinda the warrior) are taken from a recently completed dramatic work; a hybrid opera & dance theatre work currently of the same title. The name Clorinda comes from Monteverdi’s opera Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, whose libretto is from the epic poem by Tasso titled, Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Liberated).  The dramatic work, which was commissioned by the London based Shobana Jeyasingh Dance company, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Royal Philharmonic Society, was composed as a companion piece to Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento.

The first movement, Transitions, from Four Dances marks the transition from the world of Monteverdi to re-imagining Clorinda as a modern-day refugee from the middle-east, trying to survive somewhere in the west. This transition is aided by the sung translation of the last line of Il Combattimento, s’apre il cielo: io vado in pace (the heavens open –– I depart in peace) in Arabic:

السماواتُ تَفتحُ أبوابها
سأرحل الآن بسلام
Al-samawatu taftahu abwaabaha
S’arhalu Al’ana bissalaam

The second movement, Pursuit, is constructed from the main harmonic materials of the entire score and follows Clorinda’s escape from a danger. The third movement, titled Shawq, which means nostalgia or yearning, was composed for CLORINDA AGONISTES but was deemed to have too many quick changes for dancers.  Though now this movement has a new life as a concert piece, dance and movement are still its inspiration, and the restlessness of nostalgia its spirit.  The fourth and final movment, Unity (We dance together), is based on an Iraqi line dance called Chobi. Though refugees often can carry very little with them when fleeing violence, they can carry knowledge and memories of song, dance, poetry and art.  This movement is an homage to both the things that are left behind and those can travel with us.

Despite having studied Monteverdi’s score to ll Combattimento closely, I decided not to use any themes from his music in my work. However, if some textures or moods from his beautiful score have made it into my music, any similarities are purely coincidental. 

Kareem Roustom, February 12, 2021.