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Robert Xavier Rodríguez

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Estampie, Ballet for Small Orchestra (1981)
Alhambra RXR
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
18 Minutes

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Programme Note
Robert Xavier Rodríguez Estampie, Ballet for Small Orchestra (1981)
Related works:
   Estampie for chamber ensemble
   Medieval Suite for horn, violin, and piano

Rodriguez’ orchestral ballet Estampie (1981) was commissioned by The Dallas Ballet. It was completed in Dallas in October 1981 and premiered the flowing month with choreography by Gustavo Mollajoli. The work has been heard subsequently in concert form in Spokane, at Tanglewood, and at Aspen. The present chamber version (for clarinet, cello, piano, and percussion) was written and performed the previous July at the American Dance Festival at Duke University. Performances have followed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Stanford, Oberlin, Eastman, Colorado State, Bowdoin, and elsewhere.

The strong percussive element in the instrumentation of both versions is reinforced by the use of a Medieval estampie, developed throughout the work:

I. Istanpitta Ghaetta, the estampie is announced.
II. In The Reversible Rag the Medieval rhythm dissolves into a four-note bass figure which expands into a 12-note row, then shrinks back to the original four notes in mirror fashion. Over this accompaniment a lop-sided atonal rag appears (in two halves, each half containing its own mirror image) slightly out of phase with the bass. The first movement is then repeated.
III. In the Intermezzo (Adagio) the estampie is embellished with lyrical interludes while the ragtime mirror bass (this time in the treble) remains serenely in the background.
IV. In the Scherzo (the heart of the ballet) the regular rhythm of the estampie is sharply juxtaposed with disjunct atonal writing. Ragtime rhythms (with irregular accents in a regular context) are employed as a bridge between two styles. As all the forced interact, the estampie appears to be swallowed up as contemporary rhythms and sonorities prevail. The Medieval element continues, however, disguised by the use of such Ars Nova techniques as the layering of countermelodies (descant) and the repetition of rhythmic units that function independently of the original melody (isorhythm). A synthesis of styles is thus reached, after which the estampie reappears in its original form.
V. The Slow Sleazy Rag, with a pompously Wagnerian beginning and ending, is based on the arpeggiated accompaniment of the first Adagio (III). This movement is a companion piece to the
VI. Couple Action Rag in that the two are slow/fast versions of the same material, as in traditional pavane/gaillard pairings. Here the cabaret, rather than the court, is strongly suggested.
VII. Rimbombo, or resonance, is a vigorous toccata with an angular descant again disguising the estampie. When the movement reaches its peak, the Medieval tune quietly emerges.
VIII. The finale, The Reversible Rag Reversed, is a grand quodlibet in which The Reversible Rag, The Couple Action Rag and the estampie are played simultaneously.

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