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Jules Strens: "Danse Funambulesque"

Danse Funambulesque

Jules Strens

Born: December 5, 1893, Brussels, Belgium

Died: March 19, 1971, Brussels, Belgium

Instrumentation: Chamber Orchestra

Duration: 11 minutes

Composed: 1925

Jules Strens studied violin at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and for a while he received advice from Paul Gilson in orchestration. In 1926 he became member of the “Synthétistes” group of young progressive composers of the twenties who were all pupils of Paul Gilson. During this period, he experimented with electro-acoustic music and began his musical career as violinist and composer. Starting 1922 he was first violinist at the “Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie”. From 1931 to 1934 he was conductor of the “Association Symphonique de Bruxelles”. At the end of his life he was more active as an organist. As a composer, he was self-taught and prolific. His musical production is all embrasing and earned him several awards. His first compositions were undeniably influenced by the conceptions of Richard Strauss. His symphonic variations Gil Blas are a good example of this tendency. Strens’s more mature works use polyrhthm and ostinatio. The Belgian Music Center says "“The most typical compositions written in this technique are Danse funambulesque, Danse tragique and Rhapsodie polyrythmique."

Danse Funambulesque was originally composed for chamber orchestra in 1925. Strens re-scored it for band in 1929 and added a dedication to Arthur Prevost, then Director of The Band of the Belgian Guides. Prevost was a leading figure in the musical life of Brussels, leading the first Belgian performances of Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Octet, and Piano Concerto, among other notable works.

Danse Funambulesque is inspired by the death-defying feats of a tightrope walker at the circus. The piece begins with a quiet meditation, perhaps conveying the tightrope walker's moments before stepping out the wire itself. This reverie gives way to a series of increasingly frenetic episodes that convey the ever-increasing tension of the high-wire act.

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