Dance is more than movement to music. Dance is passion and pure lust for life. Celebrations call for dancing. That was as true in the palaces and the taverns of the 18th century as it is today in the techno temples of the new era. This is the surging river that ECHO-Klassik winners Spark have set out to bridge in their project “On the Dancefloor”. The Classical Band throws an arch from the spirited ballet music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the chamber techno penned by contemporary composer Sebastian Bartmann, finding that two seemingly contrasting worlds actually fit very well together.
The question is: what can a Gavotte of 1778 and a techno piece of 2017 learn from one another? In the view of Spark, the Classical Band, quite a lot. Mozart in his day knew how to build wildly throbbing structures so as to create this trance-like state that today’s dance-mad club-goers still live for. On the other hand there is scarcely a techno piece that does without baroque or classical figurations. This sets in motion a stimulating, lively dialogue between yesterday and today, between the ultimate classical maestro and the trend-setters of the contemporary composing circuit.
For the arrangements of Mozart’s dances, Spark could call on an absolute master of the art. Munich-based arranger and composer Alexander Krampe has previously adapted a number of operas for chamber ensembles composed of solo artists, notably for Munich Chamber Opera, the Zurich Opera House and the Salzburg Festival. For Spark, Krampe took various dance movements from Mozart’s ballet music “Les petits riens” and added a movement from the overture to the early opera “La finta semplice” and the famous “Don Giovanni” minuet. The latter finds Spark presenting the brilliant quodlibet from the finale of Act I of the opera in miniature: the piano plays the familiar theme in the variation by Mozart’s son Franz Xaver, while the strings play a Deutscher Tanz and the flautists a contredanse to it. On the album’s title track, Spark worked with German composer Sebastian Bartmann, who took second prize at the renowned Oticons Faculty International Film Music Competition in 2017. His composition “On the Dancefloor” transmits elements of techno and electro to Spark’s classical chamber music formation, a tribute to the breathtaking virtuosity and perfect rhythmic sense of the exceptional quintet. Michael Nyman, definitely one of Spark’s favourite composers, is featured on the album in two compositions, one of them the notable “In Re Don Giovanni”, in which he pays homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while also showing how much rock ’n’ roll there is in the music of the Austrian genius. Meanwhile, Spark cellist Victor Plumettaz makes his composing debut with the piece “Scotch Club”, proving with his contrapuntally directed rhythmic patterns how well he knows his group’s sound and its rich palette of tone colours.
The two centuries and more that separate Mozart from Bartmann and his contemporaries are brilliantly illuminated by Spark. A romantically tinged Gigue by Max Reger, the impressionist tones of a Rigaudon by Maurice Ravel and a fiery Tarantella from Gordon Jacob full of neo-baroque spirit prove that these composers too knew how to dance – and why. Evergreens “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter and “Tico-Tico no Fubá” by Zequinha de Abreu supply stimulating jazz vibes and a relaxed Latin feeling. And the Spark version of the ABBA hit “Dancing Queen” brings a burst of real disco feeling to the classical dance floor. The musicians have consciously chosen to keep jumping back and forth between these worlds, sparking direct connections between them.
So you sense intimately how timeless dance is and how similar are the emotions aroused by the dances of quite different times and genres. There is always this boundless delight in going wild to music, feeling utterly alive and letting the rhythms stream through your body – complete surrender, total immersion in the intoxicating whirl of sound. That is just what Spark would wish for all listeners to this album: nights of wild dancing through all the ages of music!