American Ballet series: William Bergsma

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William Bergsma (1921-1994)
Gold and the Señor Commandante (Ballet Suite) (1940-41)

00:00 - Siesta
01:48 - Parade
02:54 - Elegant Dance
03:34 - Furious Dance of the Bearded Russians
06:10 - Sinister Dance
07:58 - Chinese Dance
08:54 - Tender Dance
09:56 - Chase Music
11:46 - Happy Dance

Performed by Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra. Recorded by Mercury in 1957.

"Bergsma's second ballet, Gold and the Señor Commandante, written in 1940-41, was first produced at the Eastman School in 1942. It is, in the words of the composer, 'a cheerful and inaccurate recollection of my California homeland during my first year of study in the East. The plot was distantly based on Bret Harte's story, The Right Eye of the Commander; but what story line there was served merely to illustrate the commingling of nationalities and traditions which was present in Spanish California in 1840, and is still there, to a certain extent.

'The Suite opens with a tranquil 'Siesta,' interrupted by the maladroit 'Parade' of the Spanish garrison (three soldiers strong). They march before the Commandante, his lovely daughter, the Digger Indians enjoying a siesta, and several attractive señoritas. A group of travelers arrives: an improbable assortment of bearded Russians (from Fort Ross), a Chinese, a Yankee sea captain, and a Friar. They are formally greeted by an 'Elegant Dance' of the señors and señoritas, rudely cut short by the 'Furious Dance of the Bearded Russians,' who pre-empt the delighted señoritas. (The garrison tries to restore order at one point, but is glared down.) This dance attains such unprecedented frenzy as to waken the Digger Indians for a 'Sinister Dance'; when the commotion subsides they go right back to sleep and wake up again only for the finale.

'The Friar, searching for a convert, is himself beguiled by the 'Chinese Dance'; the Commandante's daughter performs a 'Tender Dance' with the best-looking Russian; the Yankee sea captain threatens the placidity of the Commandante's world by discovering gold. There follows the 'Chase Music'; the good are triumphant and the troublemakers are sent packing. There is a general 'Happy Dance,' at the end of which all the characters fall asleep, barely in time for the final curtain.'" - Sedgwick Clark

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