Dances in the Madhouse


Harris-Coates Duo

Debora Harris, flute
Mike Coates, guitar

The second CD release by the Harris Coates Duo, this collection of varied repertoire for flute and guitar includes as its centerpiece the four-movement Dances in the Madhouse by American composer David Leisner. Notes Debora Harris, "We are especially pleased to record and release the flute and guitar version of this strikingly dramatic work. It has been our pleasure to perform this piece on several occasions around the country, including the 1998 National Flute Association convention in Phoenix, Arizona and the 1999 College Music Society convention in Denver, Colorado."

Composer's Notes: "The inspiration for this piece was a lithograph by the early 20th-century American, George Bellows, called Dance in a Madhouse (right). In it, four groups of asylum inmates are highlighted, and I decided to write a dance for each of them. 'Tango Solitaire' is for the woman dancing a stylish dance, alone. 'Waltz for the Old Folks' is for a happy couple who seem to be perfectly comfortable with their insanity. A forlorn, despairing couple of women, sitting on the sidelines, prompted 'Ballad for the Lonely.' And 'Samba!' is for the middle-aged couple dancing a wild, dizzy dance."

image courtesy Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Dances in the Madhouse was composed for violin or flute and guitar in 1982 by acclaimed composer-guitarist David Leisner. The dance rhythms which provide the framework for each movement at times become distorted or are abandoned altogether and later resume as though perceived through the consciousness of each unique character in the "madhouse." Leisner freely employs traditional harmonies, quirky dissonances, charming melodies, and dazzling cadenzas to create a distinctive musical language which is at once quite contemporary yet accessible and evocative to the listener. Timbre and texture add to the imagery as well, particularly in the achingly poignant "Ballad for the Lonely" in which the flutist is instructed to switch to piccolo and perform with their back turned to the audience. Beautifully written to showcase both instruments, Dances in the Madhouse is a contemporary American gem in the flute-guitar duo repertoire.


Composer's comments about this recording...

Composer David Leisner was tremendously postive in his response to this new release. Upon hearing an advance copy of the CD, Leisner wrote: "Wow, what a gorgeous recording! What an incredibly beautiful sound you both make, and how superbly recorded, Mike. Deb, your tone and intonation are among the best I've ever heard. The overall interpretation of the piece is wonderfully vibrant and dynamic--the second and fourth movements are virtually perfect The ensemble coordination everywhere is as if played by one person. It is simply magnificent, and I thank you with all my heart for all that you put into this recording."


Dances in the Madhouse CD Track Listing

1-4 Dances in the Madhouse -- David Leisner

5-6 Two Preludes -- Claude Debussy
    La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair)
    Bruyères (Heather)


7-9 Sonatina op. 205 -- Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
10 Aria from Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 -- Heitor Villa-Lobos
11 Hymn of Pan -- Charles DeLaney
12 Trio -- Hector Berlioz
13-16 Histoire du Tango -- Astor Piazzolla

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