Dance for Burgess

From Wind Repertory Project
Edgard Varèse

Edgard Varèse (ed. Chou Wen-chung)

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Subtitle: For Chamber Orchestra and Percussion

General Info

Year: 1949 / 2002
Duration: c. 1:35
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Chamber ensemble
Publisher: Ricordi
Cost: Parts - Rental   |   Score Only - $35.95


Full Score
C Piccolo
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F
Contrabass (optional)
Percussion (3 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Chinese Blocks
  • Chinese Crash Cymbal
  • Claves
  • Cowbell
  • Gong
  • Guiro
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • String Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tenor Drum

Violin I-II (optional)
Viola (optional)
Violincello (optional)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

First publication of this work was composed for the actor Burgess Meredith in December 1949.

- Program Note from publisher

Dance for Burgess owes its existence to Étude pour Espace, a short study ('étude hors d'oeuvre,' as Varèse called it) for Espace, with which Varèse had been occupied, on and off, since 1932. After the performance of the Étude in 1947 with two pianos instead of the wind ensemble he had in mind, Varèse was displeased and became increasingly uncertain about Espace itself. Early in 1949 he came upon a new idea, Déserts, and began transforming sketches for Espace into drafts for the new work. He discussed with Burgess Meredith the idea of doing a cinematic montage of sound and images based on Déserts. By March, the two agreed to collaborate on a film that never materialized. Meanwhile, Meredith was set to direct and act in a musical, Happy as Larry. Meredith persuaded Varèse to participate in the creation of this unconventional musical by composing a short dance. Varèse, out of friendship, agreed and subsequently referred to the piece as Dance for Burgess.The play closed immediately after its New York opening on January 6, 1950, and Varèse, subsequently, never bothered to have the piece published or performed.

The manuscript is in my handwriting. I remember copying from Varèse's draft in haste, leaving no time for him to edit and revise. The date given on the score, December 9, 1949, was the day the score was reproduced, barely in time for the preview in Boston on the 27th. Afterwards, Varèse made some revisions but left many questions unanswered. When editing the score in 1998, I had to begin with the instrumentation, since it was for a conventional Broadway ensemble and Varèse, pressed for time, did not use some of the instruments for more than a couple of notes — the string bass, for example, was assigned only one note!

Varèse was not a Broadway composer, and Dance for Burgess could never have been a number in a musical. Despite its milder sonorities and gentler rhythmic complexities, Dance for Burgess is genuine Varèse. Dashed off while he was immersed in conceiving Déserts, this whiff of a 'dance' is a wildflower swaying in the wake of a desert storm.

This corrected and revised edition was commissioned jointly by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Casa Ricordi, and the Decca Record Company, Ltd.

- Program Note by editor

Oliver Burgess Meredith (16 November 1907 – 9 September 1997) was an American actor and filmmaker whose career encompassed theater, film, and television. Active for more than six decades, Meredith has been called "a virtuosic actor" and "one of the most accomplished actors of the century". A lifetime member of the Actors Studio, he won several Emmys, was the first male actor to win the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor twice, and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

- Program Note from Wikipedia


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by this Composer


  • Burgess Meredith. Wikipedia. Accessed 13 September 2022
  • Varèse, E.; Chou, W. (2002). Dance for Burgess: For Chamber Orchestra and Percussion [score]. Ricordi: Milano, It.