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The work which gives the disc its name and cover art theme is the first of the four multi-movement pieces. It was inspired by a short story about a group of Jews in Nazi Germany who miraculously end up on board a circus train instead of the train to the death camps -- but now, unskilled and unrehearsed, they have to enter the ring and clown for their lives. The first movement depicts their anxious wait in the wings [listen -- track 1, 0:59-1:49].

The second large work, Dances in the Madhouse, takes a picture of an early twentieth century asylum as its starting point. 'Tango Solitaire', 'Waltz for the Old Folks', 'Ballad for the Lonely', and 'Samba!' evoke different kinds of dysfunction. The Old Folks are 'comfortable with their insanity', to quote the composer, but the samba is wilder [listen -- track 9, 0:00-0:40].

Between these two we hear El Coco, the bogeyman, (the guitar plays a relentlessly-stalking passacaglia bass) and a sweet song which was originally the middle movement of a sonata [listen -- track 5, 0:00-1:02].

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Copyright © 30 December 2007 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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