The Harlequinade in English theater was a development from commedia dell’arte, the name usually given to the popular Italian improvised comedy which flourished from the 16th to the early 18th centuries. In the opening scene a persecuted lover is befriended by a good fairy who gives him a magic wand and changes him and his companion into Harlequin and Columbine; thus the name of the play became Harlequinade. The rest of the performance was devoted to the escape of the lovers from Columbine’s father, Pantaloon (Pantalone). This escape was aided by the magic wand, which, when slapped on a side wing or on the stage, gave the signal for a change of scene. This composition is based on the Harlequinade, thus its title. The flute is Columbine, the clarinet, Harlequin, and the bassoon, Pantaloon. The bassoon in a very high register also appears as the good fairy. The magic wand is portrayed by a wood block. The opening “sets the stage” and permutations of this music will appear later in the work. We then hear the young girl (flute) enter, followed by the young boy (clarinet), and then a little duet as they lament their problem (Columbine’s father, Pantaloon). Enter the good fairy (bassoon in high register) to whom they tell their troubles. With the sound of the woodblock the lovers are changed into Columbine and Harlequin and whisked away to a new locale, China. A section based on a Chinese folksong follows. We hear again the opening but now in a Chinese mode (the pentatonic scale). Columbine and Harlequin are happy until the arrival of Pantaloon who gives chase. To escape Harlequin strikes the wand again (the wood block); the two lovers are transported to Russia. There follows a section based on a Russian folk tune and the opening is heard again with a Russian flavor. Once more Pantaloon appears and a fugato-like section, based on the theme of the clarinet, envisions the chase. A very abbreviated version of the opening with an accelerando brings the work to a close.

Length6 minutes
InstrumentationFlute, B-flat Clarinet, Bassoon, Woodblock

Item #CH-008

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