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In music, the sarabande (It., sarabanda) is a dance in triple metre. The second and third beats of each measure are often tied, giving the dance a distinctive rhythm of crotchets and minims in alternation. The crotchets are said to have corresponded with dragging steps in the dance.

The sarabande is first mentioned in Central America: in 1539, a dance called a zarabanda is mentioned in a poem written in Panama by Fernando Guzmán Mexía.[1] Apparently the dance became popular in the Spanish colonies before moving back across the Atlantic to Spain. While it was banned in Spain in 1583 for its obscenity, it was frequently cited in literature of the period (for instance in works by Cervantes and Lope de Vega).[2]

Later, it became a traditional movement of the suite during the baroque period, usually coming directly after the Courante. The baroque sarabande is commonly a slow triple rather than the much faster Spanish original, consistent with the courtly European interpretations of many Latin dances. This slower, less spirited interpretation of the dance form was codified in the writings of various 18th century musicologists; Johann Gottfried Walther wrote in his Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1723) that the sarabande is "a grave, … somewhat short melody," and Johann Mattheson likewise wrote in Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739) that the sarabande "expresses no passion other than ambition"[3].

The sarabande form was revived in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by composers such as Debussy and Satie and, in different styles, Vaughan Williams (in Job) and Benjamin Britten (in the Simple Symphony).

In 1976 ex-Deep Purple organist Jon Lord based his album Sarabande entirely on the concept of a baroque dance suite. Performed by the Philharmonia Hungarica and a selection of rock musicians (including Andy Summers on guitar, who would later join The Police), the album mixes classical and rock influences.

Perhaps the most famous sarabande is the anonymous La folie espagnole whose melody appears in pieces by dozens of composers from the time of Monteverdi and Corelli through the present day.


Sarabande from Handel's D minor Keyboard Suite

The fourth movement Sarabande of George Frideric Handel's Keyboard suite in D minor (HWV 437) for solo harpsichord achieved modern popularity when an orchestrated version was used by Stanley Kubrick for his 1975 film Barry Lyndon.[4] Later, Brian De Palma featured the same orchestration as the overture for his 2007 film Redacted. Also, in another direct reference to Barry Lyndon, Michael Winterbottom included this sarabande in A Cock and Bull Story in a new arrangement by Michael Nyman.

The Theme of Handel's Sarabande is a variation of La Folia, one of the oldest remembered European musical themes on record.

Other sarabandes

The sarabande inspired the title of Ingmar Bergman's last film Saraband (2003). Each of Bach's cello suites contains a sarabande, and the film uses the sarabande from his fifth suite, which Bergman also used in Cries and Whispers (1971).[5] The sarabande from the second Bach suite serves as the primary theme in Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

The Swedish alternative rock band ALPHA 60 has a song called Sarabande, as does British electrostring group Escala on its debut album.

Yngwie Johann Malmsteen's Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E minor contains a song called Sarabande. It draws influences form the original, fast Spanish sarabande.


  1. ^ "Richard Hudson: "Sarabande", New Grove Online (subscription access)". Retrieved 2006-11-13.  
  2. ^ Richard Hudson and Meredith Ellis Little, "Sarabande: 1. Early Development to c1640", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers; New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music and Musicians, 2001).
  3. ^ Johann Sebastian Bach, The French Suites: Embellished version (Kassel: Barenreiter

External links

Simple English

A sarabande (spelt sarabanda in Italian), is a dance that was popular in Baroque music in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Composers of the Baroque period often composed a group of several dances. This was called a suite. There was usually an allemande, a courante, a sarabande and a gigue, in that order, and sometimes one or two other dances or as well.

The sarabande was a slow dance with 3 beats in a bar (3/4 time). There was always a small stress on the second beat of the bar. The note on the first beat would often be played quite short so that the second beat would feel heavy. Like the other dance movements in the suite, the sarabande was in binary form.

The sarabande seems to have come from Central America where it was known as "zarabanda". Although it was mainly used in the Baroque period, composers in the 20th Century such as Debussy, Satie, Howells and Britten sometimes wrote sarabandes.

Perhaps the most famous sarabande is one written by an unknown composer. The piece is called La folie espagnole. Many Baroque composers such as Monteverdi and Corelli and even some modern ones used this well-known tune.


The sarabande has been used a lot in movies, including one by Ingmar Bergman called Saraband (2003). It uses the sarabande from the 5th suite for solo cello by Bach.

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