ALKAN - STARR; SUITE MACABRE, for symphony orchestra; 5 (of 5). La Saltarella

Charles-Valentin Alkan
Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
6 minutes
Classical music
Instrumental parts
Not available

This is an orchestration of Alkan’s La Saltarella, for full symphony orchestra. La Saltarella is virtuoso work, originally composed by Alkan circa 1868, first for cello and piano, and later revised by the composer for piano 4-hands. It is the latter version that served as the source for my two orchestrations of this piece (the first version for string orchestra with optional percussion; and the second, the present score, for full orchestra.) It is my conviction that the orchestra is the ideal medium for this exhuberant piece. This orchestration is intended as a dazzling showpiece for professional symphony orchestras. Due to vicissitudes described in detail in my prefatory essay, La Saltarella (in its original forms) has lain virtually unperformed for 14 decades. It is my hope that, in its new orchestral garb, modern day concert audiences can readily experience this exhilarating music in performances by both symphony and chamber orchestras.

The saltarello is a Neopolitan dance close related to the Sicilian tarantella. The tarantella got its name from the frenetic spasms produced from the bite of a tarantula. Traditionally it is a dance of death. The saltarello is also a frenetic dance in a minor key, characterized by fast-moving triplets and dotted rhythms. The principal difference between the two is the syncopated rhythm of the saltarello. Like jazz, the offbeats are emphasized over the main beats. Alkan’s colossal saltarello dispenses so much energy over so great a length of time, the imaginary dancers figuratively dance themselves to death in the whirlwind coda.

Orchestral parts are available on rental from Noteworthy Musical Editions. For more information about renting orchestral performance materials for this work, please visit Noteworthy Musical Editions’ website at

Here is a link to this score on the website of Noteworthy Musical Editions:

Browsers who might be interested to know more about the historical background of this remarkable work are directed to my essay that precedes the music. This essay is accessible with Scorch by using the player’s page arrows to locate pages 2 & 3.

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