A miller, in order to pay his rent, boasts to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Three times the king demands that she spin a room filled with straw into gold. If she fails her life is forfeit. If she succeeds the king promises to marry her. Each time the girl despairs until Rumpelstiltskin appears. Each time he agrees to spin the straw into gold in exchange for a gift. On the third occasion the girl promises that, if she becomes queen, she will give her first born child to Rumpelstiltskin.
The king marries the miller’s daughter and a year later a child is born. Rumpelstiltskin comes to claim his fee. He will only relent if within three days the queen can guess his name. Each night the creature comes to ask if the queen has guessed what he is called. Only on the third day does the queen’s messenger succeed in discovering the creature’s name – when the creature appears to claim the child the queen names him. Rumpelstiltskin stamps his foot so hard that his whole leg becomes stuck in the earth – in his rage he pulls it out with such force that he tears his body in two.
The Suite is divided into six sections with the following headings: The Idle Boast – Straw into Gold – Wedding and Coronation – Guessing Games – Rumpelstiltskin Alone – Rumpelstiltskin’s Last Dance.
Themes of transformation and revelation permeate the fairy tale, and drive the composition: each section is defined by a precise instrumental combination, yielding distinct musical colours that mix and blend during the course of the piece. The music is structured and shaped by recurring melodic and rhythmic motifs which appear in differing forms and constantly changing contexts.
David Sawer’s Rumpelstiltskin Suite was premiered on 6 April 2013 at Wigmore Hall, London and 7 April 2013 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham, conducted by George Benjamin.