Mykene

7 miniatures

op. 17, 2002

I. Elektra’s Fears
II. Orestes Return
III. Clytemnestra’s Grave
IV. Full Moon in Mykene
V. The Tears
VI. Desperation
VII. The Afterglow

For orchestra
Instrumentation: 2.2.2.2. – 4.3.2.1., piano, harp, three percussionists, strings
Duration: 17 min.

Commissioned by the hr-Sinfonieorchester
World premiere: 21 September 2002, Frankfurt. hr-Sinfonieorchester, conductor: Konstantia Gourzi

Composer’s notes

Mykene is my first orchestral composition, inspired by a special visit to the ancient site of Mycenae in Greece, whose archaic energy influenced me greatly. Each miniature is dedicated to a part of Clytemnestra’s story and the historical events in Mycenae, which is the inspiration for this composition.

The entire piece is meant to be performed with the highest possible intensity, like aphoristic splinters of thoughts in sound. For example, even if a dance rhythm is composed (such as 7/8, 12,/8, 13/8, 14/8), the character of the interpretation should be kept intense and sostenuto.

In some miniatures, certain instrumental groups have the task of playing rhythmic elements that are to be performed at a different independent tempo than the rest of the orchestra. For these passages, the conductor decides when these groups should begin. It is equally important to incorporate the varied rhythmic elements throughout the orchestral sound in such a determinative manner that the emphasis or phrasing of each rhythmic line is clearly executed.

All seven miniatures together create a dramaturgical unity and should be interpreted as such. Attacca is often written between the miniatures: The reverberation of each miniature is to be held as a tension by the conductor between the respective pieces at will. As soon as this tension ends, the next piece continues; like a story to be retold in a certain flow of energy.

In the first miniature, Elektra’s Fears, the winds and strings play in unison at the beginning, creating a restless but moving tapestry of sound in ppp. The percussion with piano and harp are the protagonists of a “narrative” that continues dialogues with selected strings and winds after a short time.

In the second miniature Oreste’s Return, the orchestral rhythm is more compact than in the first piece. Here the 7/8 melody has the leading role, to be played with a clear phrasing to show its intensity and density. All other instruments that do not play this melody should finely and accurately keep the main rhythm.

In the third miniature, Clytemnestra’s Grave, there are no meter numbers, but the common energy created contrapuntally from different instrumental groups is meant to be held together. Small instrumental groups are divided in such a way that they play together in chamber music fashion, without the permanent guidance of the conductor. The conductor merely gives the cues for each group’s entrance and repeatedly conducts the different groups.

In the fourth miniature, Full Moon in Mykene, the woodwinds begin repeating the figures at their own tempo on a percussion rhythm until the strings take over the main voice. The woodwinds pause until the end of this piece, and the brass close the miniature as if their melodious chords are an echo of the musical action.

In the fifth miniature The Tears, wind glissandi build a sustaining mood that will end with an aphoristic statement from low instruments.

In the sixth miniature Desperation, two sound elements prevail: a dance-like one and a massive brass percussion sound that repeatedly interrupts the dance suddenly with dramatic chords. In the end, however, the two elements unite.

The seventh miniature The Afterglow is meant as an echo, a conclusion of the whole piece. Chords in irregular time signatures are played, thus preparing an unexpected and thoughtful tutti conclusion.

Press Reviews

“Eine Doppelrolle hatte die Griechin Konstantia Gourzi an diesem Abend übernommen: Mit eher verhaltener Gestik steuerte sie das Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt durch die nicht alltäglichen Klangwelten. Als Komponistin verknüpft sie in ‘Mykene’, das an diesem Abend uraufgeführt wurde, in sieben deutlich differenzierten Miniaturen den antiken ‘Elektra’-Stoff mit der Gegenwart und folkloristisch wirkender Rhythmik. Auffallend die weitgesponnene Melodie von Englischhorn, Fagott und Bässen wie auch das Klavier solo im ruhigen Sarabandenrhythmus.”

FAZ, 24 September 2002

“Vier intensive Klangschwaden zogen im Forum Neue Musik durch den HR-Sendesaal – präsentiert vom RSO Frankfurt, das in den Händen Konstantia Gourzis ein erlesener Flakon orchestraler Düfte war. Die 40-jährige griechische Dirigentin war selbst mit einem Werk vertreten, das im Kreise der Klangwolken-Quadriga den bildhaftesten Charakter hatte: ‘Mykene’ (2002) waren auf Elektra-Mythos und heimatliche Folklore zielende Überblendungen.”

Frankfurter Rundschau, 23 September 2002

Audio sample

Score

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