Rezitativ Antigone

2019, op. 81

For voice and piano
Duration: 5.30 min.

Text: from the tragedy Antigone by Sophocles

Commissioned by the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University Competition 2020, funded by the Fanny Hensel Prize of the Mendelssohn Society e.V., Berlin

World premiere: 20 January 2020, Konzerthaus Berlin



Original text by Sophocles

ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲν αὐτῷ τῶν ἐμῶν μ᾽ εἴργειν μέτα. (48)
οὔτ᾽ ἂν κελεύσαιμ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἄν, εἰ θέλοις ἔτι (69)
πράσσειν, ἐμοῦ γ᾽ ἂν ἡδέως δρῴης μέτα.
ἀλλ᾽ ἴσθ᾽ ὁποῖά σοι δοκεῖ, κεῖνον δ᾽ ἐγὼ
θάψω· καλόν μοι τοῦτο ποιούσῃ θανεῖν.
φίλη μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ κείσομαι, φίλου μέτα,
ὅσια πανουργήσασ᾽. ἐπεὶ πλείων χρόνος
ὃν δεῖ μ᾽ ἀρέσκειν τοῖς κάτω τῶν ἐνθάδε.
ἐκεῖ γὰρ αἰεὶ κείσομαι· σοὶ δ᾽, εἰ δοκεῖ,
τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἔντιμ᾽ ἀτιμάσασ᾽ ἔχε.

English Translation

He (Creon) has no right to separate me from my loved ones.
I do not kneel before you (Ismene). Even if you change your mind,
I will gladly not accept your help.
Keep your illusions. I alone will bury him.
It pleases me to do this, even if I will die.
Besides the lover, I will lie as a lover.
Holy shame. Longer time
those in the underworld will rejoice over me as the ones of this place.
Because there I will rest forever. If you want it that way, despise
that what the gods worship.
(Translation: Konstantia Gourzi)


Composer’s notes

Rezitativ Antigone, “Antigone’s Recitative”, is a commission for the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Conservatory Competition 2020. Its text is taken from Sophocles’s eponymous tragedy, where King Creon tells Antigone that she will be killed if she buries her brother, Polynices, who has fallen in battle.

In the part of the text that is set to music, Antigone tells her sister Ismene about Creon’s order. She also says that she will bury her brother at all costs. She is therefore sentenced to death, but it is more important to her to stay faithful to the living and to the dead, than it is to go on living herself.

Antigone is angry, but self-possessed, and she wants to act. On the other hand, Ismene is frightened of Creon’s power, and refuses to join in. Antigone decides to carry out her intention, one which is born of love and is commanded by the Gods, alone.

By setting this powerful material to music, I would like to encourage both musicians and audiences to consider what is worth fighting for. Rezitativ Antigone portrays the drama of internal conflict, and interprets this emotionally highly-charged material. Its material is antique, but still highly relevant today.

The text is sung in Ancient Greek. The composition requires a sense of horizontal flow: its melodies and rhythms evoke an archaic atmosphere, which is important for the interpretation. Rhythms and time changes should flow smoothly throughout the piece.

Soprano: Mengqi Zhang, Piano: Norbert Biermann