Epic Of Gilgamesh

Album cover art for upc 0710357644726
Catalog: NI6447

English Symphony Orchestra English String Orchestra

The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest written literary text in Middle Eastern/Western cultural history, predates the Hebrew Bible. The epic relates the story of King Gilgamesh, partly divine, partly human, who may have existed historically circa 2800 BC. From immature youth and a belief in his immortality, he eventually comes to accept the power and reality of Death. There are five movements/scenes: The first, Prologue, echoes the anxious state of the city of Uruk, which is suffering under the despotic rule of the young King Gilgamesh. The gods, in order to restore a sense of balance, create his counterpart, the wild man Enkidu, who is lured away and tamed by a temple prostitute. The pitch centres of this scene spell out the musical letters of Gilgamesh which also underly the entire work. The Journey to the Forest of Cedar depicts the effortful trek made by Enkidu and Gilgamesh in search of glory. They venture to the Forest of Cedar to cut down one of the largest trees to make a great door for the Temple of Enlil, the divine ruler of the Cosmos. They kill the forest guardian, Humbaba, who is protected by seven auras. From Dawn to Dusk, a fast movement, illustrates Gilgamesh’s race against the sun. He arrives just before sunset and finds himself in a garden of jewels. Gilgamesh sings a Lament on the Death of Enkidu which leads into the final scene. Apotheosis. Gilgamesh visits Ut Napishti (precursor of Noah in Genesis) who has survived the Flood and been granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh fails the final task set by Ut-Napishti to test his suitability for eternal life, returning to Uruk to build his lasting monument, the city walls. The Resurrection of the Soldiers for string orchestra was commissioned by George Vass, to whom it is dedicated, and the English Symphony Orchestra, for the 2016 Presteigne Festival, with funds generously donated by the John S Cohen Foundation and the Arts Council of England. The title derives from the final panel of Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Chapel visionary series of paintings which were the result of Spencer’s experiences in the British army in World War One and depicts soldiers emerging from their graves on the last day. The piece is in three continuous parts: a slow, sustained introduction which is, in essence, a descent from the note E by means of a prolation canon, but which ascends to a rather intense climactic point before falling and giving way to a very active fugue which, after arriving at an anguished, sustained climax, is succeeded by a closing slow movement consisting of a rising melodic line which permeates the entire texture heterophonically, leading to the closing E major triad. The work thus traces a cyclical path as it progresses towards a sense of resurrection, re-birth and hope. © Robert Saxton

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