The “Oresteia” in music

Piano Poetry Pantelis Politics

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I am thinking of the three major musical approaches to Aeschylus’ surviving trilogy:

Sergei Taneyev’s opera, composed in 1887-94 and based on a Russian adaptation by A. A. Wenkstern;

Darius Milhaud’s oratorio, composed in 1913-23 and based on a French adaptation by Paul Claudel; and

Iannis Xenakis’ ritual, composed in 1966-87 and based on the Greek original.

(I might add Harrison Birtwistle’s incidental music for Peter Hall’s 1981 production though I believe it is not a stand-alone composition and has not been recorded as such.)

Together, in their totally different ways they raise many questions:  What is the relation between theater and music in modern times? How may tragedy be set to music? What happens when a modern choir plays the role of an ancient (tragic or comic) chorus? How may music treat explicit political issues? What is the possibility of a musical trilogy after Richard Wagner’s Ring? To…

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