• Brian Elias
  • Pythikos Nomos (1988)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by John Edward Kelly

  • asx/pf
  • Clarinet in A/pf
  • 10 min

Programme Note

It was at the request of John- Edward Kelly that Brian Elias first decide to write a work for saxophone and piano. 

‘Pythikos Nomos’ (Python’s Law) is an ancient Greek musical form, invented by Sakadas in 586 BC for the Pythian games. It is reputed to be the first known kind of programme music and describes the battle between Apollo and the Monster.

According to legend, Apollo’s victory over the Monster took place on the wooded slopes of Parnassus, and the spot where it was slain came to be known as Delphi. Apollo then left Delphi, and after a period of purification, returned in triumph, escorted by priests singing hymns of praise.

Different versions of the original form existed and I have used the following as a programme for the piece:

1. PEIRA (introduction)  The battle ground is tested.
2. KATAKELEUSMOS (provocation)  Apollo incites the Monster to battle.
3. IAMBIKON The battle proceeds and the God’s victory is announced.
4. SPONDEION   A hymn of victory to Apollo. This section quotes briefly from the first Delphic Hymn, a surviving fragment of ancient Greek music.
5. KATACHOREUSIS A joyful and ecstatic victory dance.
6. SYRINXES The last breaths of the dying Monster.

The piece last approximately ten minutes and is dedicated to Sheila MacCrindle.

Brian Elias