• Thea Musgrave
  • Lamenting with Ariadne (1999)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial support from West Midlands Arts and BCMG Sound Investors

  • 101(bcl)0/0100/hp/perc/str(10110)
  • 16 min

Programme Note

At the beginning, imagine Ariadne and her companions standing on a lonely seashore watching a tall ship departing into the misty distance. Ariadne (represented by a solo viola) is desolate at the sudden unexplained departure of Theseus; she has outbursts of despairing anger. These two moods of desolation and anger alternate, slow 'anchor chords' always returning at the same pitches, separated by passionate cadenza-like passages. Ariadne’s companions are unable to comfort her.

Then, in the distance, Dionysus (represented by an offstage trumpet) approaches, At first, Ariadne does not even hear him. Eventually he enters and the music suddenly changes: not only the tempo, which now goes very fast, but also the instrumental colour (the bass clarinet takes up the clarinet and the percussion player changes from metals - tam-tam, tubular bells, vibraphone and cymbals - to the marimba, with its wooden slats).

Dionysus then invites each of the players to join in a whirling celebration and, in the end, even Ariadne is roused from her grief to take part with joy and abandon. As the trumpet and viola sing a duet together, the music rises to a climax.

Then, a soft and serene coda re-introduces the viola’s 'anchor chords' from the beginning, but by now, they are transformed into a melting cadence.

This work for eight players (flute, clarinet, trumpet, harp, percussion, violin, viola and cello) was written in the spring and summer months of 1999 and lasts about sixteen minutes.

Thea Musgrave


Musgrave: Lamenting with Ariadne