Music in the Making

Music In The Making: Ancient History

It’s not all Greek to me–there’s music inspired by Roman authors too, on this week’s episode of Music in the Making!

On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re going back in time, with music inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, including selections from Berlioz, Britten, and Ravel. 

Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz: “Trojan March” from Les Troyens
Moores School Symphony Orchestra, Franz Anton Krager
10/1/2010
Moores Opera House

Berlioz embarked upon an opera based on Virgil’s Aeneid at the end of his life, writing both the libretto and the score. The scope of the project was ambitious: Les Troyens would eventually become a five-act grand opera, involving choruses, ballets, solos, and an orchestral interlude. Though he would not live to see the entire opera performed, the work is a testament to his abilities as an orchestrator and his devotion to Virgil’s epic.

Illustration of the staging of the last act for the premiere of Berlioz's Les Troyens
Illustration of the staging of the last act for the premiere of Berlioz’s Les Troyens

Benjamin Britten – Metamorphoses after Ovid for Solo Oboe, op. 49
Anne Leek (oboe)
6/20/2006
Moores Opera House

Benjamin Britten’s only solo work for oboe, called “Metamorphoses after Ovid,” utilizes the Roman poet’s narrative poem by the same name as a point of departure. Each of the six movements is based on a character from mythology, who is verbally described prior to being musically depicted. Mythological figures portrayed include Pan, Phaeton, Niobe, Bacchus, Narcissus, and Arethusa. 

Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten

Maurice Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe- Suite No. 1
Texas Music Festival Orchestra, conducted by Klauspeter Seibel
6/14/2008
Moores Opera House

Ravel began writing Daphnis and Chloe in 1909, for Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes. The scenario, adapted by choreographer Michel Fokine and Ravel himself, was based on a story by Longus, a fifth century Greek author. “My intention in writing [Daphnis and Chloe],” Ravel said, “was to compose a vast musical fresco in which I was less concerned with archaism than with reproducing faithfully the Greece of my dreams, which is very similar to that imagined by French artists at the end of the eighteenth century.” Ravel later arranged two suites for orchestra, the first of which is drawn from the first two scenes of the ballet, in which Daphnis and Chloe fall in love before Chloe is abducted by pirates. After much pleading by Daphnis, she is miraculously saved by the god Pan.

Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe-  Suite No. 2
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, Larry Rachleff
10/3/2009
Stude Concert Hall

Daphnis and Chloe is the grandest of Ravel’s orchestral works; he described it as “a choreographic symphony in three parts.” In the second suite, Ravel utilizes music of Part III of the ballet. In this section, the composer aurally depicts daybreak, as nature and Daphnis awaken. Daphnis and Chloe, reunited at last, perform a pantomime of Pan wooing the nymph Syrinx. The enactment is forgotten, though, as the Daphnis and Chloe abandon their roles and instead declare their love for one another.

Set design for the premiere of Daphnis and Chloe, by Léon Bakst
Set design for the premiere of Daphnis and Chloe, by Léon Bakst

This episode originally aired Sunday, June 11th, 2017. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical.

Share