Thea Musgrave

Thea Musgrave

Lamenting with Ariadne

At the beginning imagine Ariadne and her companions standing on a lonely seashore watching a tall ship depart into the misty distance. Ariadne (represented by a solo viola) is desolate at the sudden unexplained departure of Theseus and has outbursts of despairing anger. These two moods of desolation and anger alternate. Slow ‘anchor chords’, always returning at the same pitches, are 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, tamtam, 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 reintroduces the viola’s ‘anchor chords’ from the beginning, but now they are transformed into a melting and serene cadence.
Thea Musgrave

Nicholas Kraemer led a highly involving performance… Indeed, thanks to the workshopping of the score last autumn, a new work can rarely have been so consummately prepared for performance. There was the added frisson that the composer’s paymasters were members of the audience, who had provided funds for the commission through the BCMG’s innovative Sound Investment scheme.
The Daily Telegraph

First performed by BCMG conducted by Nicholas Kraemer at CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 28 January 2000.