for flute, viola, harp and orchestra
“Divino Orfeo” is one of the spiritual dramas by the Spanish Baroque poet Calderón de la Barca. In this drama, Orpheus is the divine voice that creates the world through his singing. Then antiquity and Christianity are joined in parallel – a tradition that goes back to the church father Clemens of Alexandria (3rd century). Paradise is at the same time Arcadia; Eurydice is the allegory of human nature; the snake that sets off the Fall of Man is the same that kills Eurydice with its bite; and Christ’s Descent into Hell parallels Orpheus’ descent into the underworld.
1st Part: The Creation
The group of soloists as representative of Orpheus’ voice prepares the six acts of creation in episodes, in which different scales are used. Their use is influenced by Indian Ragas. The world develops bit by bit in the orchestra (the chaos, light and darkness, land and water, the plants, the animals – among them the snake – and human nature as Eurydice, represented by the solo violin). The seventh day is the day of rest whose overtones contrast the lower shadow world, characterized by quarter tones.
2nd Part: Paradise / Arcadia
Love-scene between Orpheus (the three soloists) and Eurydice (solo violin). Inserted are parts from the first movement of the 2nd string quartet “Eurydice – Two Landscapes for String Quartet”, with it some dances whose Arcadian serenity is darkly grounded by the snake-theme. The climax of this part is Eurydice’s death, resp. the Fall of Man.
3rd Part: Passion / Orpheus’ Lament
The divine Orpheus as human sufferer with the crucifixion as climax.
4th Part: Descent into Hell / Descent into the Underworld
Orpheus’ voice approaches the language of the shadow world. The nadir as point of death is a ritual scene which allows for the suggested new rise. Here, parts of the second movement of the string quartet (“Hades”) are inserted. In the end the two spheres – the Salvation in the Christian tradition, and Eurydice’s repeated loss in antiquity – grow stronger into conceptually unsolvable soundscapes.
Divino Orfeo – Analysis Guide
For Orpheus’ voice (flute, viola, harp), only scales on the tone d are used, however, side-centers can also be derived from its tone-material which gives some of these scales an internal polycentricity. Each basic scale consists of mainly fixed melodic elements comparable to the figures of Indian Ragas. Often a kind of heterophony is used: a monody spread over the instruments. Harmonies are derived from the scale and get their meaning through their relationship to the scale.
The first Raga (d – e – f/f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d) enters the empty space. It is the only one with eight tones, and it is neutral towards major and minor, as it contains the major and the minor third, almost like a primary Raga. First day of creation bar 36: The chaos, a cluster made of the triads e-flat major / c minor and E major / c-sharp minor, the to¬nalities of the created world. Suggested motives of future creation episodes are shining through the cluster. Above it is a d major / minor chord sounding over from the first Raga.
Second Raga (d – e-flat – f – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d, bar 58) and second day of creation, bar 78: Light and darkness. The d major/minor chord is modulated into an f-sharp major chord. In the low voices, an almost formless shadow world using quarter-tones devel¬ops above the sounds of g – a-sharp – c – d-flat (corresponding to the fifths above c and c-sharp) and b-flat – b – e-flat – e (corresponding to the fifths above e-flat and e).
Third Raga (d – e-flat – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d, bar 100) and third day of creation, bar 122: Land (theme bar 127) and water (theme bar 132) – pentatonic figures on e-flat and e, sometimes put together in a bitonal way.
Fourth Raga (d – e-flat – f – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 140) and fourth day of creation, bar 154: the world of plants, theme of the trees, bar 155 in the lower voices, and theme of the flowers, bar 163 in the flute. The tone-material is diatonic, first c minor and e-flat major, then c-sharp minor and e major.
Fifth Raga (d – e-flat – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 171) and fifth day of creation, bar 201: the world of animals: Theme of a big, wild animal, bar 201; theme of a small, versatile animal, bar 204; theme of the snake, bar 216 in the bass instruments. The to¬nalities of e-flat major / c minor and e major / c-sharp minor are put together in a bitonal way, or in crossing lines which are basically still diatonic.
Sixth Raga (d – e – f – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 233) and sixth day of creation, bar 270: Eurydice, the allegory of human nature, played by the solo-violin. The melody is chromatic. In the harmony, the tonalities of e-flat major, c minor, e major, and c-sharp minor penetrate each other in such a way that in c minor and c-sharp minor only the tonic and the subdominant German sixth, and in e-flat major and e major only the tonic and the dominant seventh are used with frequent enharmonic changes in a kind of polycentric tonality.
The seventh Raga and the seventh day of creation as a resting day are identical (d – e – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 293). The scale can be read as the tone 1, 9, 5, 11, 3, 7, 15 above d and therefore allows for temperedly corrected spectral sounds.
In bar 311, the focus goes back to the shadow world. There, a new theme develops in the cello starting in bar 328. In paradise, resp. in Arcadia Orpheus and Eurydice meet each other (from bar 333, the group of soloists in dialogue with the solo-violin), and the themes of the days of creation meet with the Ragas of Orpheus’ voice. Every now and then, episodes from the 1st movement of the string-quartet (“Arcadia or the Lovers’ Fête”) are faded in to suggest the impression of two parallel stories. The snake-theme appears frequently before (from bar 500) it leads to Eurydice’s death, resp. to the Fall of Man.
In bar 527 the Passion, resp. Orpheus’ grand lament starts, again including themes from the days of creation. The snake-theme – triumphant in a bitonal cadenza (e major and e-flat ma¬jor, bar 609) – as symbol for the crucifixion becomes the climax. The wide, empty space opens again (bar 614). Then the descent into the underworld, resp. into hell starts (from bar 621).
Orpheus’ voice now approaches the shadow world by filling the two augmented seconds in the third Raga with three-quarter tones which creates an additional Raga on e-flat: e-flat – f-half flatted – g-flat – a-flat – b-flat – c-half flatted – d-flat – e-flat in a bitonal tension to the actual fundamental tone d. In bar 635 the shadow world is reached. Inserted are paragraphs from the second movement (“Hades”) of the string-quartet. A paragraph from Orpheus’ voice, ritually repeated three times acts as nadir or point of death (from bar 663) which allows for the new rise (bar 676) – here a tonal sequence is heard in the harp, which rises through the spectrum of overtones. Bar 682 is reminiscent of the paradise-scene: the meeting with Eury¬dice, but the quartet tells about Eurydice’s repeated disappearing into Hades (bar 685). The final part encodes echoes from Eurydice’s awakening (bar 694 like on the sixth day of crea¬tion), the bleakness of Hades (quartet bar 699), Orpheus’ rise through the spectrum of over¬tones (bar 703), till finally the shadow world orients itself towards the spectrum of overtones on e (from bar 707). The tender final chord is the f-sharp major chord of the light from the second day of creation.