Anton J. Benjamin / Simrock
The legend of Sawitri and Satiawan stems from the Indian epic Mahabharata and was known in Europe since the early nineteenth century, in Germany through the translation by Friedrich Rückert. The English composer Gustav Holst wrote a chamber opera based on this subject matter.
Sawitri is on the one hand the Goddess of the Morning Light, but simultaneously also a princess who marries her lover Satiawan, knowing full well that an early death was prophesized for him.
The orchestral piece begins with the dawn, a ritual, and the appearance of the Goddess of the Morning Light. Then one finds the two lovers, Satiawan (depicted by the solo cello) and Sawitri (flute). However, Yana, the God of the Dead and the Underworld (trombone), soon announces his arrival. Satiawan is seized by great anxiety and fear – he must die.
In great sorrow, Sawitri implores Yama to set Satiawan free again. One simultaneously hears the dialogue between Sawitri and Yama, and over it Satiawan’s journey to the hereafter, duing which he also encounters the Goddess of the Morning Light. Yama finally relents – and Satiawan can return to life and to Sawitri.
The orchestral writing is developed entirely out of lines that are based on Indian raga scales. At the beginning, the music follows the raga Durga relatively exactly, while the themes of the three protagonists treat the respective ragas on which they are based more freely. The heterophonically branched lines later also combine into a polyphonic structure.
Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz, 2021