Viola Concerto - Saving Theseus-Ariadne's Love (2014)

Instrumentation:

1.1.1.1. 1.1.1.0 (timp.) strings. solo viola

Duration: 12'

Saving Theseus.. Ariadne’s Love is commissioned and premiered by the National University of Singapore to celebrate its 110th anniversary at the NUS Arts Festival 2015. It is written for viola soloist, Lim Chun and Maestro Lim Soon Lee. This viola concerto is an expansion of a work (Ariadne's Love) that was recorded at Abbey Road Studio by the London Symphony and Eric Whitacre Singers. For this occasion, the composer added a new first movement (Saving Theseus) and reorchestrated the slow movement (Ariadne’s Love).

 

With the new first movement, we hear a portrait of the Athenian hero - Theseus. His character and personality is narrated by the impetuous and suave music that begins the movement, symbolized by virtuosic multiple stops that permeate this movement. The thoughtful side of Theseus is expressed through the harp, an instrument that suggests an Apollonian rationality.

 

The music focuses on the emotional world of Theseus where the increasingly brooding and heavy-hearted music expresses Theseus' conflict within himself, as he is about to sacrifice himself to save the Athenian youth from Minotaur. The orchestra thins out gradually as the melancholic music leads to the unaccompanied cadenza - the most melancholic and lonesome passage that depicts Theseus being trapped within the labyrinth.

 

As the orchestra re-enters, the thread-like arpeggio lines in the solo viola part paints a sound world of Ariadne's thread leading Theseus out of the labyrinth. They both escape from Crete to the island of Naxos. Theseus feels indebted and thankful to Ariadne; they quickly find themselves deeply in love with each other. Eventually, both of them fall into a deep slumber. However, Theseus is called by the Gods to continue his mission; and he quietly leaves the island of Naxos abandoning Ariadne while she is still asleep. The ship sails.

 

In the second movement Ariadne's Love, the dream-like music depicts Ariadne awakening on the island of Naxos wondering where she is, and where Theseus is. Gradually realizing that Theseus has left, she is struck by a range of emotions from ‘wandering’ to agitato, and finally she comes to terms that she is all alone (Ariadne auf Naxos).

 

In some versions of the Greek mythology, the Greek god Dionysus will eventually sweep Ariadne away and marry her. This will be narrated in a future third movement, where the story will continue.

© 2020 by CHEN Zhangyi