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Sinfonia de Antigona

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Carlos Chávez

Carlos Chávez

Subtitle: Symphony No. 1

General Info

Year: 1932 / 1933 / 1948
Duration: c. 11:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - Rental   |   Score Only (print) - $25.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
English Horn
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet
Percussion I-II

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Antígona was originally written as incidental music for the 1932 performance of Jean Cocteau’s condensed version of Antigone by Sophocles. It was performed by the Grupo Orientacíon, a theater company sponsored by the Secretary of Public Education of Mexico and directed by Celestina Gorostiza. The composer structured the work in brief sections written as interludes between scenes of dramatic action and scored it for chamber ensemble. The Apuntes para la Sinfonía, or “Sketches for the Symphony” as the composer later characterized this early version, contain the germinal ideas for the subsequent extended work titled Sinfonía de Antígona. The dimensions of the latter work were increased with the addition of new material, rather than the reworking or amplification of old. It retains literal quotations from the original piece in nearly every phrase.

For the premier of Sinfonía de Antígona, the composer wrote: “It is a work inspired by Greek tragedy…The most elemental music materials suit this music; it cannot be grandiose. Concise and unadorned, its expression lies in its laconic nature, as the primitive is refined by virtue of its primitive nature.” Chávez creates an archaic flavor and majestic character by the use of Greek modal scales, harmony excluding thirds (considered dissonant in the Greek system), and transparent instrumental textures.

- Program Note by Eugenio Delgado for the University of Michigan Chamber Winds concert program, 5 November 2021

In 1932, Carlos Chávez composed incidental music for a staged performance in Mexico City of Jean Cocteau’s “contraction” of the Antigone of Sophocles. From that incidental music he later drew the basic materials for the one-movement Sinfonía de Antígona, now listed as his First Symphony. The Orquesta Sinfónica de Mexico, with Chávez conducting, played the première of the symphony in Mexico City on December 15, 1933. At that time, a program note prepared with the composer’s assistance read:

Inspired by the feelings prevalent in the Greek tragedy, the Sinfonía de Antígona nevertheless is not directly related to scenes in the drama. It is a symphony, not a symphonic poem: the music has no literary program. Antigone, her exaltation and rebellion, her heroism and martyrdom -- these are expressed by the entire symphony, not by its successive sections. The atmosphere of intense tragedy is established in the first measures and persists throughout, its expressive power residing principally in the simplicity and sobriety of the musical materials employed. The score breathes a certain archaic quality because of the use of rhythmic harmonic and melodic elements essential to ancient Greek music; the themes all are modal, and the harmony is in fourth and fifths, thirds having been avoided because the Greek musical system treated them as dissonant.

The [orchestral] Sinfonía de Antígona is scored for piccolo, flute, bass flute, oboe, English horn, heckelphone, E-flat clarinet, two B-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, contrabassoon, eight horns, three trumpets, tuba, two harps, large and small drums, tympani, cymbals, glockenspiel, and strings.

- Program Note from liner notes for Everest CD Carlos Chávez


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Concert Band Chamber Winds (Nick Balla, conductor) - 5 November 2021

Works for Winds by This Composer