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Achilles & Scamander

Instrumentation: 2(II=Picc)222/4231/timp+2perc/hp/str
Duration: 8:00
Year Composed: 2012
Commissioner: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra


Audio Samples


Program Notes

Audio program note by composer, illustrated with musical examples


 
'O Achilles, your strength is greater, your acts more violent
than all men's; since always the very gods are guarding you.
If the son of Kronos has given all Trojans to your destruction,
drive them at least out of me to the plain, and there work your havoc.
For the loveliness of my waters is crammed with corpses, I cannot
find a channel to cast my waters into the bright sea
since I am congested with the dead men you kill so brutally.
Let me alone, then; lord of the people, I am confounded.'
Homer's Iliad, Book 21, lines 214-21

With these words, Scamander, the river god, implores a rampaging Achilles to take his fight elsewhere. But in vain. And so ensues a dramatic battle between god and mortal, the former roiling his waters in an effort to drown the transgressor, the latter saved only by the intervention of another god, Hephaestus, forger of Achilles's shield, who lays waste to Scamander by raining fire upon him, thus allowing Achilles to carry on the slaughter.

This episode inspired in me a short tone poem. I depict Achilles with a muscular theme in the horns that rises up across the instrument's entire range, punctuated by the jabs of his sword and his shrill war cry. Scamander's theme, in the bass trombone, rises up, too, as if from the depths of the river itself. A subsidiary motive represents Achilles chasing his victims through the water—and later fleeing its surging waves. Hephaestus makes a late but extraordinary entry.

The Iliad stimulated my imagination like no other literary work has done in a long time. The musicality of its language—the poetry's rhythm, the extended similes, the repetition—drew me into another world. But so did the sweep of the narrative, the long descriptions and digressions, and, especially, the striking relationship between mortals and gods. —R.R.


Performances

  • Jul 10, 2014—Orchestre Métropolitain, cond. Julian Kuerti
    Le Festival de Lanaudière (Joliette, QC)
  • Jan 11, 2014—Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, cond. Lucas Waldin
    Symphony for Kids (Winspear Centre) [excerpt]
  • Feb 11, 12 & 19, 2013—Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, cond. L. Waldin
    education concerts 4-6 (Winspear Centre) [excerpt]
  • Oct 2, 2012—Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, cond. William Eddins
    Winspear Centre (Edmonton, AB)
  • Jul 14, 2012—National Academy Orchestra, cond. Brendan Hagan
    Mohawk College - McIntyre Performing Arts Centre (Hamilton, ON)
  • Mar 31, 2012—Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, cond. Julian Kuerti
    Winspear Centre (Edmonton, AB)

Reviews

"Kuerti made a good case for Robert Rival’s Achilles and Scamander, a frankly programmatic (and tonal) treatment of a battle sequence from The Iliad (as retold in parts, one is tempted to say, by Mahler) ... this was positive, upfront writing, with no postmodern baloney of any kind. Yes, you can program Canadian music and make it work."
—Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette, July 11, 2014
"L'oeuvre spectaculaire de Robert Rival, apport intelligent à la 'ligne éditoriale' contemporaine du Métropolitain ..."
—Christophe Huss, Le Devoir, July 11, 2014
"Sa musique conservatrice est colorée et cinématographique. On croirait parfois entendre du John Williams très cuivré."
—Caroline Rodgers, La Presse, July 11, 2014
"... Rival has a clear notion of how to convey [a] juggernaut sonically ... In the several moments of lull in the martial frenzy, the bassoon, flute and harp gave moments of emotional relief nicely."
—William Rankin (Edmonton Arts blog)
"This sometimes eccentric tone poem served as a great tune-up for the concert-goer’s ear, with its heavy rhythms, great dynamic shifts, and hugely contrasting sections. I found the sonic blasts from the percussion instruments absolutely riveting throughout, referencing powerful Russian masterpieces like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition."
—Tony Kilgannon (Ontario Arts Review)

Score Perusal & Parts Rental

For score perusal and parts rental information, contact Robert Rival.