Orpheus and Euridice

Version for Clarinet and String Quintet (or String Orchestra) accompaniment

Ricky Ian Gordon

Performing Ensemble: Voice and Instrument
Publisher: Carl Fischer Music
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

I first met clarinetist Todd Palmer some years ago at a Christmas party that Neal Goren, the pianist, coach and conductor, was giving. I am not sure why Todd started showing up at my performances, but it seemed that wherever I was doing something, Todd showed up?and that, of course, made me really like him. One day, he said he would like to commission a piece from me. Because many of the performances he came to were vocal, he thought it would be good to have a piece for clarinet, piano and voice. It was not a particularly inspired time for me, because I remember coming up with nothing, and finally deciding to do a piece just for piano and clarinet. I started musing on what it could be. In 1995, my partner at the time, Jeffrey Grossi, started to become very ill. What a maelstrom it is when someone is being taken from you incrementally, and you are a t monumental loss of control. I felt almost deranged.

Hidden somewhere in my subconscious, an old obsession with the ?Orpheus and Eurydice? myth was boiling to the surface. When I was little, one of the foreign films that one of my three sisters (all of whom took me to foreign films and rock concerts at The Fillmore East) took me to was the beautiful Black Orpheus with Bruno Melo and Marpessa Dawn. What could I have really understood in that story?

But something lingered. Because one night, at 4 in the morning, I rose from sleep, went to the dining-room table, and wrote the entire text. It seemed I suddenly had a deep identification with Orpheus; only my Euridice was not bitten by a snake, but robbed slowly by an incurable virus. Somehow, in my mind?s eye and ear, I saw Todd as ?Orpheus? playing his ?pipe? instead of a lute or a lyre. Euridice (I changed the ?Y? to an ?I?) was both herself and the storyteller; the notes were his and the pianist?s, and the words were hers.

We were lucky to try out a version of the piece at Cooper Union. Howard Stokar, who ran the Cooper Arts series, asked me to do the piece in October of 2001. This happened very soon after the awful September 11th incident at the World Trade Center, so there was a very weird feeling in the air. Todd played, Elizabeth Farnum sang, Scott Dunn played the piano and Ted Sperling directed it.

Sometime after that I was a guest of Jane Moss?s at Lincoln Center for the Schubert Winterreise that Simon Keeleyside sang and Trisha Brown choreographed. I was so impressed with the way the cycle was done. I was especially impressed with the way Simon actually danced in the piece as well as sang. I longed to do the piece this way, and I approached Jane Moss and Jon Nakagawa, who lovingly allowed me to make this dream a reality. I watched a piece by a brilliant choreographer named Doug Varone, a piece he did called The Bottomlands. I asked him if he would direct and choreograph this version of Orpheus and Euridice at Lincoln Center. Doug, Todd and I all decided where we thought the piece might bear a bit of expansion, and I went to work. This version of the piece was given its world premiere with the soprano Elizabeth Futral, Todd on clarinet, and pianist Melvin Chen, as well as Doug?s whole dance company, on October 5, 2005, as part of the Lincoln Center New Visions, American Songbook, and Great Performers series. In his review, in New York Magazine, Peter G. Davis wrote: ?Both Gordon?s text and music are couched in an accessible idiom of disarming lyrical directness, a cleverly disguised faux na

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Orpheus and Euridice - Book
Orpheus and Euridice - Solo Part

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Todd Palmer
Composition Date 2005
Duration 01:00:00
Orchestration Sop. Clr. Pno. Str.