Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Medea (The Cave of the Heart), Ballet Suite, Op. 23 (1946)
00:00 - Parodos
02:29 - Choros. Medea and Jason
06:29 - The Young Princess. Jason
09:32 - Choros
12:42 - Medea
19:02 - Kantikos Agonias
21:59 - Exodos
Performed by the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra under the direction of Howard Hanson. Recorded by Mercury in 1959.
" 'Medea' was written for Martha Graham on a commission from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. It was first performed under the title 'The Serpent Heart' at Columbia's MacMillan Theater on May 10, 1946. Miss Graham later called it 'Cave of the Heart.' The music was first played as an orchestral suite by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy on December 5, 1947. A note in the score, published by G. Schirmer, indicates Barber's intentions and describes the individual movements with admirable succinctness: 'Neither Miss Graham nor the composer wished to use the Medea-Jason legend literally in the ballet. These mythical figures served rather to project psychological states of jealousy and vengeance which are timeless.'
" 'The choreography and music were conceived, as it were, on two time levels, the ancient-mythological and the contemporary. Medea and Jason first appear as godlike, superhuman figures of the Greek tragedy. As the tension and conflict between them increase, they step out of their legendary roles from time to time and become the modern man and woman, caught in the nets of jealousy and destructive love; and at the end reassume their mythical quality. In both the dancing and music, archaic and contemporary idioms are used. Medea, in her final scene after the denouement, becomes once more the descendant of the sun.
" 'Besides Medea and Jason, there are two other characters in the ballet, the Young Princess whom Jason marries out of ambition and for whom he betrays Medea, and an attendant who assumes the part of the onlooking chorus of the Greek tragedy, sympathizing, consoling, and interpreting the actions of the major characters.
" 'The suite follows roughly the form of a Greek tragedy. In 'Parodos' the characters first appear. The 'Choros,' lyric and reflective, comments on the action which is to unfold. The Young Princess appears in a dance of freshness and innocence, followed by a heroic dance of Jason. Another plaintive 'Choros' leads to Medea's dance of obsession and diabolical vengeance. The 'Kantikos Agonias,' an interlude of menace and foreboding, follows. Medea's terrible crime, the murder of the Princess and her own children, has been committed, announced at the beginning of the 'Exodos' by a violent fanfare of trumpets. In this final section the various themes of the chief characters of the work are blended together; little by little the music subsides and Medea and Jason recede into the legendary past.' " - Nathan Broder
Illustration: Medea (detail), Alphonse Mucha