Divino Orfeo - Analysis Guide
For Orpheus' voice (flute, viola, harp), only scales on the tone d are used, however, side-centers can also be derived from its tone-material which gives some of these scales an internal polycentricity. Each basic scale consists of mainly fixed melodic elements comparable to the figures of Indian Ragas. Often a kind of heterophony is used: a monody spread over the instruments. Harmonies are derived from the scale and get their meaning through their relationship to the scale.
The first Raga (d – e – f/f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d) enters the empty space. It is the only one with eight tones, and it is neutral towards major and minor, as it contains the major and the minor third, almost like a primary Raga. First day of creation bar 36: The chaos, a cluster made of the triads e-flat major / c minor and E major / c-sharp minor, the tonalities of the created world. Suggested motives of future creation episodes are shining through the cluster. Above it is a d major / minor chord sounding over from the first Raga.
Second Raga (d – e-flat – f – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d, bar 58) and second day of creation, bar 78: Light and darkness. The d major/minor chord is modulated into an f-sharp major chord. In the low voices, an almost formless shadow world using quarter-tones develops above the sounds of g – a-sharp – c – d-flat (corresponding to the fifths above c and c-sharp) and b-flat – b – e-flat – e (corresponding to the fifths above e-flat and e).
Third Raga (d – e-flat – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-flat – c-sharp – d, bar 100) and third day of creation, bar 122: Land (theme bar 127) and water (theme bar 132) – pentatonic figures on e-flat and e, sometimes put together in a bitonal way.
Fourth Raga (d – e-flat – f – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 140) and fourth day of creation, bar 154: the world of plants, theme of the trees, bar 155 in the lower voices, and theme of the flowers, bar 163 in the flute. The tone-material is diatonic, first c minor and e-flat major, then c-sharp minor and e major.
Fifth Raga (d – e-flat – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 171) and fifth day of creation, bar 201: the world of animals: Theme of a big, wild animal, bar 201; theme of a small, versatile animal, bar 204; theme of the snake, bar 216 in the bass instruments. The tonalities of e-flat major / c minor and e major / c-sharp minor are put together in a bitonal way, or in crossing lines which are basically still diatonic.
Sixth Raga (d – e – f – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 233) and sixth day of creation, bar 270: Eurydice, the allegory of human nature, played by the solo-violin. The melody is chromatic. In the harmony, the tonalities of e-flat major, c minor, e major, and c-sharp minor penetrate each other in such a way that in c minor and c-sharp minor only the tonic and the subdominant German sixth, and in e-flat major and e major only the tonic and the dominant seventh are used with frequent enharmonic changes in a kind of polycentric tonality.
The seventh Raga and the seventh day of creation as a resting day are identical (d – e – f-sharp – g-sharp – a – b-sharp – c-sharp – d, bar 293). The scale can be read as the tone 1, 9, 5, 11, 3, 7, 15 above d and therefore allows for temperedly corrected spectral sounds.
In bar 311, the focus goes back to the shadow world. There, a new theme develops in the cello starting in bar 328. In paradise, resp. in Arcadia Orpheus and Eurydice meet each other (from bar 333, the group of soloists in dialogue with the solo-violin), and the themes of the days of creation meet with the Ragas of Orpheus’ voice. Every now and then, episodes from the 1. movement of the string-quartet ("Arcadia or the Lovers' Fête") are faded in to suggest the impression of two parallel stories. The snake-theme appears frequently before (from bar 500) it leads to Eurydice’s death, resp. to the Fall of Man.
In bar 527 the Passion, resp. Orpheus' grand lament starts, again including themes from the days of creation. The snake-theme – triumphant in a bitonal cadenza (e major and e-flat major, bar 609) – as symbol for the crucifixion becomes the climax. The wide, empty space opens again (bar 614). Then the descent into the underworld, resp. into hell starts (from bar 621).
Orpheus' voice now approaches the shadow world by filling the two augmented seconds in the third Raga with three-quarter tones which creates an additional Raga on e-flat: e-flat – f-half flatted – g-flat – a-flat – b-flat – c-half flatted – d-flat – e-flat in a bitonal tension to the actual fundamental tone d. In bar 635 the shadow world is reached. Inserted are paragraphs from the second movement ("Hades") of the string-quartet. A paragraph from Orpheus' voice, ritually repeated three times acts as nadir or point of death (from bar 663) which allows for the new rise (bar 676) – here a tonal sequence is heard in the harp, which rises through the spectrum of overtones. Bar 682 is reminiscent of the paradise-scene: the meeting with Eurydice, but the quartet tells about Eurydice’s repeated disappearing into Hades (bar 685). The final part encodes echoes from Eurydice's awakening (bar 694 like on the sixth day of creation), the bleakness of Hades (quartet bar 699), Orpheus' rise through the spectrum of overtones (bar 703), till finally the shadow world orients itself towards the spectrum of overtones on e (from bar 707). The tender final chord is the f-sharp major chord of the light from the second day of creation.