ENS.2020.5 | 25′
I. A Realm Below
Algabal is a kind of decadent symphony in four movements inspired by the eponymous poetic cycle by the early 20th century German poet Stefan George. Taken from the legendary, bizarre life of the Roman Emperor Elagabalus (Heliogabalus), George’s obscure fantasia of hedonistic youth suggested a lush symphonic setting replete with exuberant harmonies and brutal rhythms.
The first two movements are fast. Introduced by hammering blows, A Realm Below sets in motion the rich unisons and straining, soaring melodies characterizing the work as a whole. Days begins with sawing strings before exploding into an almost hysterically lush, blazing chorus.
The remaining two movements are slow, almost agonizingly so. Almost entirely motionless, Memories casts its gaze back toward darkening reflections as achingly slow heartbeats emerge and recede in tarnished mirrors. Algabal concludes with Augury, luxuriant, increasingly gloomy omens building to the final shrieks of Elagabalus’s brutal demise.