Sergei Slonimsky: Farewell to a Friend


Sergei Slonimsky: Farewell to a Friend (1966)
for high voice and piano

The Sumerian-Akkadian “Epic of Gilgamesh” was first translated into Russian by a famous orientalist Igor Diakonoff and published by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1961.

In this epic, which is one of the oldest literary monuments that have survived to our days, the image of Death, non-existence, is presented. Several wedge-writing tables are devoted to a bitter complaint of a brave hero Gilgamesh after the death of his friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh mourns for a friend and foresees his own death, the terrible and eternal Non-existence, to be faced by all people.

It is this semantic refrain of the epic that has been set to music in the vocal scene “Farewell to a Friend”. In this composition, some new methods of phonation were used for the first time in the Soviet Union — protracted play and piano-string clusters, music-stand claps, key playing with clamped strings, as well as free-flowing non-measured beat rhythmics and additional microtone intervals in the vocal part.

This musical and poetic composition has a tragic philosophical implication, not connected with any particular historical epoch or a narrative situation.

The vocal/piano scene is quite complicated in terms of performance and requires a dramatically conceptualized interpretation.