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Brian Elias

Publisher: Chester Music

Pythikos Nomos (1988)
commissioned by John Edward Kelly
Chester Music Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
10 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
Clarinet in A/pf
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Programme Note
Brian Elias Pythikos Nomos (1988)
It was at the request of John- Edward Kelly that Brian Elias first decide to write a work for saxophone and piano. ‘Pythikos Nomos’ (Pyhton’s Law) is an ancient Greek musical form, invented by Sakadas in 586 BC for the Pythian games to describe the battle between Apollo and the monster on the slopes of Parnassus. It is reputedly the first known genre of programme music.

Brian decided that the characteristic sounds of the saxophone would be well suited to ancient Greek rhythms, and was interested in the implications of this form as an early sonata shape. According to legend, Apollo fought and defeated the monster on the site, which came to be called Delphi. He returned to Delphi in triumph after a period of purification escorted by priests singing hymns of praise. Several versions of the instrumental form exist following the general storyline. Brian chose to base his piece around six sections: (i) Peira (introduction), (ii) Kataleusmos (Apollo incites the monster to battle), (iii) Imabikon (the battle), (iv) Spondeion (hymn of victory), (v) Katachoreusis (victory dance) (vi) Syrinxes (the last breaths of the dying monster). The central hymn of victory incorporates a quote from the first Delphic Hymn, a surviving fragment of ancient Greek music.

  • Ensemble
    John Edward Kelly/Bob Versteegh
    John Edward Kelly (alto saxophone), Bob Versteegh (Piano)
    Col Legno:
Their characterful and spirited playing also made a superb case for Brian Elias's Pythikos Nomos, modelled on an ancient Greek form and quite wonderful in its twisting lines and evocations of ritual.
Guy Dammann, The Guardian,08/01/2014
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