Sinfonía de Antígona

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Sinfonía de Antígona (Antigone Symphony) is Carlos Chávez's Symphony No. 1, composed in 1933. The music originated as theatre music to accompany the tragedy of Antigone, hence the title of the symphony. The material was reworked into a single movement and rescored for a large orchestra. It lasts about 11 minutes in performance.


The Sinfonía de Antígona originated from the incidental music Chávez composed for a production of Jean Cocteau's adaptation of Sophocles' tragedy Antigone, given by the group Teatro Orientación at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1932. Chávez re-shaped some of the musical materials and orchestrated the result as his First Symphony. It was premiered in Mexico City under the composer's baton on 15 December 1933 (Slonimsky 1945, 233–34; Orbón 1987c, 79). Two movements of the original theatre music, for a chamber ensemble of seven players, was eventually published by the composer's estate as Antígona, apuntes para la Sinfonía (Antigone, sketches for the Symphony) (Chávez 2000).


The symphony is scored for piccolo, flute, alto flute, oboe, cor anglais, Heckelphone, E clarinet, two clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, eight horns, three trumpets, bass tuba, timpani, percussion (three players), two harps, and strings.


Chávez employs a modal language consciously borrowed from the Ancient Greek musical system, in particular the Greek Dorian and Hypodorian, including the Dorian chromatic genus. The obsessive use throughout the symphony of the two consecutive semitones of this genus creates a ritual atmosphere (Orbón 1987b, 82). The rhythms sometimes employ 5/8 time, taken from the ancient Greek paeonic (or cretic) meter (García Morillo 1960, 76). The harmonic idiom employed by Chávez in this symphony systematically avoids conventional triads, replacing them with quartal harmonies generated by superimposing fourths (Orbón 1987b, 83).

Although there are no programmatic references, the music's bleak and austere character reflects the drama for which it was originally created. The sparse orchestration contributes to the remote strangeness of the music through unusual unison and octave doublings, such as piccolo, clarinet, and trumpet; piccolo and Heckelphone; and oboe, clarinet, and Heckelphone (Parker 1983, 69–70).


  • Carlos Chávez: Sinfonía de Antígona, Sinfonía India; Dietrich Buxtehude (orch. Chávez): Chaconne in E minor. Orquesta Sinfónica de México; Carlos Chávez cond. 78-rpm set, 4 discs (monaural). Victor Musical Masterpiece Series. Victor Red Seal M 503 (manual sequence) and DM 503 (automatic sequence). Camden, NJ: Victor, 1938.
  • Carlos Chávez: Sinfonía india, Sinfonía de Antígona, Sinfonía romántica. Stadium Symphony Orchestra, Carlos Chávez, cond. LP recording. Everest LPBR 6029 (monaural), SDBR 3029 (stereo). [Los Angeles]: Everest Records, 1959. Reissued on CD (with the orchestra named as New York Studium Symphony Orchestra), Philips Legendary Classics 422 305-2. [West Germany]: Philips Classics Ptoductions, 1989. Reissued on CD, Everest EVC-9041. New York: Everest Records, 1996. ["Stadium Symphony Orchestra" is the name taken by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for its summer performances in the Lewisohn Stadium.]
  • The Six Symphonies of Carlos Chávez. Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México; Carlos Chávez, cond. 3-LP set (stereo). CBS Masterworks 32 31 0002 (32 11 0020, 32 11 0022, 32 11 0024). New York: CBS, 1967.
  • The Six Symphonies of Carlos Chávez. London Symphony Orchestra; Eduardo Mata, cond. 3-LP set (stereo). Vox Cum Laude 3D-VCL 9032. New York: Moss Music Group, 1983. Reissued on 2-CD set as Carlos Chávez: The Complete Symphonies. VoxBox2 CDX 5061. Hauppauge, NY: Moss Music Group, 1992. Partial reissue on CD: Carlos Chávez: Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 & 3. Vox Cum Laude MCD 10002. New York: Moss Music Group, 1983. This CD lso reissued as Vox Unique VU 9020. Hackensack, NJ: Vox Unique, 1990.
  • Chávez: Sinfonía de Antígona, Symphony No. 4 Sinfonía romántica; Revueltas: Caminos, Música para charlar, Ventanas. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Chávez); Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México (Revueltas); Enrique Bátiz, cond. CD recording (stereo). ASV Digital CD DCA 653. London: Academy Sound and Vision Ltd., 1989.
  • Chavez: Chamber Works Vol 3. Includes Antígona, apuntes para la Sinfonía, Southwest Chamber Music (Beth Pflueger, piccolo; Stuart Horn, oboe; Valerie DiCarlo, cor anglais; Jim Foschia, clarinet; Tony Ellis, trumpet; Amy Wilkins, harp; Lynn Vartan and Jeff Olsen, percussion); Jeff von der Schmidt, cond. CD recording (stereo). Cambria 8852. Lomita, CA : Cambria Master Recordings, 2005.


  • Chávez, Carlos. 1948. Sinfonía de Antígona. G. Schirmer's Edition of Study Scores of Orchestral Works and Chamber Music, no. 45. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc.
  • Chávez, Carlos. 2000. Antígona: apuntes para la sinfonía: 1932, incidental music for Cocteau's Antigone, edited by Eugenio Delgado. New York: Carlanita Music Co. ISBN 0634022989.
  • Copland, Aaron. 1967. Letter to Carlos Chávez (28 July). "The Aaron Copland Collection ca. 1900–1990". The Library of Congress: American Memory website (Accessed 30 June 2012).
  • García Morillo, Roberto. 1960. Carlos Chávez: Vida y obra. Tierra Firme. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica. ISBN 968-16-0222-6.
  • Goldman, Richard Franko. 1960. "Chávez: Sinfonía India (Symphony No. 2); Sinfonía de Antigona (Symphony No. 1); Sinfonía Romantica (Symphony No. 4). Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York, cond. Carlos Chávez. Everest LPBR-6029". The Musical Quarterly 46, no. 3 (July): 396–97.
  • Orbón, Julián. 1987a. "Las sinfonías de Carlos Chávez." (part 1) Pauta: Cuadernos de teoría y crítica musical 6, no. 21 (January–March): 63–75. Reprinted as "Las sinfonías de Carlos Chávez" in: Julián Orbón. En la esencia de los estilos y otros ensayos, foreword by Julio Estrada, 148–58. Madrid: Editorial Colibrí, 2000. ISBN 84-923550-4-2.
  • Orbón, Julián. 1987b. "Las sinfonías de Carlos Chávez." (part 2). Pauta: Cuadernos de teoría y crítica musical 6, no. 22 (April–June): 81–91.
  • Orbón, Julián. 1987c. "Las sinfonías de Carlos Chávez." (part 3). Pauta: Cuadernos de teoría y crítica musical 6, no. 23 (July–September): 67–80.
  • Orbón, Julián. 2015. "Carlos Chávez's Symphonies", translated, introduced, and annotated by Leonora Saavedra. In Carlos Chávez and His World, edited by Leonora Saavedra, 62–75. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-691-16947-7 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-691-16948-4. Translated from the Spanish liner notes for Chávez: The Complete Symphonies, London Symphony Orchestra, Eduardo Mata (cond.). Peerless Records, 1982.
  • Parker, Robert L. 1983. Carlos Chávez, Mexico's Modern-Day Orpheus. Twayne's Music Series. Boston: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-9455-7.
  • Parker, Robert. 2001. "Chávez (y Ramírez), Carlos (Antonio de Padua)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas. 1945. Music of Latin America. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bal y Gay, Jesús. 1950. "La Sinfonía de Antígona de Carlos Chávez". Nuestra Música: Revista trimestral editada en México 5:[page needed].
  • Carpentier, Alejo. 1954. "El concierto mexicano". El Nacional (Caracas) (27 November). Reprinted in Carpentier, Ese músico que llevo dentro, edited by Zoila Gómez, vol. 2: Musicologia, 218–20. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1980.
  • Rickards, Guy. 2013. "Chávez Symphonies 1–6". Gramophone (9 January).