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Imagination and strength

The Gilgamesh epic -
recounted by ROBERT ANDERSON

'... Zdenek Kosler admirably explores the depth of meaning Martinu revealed in the ancient tale ...'

Bohuslav Martinu: The Epic of Gilgamesh. © 2002 HNH International Ltd

The fullest version of the Gilgamesh epic comes from the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-630), though its origins can be traced to the third millennium BC. The cuneiform tablets were discovered in 1853, making a sensational impact when it was realised in 1872 that one section contained an account of the flood. Part of the story was missing, and the Daily Telegraph put up a thousand guineas for further excavation. The newspaper's gamble paid off, and the 'flood' account remains the most complete section of the epic. Martinu, though, confines himself to the human interest of the tale, concentrating on the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, two mighty figures, who share adventures but come up against the wrath of gods so that Enkidu must die. It is through the loss of his friend that Gilgamesh must face the inevitability of death. Martinu makes selective use of half the twelve tablets recovered from Nineveh. The oratorio was written in 1955, when Martinu enjoyed the leisure afforded by a Guggenheim scholarship to spend a couple of years in Nice.

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Copyright © 11 August 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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