Original version 1961
New version 1999
First performance: 5 May 1961, Budapest
Video: Hungarian Television 1992,
On 12 April 1961, Gagarin was the first astronaut to leave the Earth and fly around it in a space capsule. The impact of this event on the then seventeen-year-old Peter Eötvös culminated in the composition of Cosmos, “as with Gagarin’s space flight the world suddenly opened up, appearing infinite” to him.
The piece begins with a musical “Big Bang” followed by the succession of the stages and episodes of the development of the cosmos. The long trill sounded in treble forte is the “oscillating axis of the universe”, continually expanding, then shrinking during the piece. “Comets” breakthrough musical space, accompanied by chords evoking constellations and descending “asteroid-scales”. A “space-ship floating between solar systems” passes before us, then the music becomes entangled in a “cloud of meteorites”. Eötvös breaks off the space journey twice, interspersing his music with short passages from Bartok’s The night’s music. Finally, the certitude of transience conquers even cosmic perpetuity – the piece ends a quarter of a second before the next “Big Bang”.
“Humour is present in all my compositions. It is a certain kind of world view, a special outlook upon life. In tragic, dramatic moments humor can mean survival. It is an attitude, a mode of behavour that can be found in the works of Shakespeare and Beckett for example. I feel that it is present in every moment of my life as well.”