Marsyas, by the Ensemble Instrumental de l’Ariège
Solo Flute (+ Piccolo), Harp obligato,
Picc. (+ Fl.), 2 Fl. (+ Alto Fl.), 2 Ob. (+ Eng.Hn.),
2 Bsns (+ Cbsn), Eb Cl.,
Bb Cl. I-II-III, Alto Cl., Bass Cl., Cb. Cl.,
2 A. Sax., T. Sax., Bar. Sax.,
4 Hns, 2 Cnts, 2 Tpts (+ Flhn), 3 Trbs,
1 Euph., 1 Tuba, Cb., 5 Perc.
Level: Grade 5
Tales of transformation were widely popular in Greek and Roman Antiquity. There are lots of stories linked to this subject, but the collection of amazing tales by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC–17 AD) is surely the most memorable source. The fifteen books of Ovid’s narrative poem Metamorphoses describe the creation of the world and the transformations of gods and humans into animals, plants, and a wide variety of other things. Among Ovid’s numerous stories, one can find the story of Marsyas, a satyr native of Celaenae in Phrygia. Marsyas, son of Hyagnis (who is said to have created the Phrygian harmony), excelled in music.
One day Athena created a double flute. Proud of her invention she came to one of the gods’ many banquets to play. After Hera and Aphrodite had mocked her in her playing, she went off to play her flute by the banks of a river where she could see her own reflection as she blew. When she saw how her face became distorted, she hurled the flute away and placed a curse on anyone who picked it up. The flute was found by the satyr Marsyas who became very skillful with it, delighting all the peasants from the Phrygian hills. His audience declared that not even god Apollo himself could make better music on his lyre. When this news reached Apollo, it so much angered him that he invited the satyr to a musical contest, the winner of which should inflict any punishment he pleased on the loser. King Midas and the Muses were called upon to be the jury. As they were unable to declare either of them the winner, Apollo played his lyre upside down and demanded that Marsyas did the same – a feat ill-suited to the flute. King Midas and the Muses had no other choice but to award the contest to Apollo. The god’s revenge was dreadfully cruel for he tied Marsyas to a pine tree and flayed him alive.
Some say that Apollo quickly repented for what he had done and turned Marsyas’s body into a river; others say that either the satyr’s blood or the many tears of those mourning the cruel death of Marsyas gave rise to the river that came to bear his name.
Marsyas was first performed on July 22nd, 2005 in Bordes sur Arize (France) by the Ensemble Instrumental de l’Ariège, Éric Villevière, conductor, with the Flute soloist Claude Roubichou (Solo Piccolo of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse) and the Harpist Anne-Claire Cazalet.
Marsyas, by the Banda Municipal de Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain)
recorded at the Teatro Principal in Vitoria-Gasteiz, on April 25, 2018
Narrator: Elisa Rueda
Flute/piccolo: Alberto Itoiz
Harp: Hegoa Intxauspe