Omar Daniel’s “The Flaying of Marsyas,” was performed in the comfort of the new Canadian Museum of Civilization. Marsyas, played by the composer, hung upside down suspended half naked by his ankles inside a metal frame and wired with electrodes connecting him to an electronic effects machine run by Mark Nerenberg. All the while, and for a good long while, Erica Raum, barefoot, circled Marsyas as he writhed in agony, and played Daniel’s ritualized score on her electrified violin. Hard to take, and unforgettable. This performance piece in which the composer is a willing victim says a lot about the commitment of an artist to his work. It may help to know something about the story Daniel’s work is based on.
There are many versions of the story known from Antiquity as “The Flaying of Marsyas.” The one I prefer sees Marsyas, a satyr who is expert in the double-piped reed flute, as an artist great enough to arouse the jealousy of a god. It is the lyre-playing god Apollo who challenges and defeats Marsyas by a ruse and condemns Marsyas to have the living hairy hide flayed off his body. The tears shed by those who mourned Marsyas created a river that flows to this day in the part of Greece formerly known as Phrygia.
While we are on the topic of music and pain, bass-baritone Daniel Lichti gave a wonderful recital of Schubert’s cycle of Lieder, “Die Winterreise,” accompanied by his colleague Leslie De’ Ath. Twenty-four beautiful songs tell the story of a lover condemned to live out a loveless life as if he were a street musician barefoot in the wintry city. This seasoned pair of recitalists have performed “Winterreise” worldwide for many years and do it smooth and genuine as silk. Analekta has just issued a most welcome recording of this hour-long work that I look forward to hearing.