The score to David Matthews’ The Flaying of Marsyas

A concertino for violin, oboe and string quartet, The Flaying of Marsyas (1987) is inspired by Titian’s painting, which depicts the satyr Marsyas skinned alive by Apollo after losing their musical contest. Matthews’ 18-minute piece, first performed by Neil Black and the Spohr Quartet, imagines the music played by a figure in the scene, and depicts the struggle of Marsyas’ oboe and Apollo’s violin. A primordial opening in the strings gives way to Marsyas’ discovery of the oboe in a cadenza, and his triumph in mastering it; the violin and oboe then increasingly try to outdo each other before the grisly flaying. In a postlude their music combines to hint at reconciliation.