Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Eubo's last six concerts have been quite intensive for its bassoonist. With solos or soli sections in Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Éléments, as well as a number of vigorous passages in our combination suite of dances from Rameau's Zaïs, Platée, and Les Boréades, I've had to work harder than ever before in concert and there is no doubt that any bassoonist would shudder a little to think of how much energy it would take to go the distance. What kept me looking forward to every night wasn't the challenge, however, it was the opportunity to play Rameau's Entrée de Polymnie, from Les Boréades. It is one of, if not The, most beautiful pieces ever written for strings, flute, and obbligato bassoon.

As Lars, our director, says, "it's the piece I want to have played at my funeral." I agree with him. It is one of the most uncharacteristic uses of the bassoon to a modern listener yet its long, flowing lines interplay with the accompanying instruments create an incredibly supple atmosphere. It was our encore piece, too. My mother, who flew from Canada to join my extended family and friends in watching our performance at Saint John Smith's Square on the 11th, told me that it reminded her of a hymn. How right she was.

The teatrino in the palazzo reale, Napoli.
Polimnia sits second from left.
Photo courtesy of Rafael Roth
It wasn't until our final performance Sunday night, at the teatrino in the Neapolitan Palazzo Reale, that I realized that Polymnie wasn't just any other opera character. Stepping off the stage and into the hall with the music still ringing in my ears I looked up to see statues of the nine muses, Apollo, Minerva, and Mercury. It was a moment where everything about the piece seemed to make sense, "it's Polyhymnia," I said. The whole meaning of the work was turned upside down. It was no longer a simple entrée, it was a depiction, a dedication to the muse of hymns. And there she sat, second statue to the right. 

The hall wasn't simply decorated with statues, paintings, ornaments and the like, it was a temple to the muses. In fact, I realized, despite their varying degrees of decor, each hall we visited on our tour had been that same temple. It's very easy to lose that focus, however, when that context isn't readily apparent. It's that mindset, or mindspace which we must attempt to enter in order to bring forward an enlightening performance, and my moment in the teatrino saw me take two steps further in the right direction. 

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