Composer: Longstaff, Edward
Publisher: Masters Music
Aegeus for oboe and piano
by Edward Longstaff (b. 1965)
When the Greek hero Theseus sailed away to do battle with the Minotaur, his father, King Aegeus, feared greatly for his life. In order not to endure the anxiety a moment longer than necessary, he asked Theseus to change the black sail of his ship to white if he was victorious, and spent each day alone on a cliff-top watching for the vessel's return. Theseus's quest was successful, but in the elation of slaying the Minotaur he forgot his promise. Seeing the black sail, the despairing Aegeus threw himself from the cliff into the sea which has borne his name to the day- the Aegean.
This piece is a mediation on Aegeus's vigil, motionless and noble, his thoughts a turmoil of alternating hope and fear. Towards the end of the work, over a rhythmic piano ostinato, the oboe (which identifies with the King throughout) increasingly builds a sense of wild elation at thoughts of Theseus's victory and return, giving way at the climax to feelings of despair and bereavement. Crashing chords in the bass and the cries of the oboe are portents of what is to come when he sees the black sail, but the ending leaves Aegeus still on the cliff-top; solitary and waiting.