Some say there were only three of them in the beginning and their names meant »exercise«, »mind« und »singing«. However, the poet Hesiod has put the image of the nine Muses into our heads and it is a lasting one we cannot let go of. As daughters of Zeus, the father of the gods and Mnemosyne who personified »memory«, they were residing in their sanctuary at Mount Helicon where the source of all creative power originated from. Every night they would stroll down from up high, singing and dancing and »saying everything that is, that will be or that previously had been…«, to share their secret knowledge with the mortals. Or perhaps this happened on Mount Parnassus near Delphi from where they would spread their benedictory, civilizing activities – supervised by the god Apollo himself who is considered the leader of the Muses: as Apollo Musagetes. He embodies classical proportion, order and clarity in his sunlit brightness and yet he cannot be separated from his counterpart Dionysus forever bringing rush and ravishing raptures, without which the magic of the Muses would never emerge, a force that demolishes forms in order to create new forms for a new perception of the world

Frederick II made the image of Apollo surrounded by the Muses the leitmotif of his reign. He wanted history to consider him the Muses’ leader of his age assembling and supporting arts and sciences. At the same time the working spheres of the Muses have always been linked multifariously: dancing, poetry and other forms of the human desire for expression enter into a dialogue on Mount Parnassus, which makes all creative forces unfold and is connected by the power of music. It is this very relationship between the sister arts and music, which the Music Festival is seeking out – inspired by the genius loci of its venues as they keep providing new syntheses between music and garden art, music and painting, music and architecture but also challenge us to ask for today’s current connections between the arts.

Terpsichore, the Muse of dancing appears centre stage several times in 2019: in a modern setting with Stravinsky’s »Apollon Musagète« as well as in baroque costumes for Händel’s »Terpsichore«. Euterpe as patron of tonal art in a new design participates in the Festival in multiplied guises. She is also the Muse of flute playing – her favourite instrument, which she lost at some point in Potsdam’s Muse Turret, is presented back to her at the newly established Flute Day with flautists from all over the world and world premieres of new compositions. Thalia, the Muse of comedy and festivities bids everyone to join her COMMEDIA NIGHT at the New Palace where even Frederick II himself had comedies performed. Erato enchants audiences with Amor’s songs, Melpomene tells the tragedy of love-stricken giant Poliphemus. Urania – Muse of the sciences – teaches astronomy at the Great Refractor, Calliope – mother of Orpheus – brings magical string sounds to a number of venues and Clio offers an induction to the historical background of what was experienced. Polyhymnia too is to be found both with baroque master Henry Purcell as well as in legendary Lady Hamilton’s »tableaux vivants«.

And time and again we meet the Muses in the flesh – as human beings with outstanding gifts who spurred and spur artists in the past and present inspiring creative peak performances.

Purcell asks »Why are all the Muses mute?« in one of his wondrous odes that is performed at the opening concert. At the Music Festival Potsdam Sanssouci they do not remain silent, instead they unite their voices to an inspired dialogue overcoming space and time. Once upon a time all the Muse arts were referred to as »musiké« - this way our word music retains the memory of the original fellowship of the Muses in its inexhaustible utopian potential. In this sense the Music Festival is meant to be a festivity of the Muses and a celebration of the arts in their lively togetherness, tracing the sources of inspiration taking us beyond our boundaries to new horizons. And a place offering a life of leisure, which is needed if the Muses are to truly play freely …

Dorothee Oberlinger