Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Portraits of music

In 2004 I presented an exhibit called "Portraits of Music". These were seven works of art (mostly multimedia sculptures) which portrayed seven movements of chamber music works. The exhibit was at the Rimon Gallery in Tel Aviv. Visitors to the exhibit were given tape recorders, and could listen to the music as they looked at the art pieces.

Here they are, along with the text explanations of each:

J.S. Bach, The Art of the Fugue, Bwv 1080

A work that is at once intimate and symphonic: a simple melody, played with itself and against itself, from top to bottom, forward, backward, and inside out.  A simple melody that builds into an architectural monument of brilliance, that is, actually, only a reflection of the melody itself.

(Emerson Quartet)

Johannes Brahms, Piano Quartet no 2, Opus 26, first movement, “Allegro Non Troppo”

First, movement that is precisely balanced like a dancer on a tightrope; then music that flows like water from a spring. Two states of motion that are in essence one, that speaks of renewal, youth and the burst of spring.

(SpringLightMusic, September 20, 2010. Ralf Gothóni - piano, Ana Chumachenco - violin, Ara Gregorian - viola, Robert Cohen - cello, www.springlightmusic.com, Helsinki Spring Light Chamber Music 2010)

L.V. Beethoven, String Quartet Opus 132, Movement IV, “Heileger Danksgesang”

Beethoven’s prayer of thanksgiving after recovery from a terrible ailment: Choirs of angels sing songs of praise in celestial harmony.  Then, an awkward and clumsy dance, the dance of a man first rising from his bed after a long illness, moving at first gracelessly, then gradually more secure and firm, and finally with a flow that leads back to the celestial choir.

Bela Bartok, String Quartet no 6, Sz 114, Movement IV: “Mesto – Burletta”

A work written by Bartok on the eve of the rise of Nazism in Hungary and his forced exile to America.  A work that is tragic, black and depressing; and, in the middle this movement, a burlesque, a burst of hysterical and forced mirth.  Some moments are truly funny, but always the laughter is uncomfortable, and the signs of catastrophe are always in the background.

(Avalon string quartet)

Robert Schumann, Piano Quartet Opus 47, Movement III, “Scherzo Allegro Vivace”

A melody that rolls on and on, rising, falling, changing colors and textures, but always rolling and rolling; a melody with a wry smile, sometimes mock serious, the music of elves hiding under the bushes.  Now a rest; and then, again, the endless melody that unravels like a loose thread from an old sweater.

Arnold Schoenberg, Verklarte Nacht, Opus 4

Magic of night, scent of jasmine, light of a moon that illumines illusions.  Sounds of night that echo and rebound, arising from everywhere at once in an endless counterpoint of voices.

W.A. Mozart, String Quintet K. 515, movement III, “Andante”

A song of love, a sensuous dance of man (violin) and woman (viola) that are two but in essence one.  The dance turns and rolls and leads to an outburst of ecstasy.  It is a dance that does not hide the sexuality and the desire of love.  And in the end, who is the man and who is the woman?  For they are woven together into a fabric that cannot be unraveled.

(John Harding, 1st violin, Jan Paul Tavenier, 2nd violin, Andrew Sparrow, 1st viola, Teresa Jansen, 2nd viola, Gregor Horsch, violoncello. Recorded live in Den Haag (NL), Dr. Anton Philipszaal, May 1995)

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