Thursday, January 16, 2014

Symphony at an Exhibition, Part 4

Barbara Albin with Sacred Subway
All good things must come to an end, and so ends my mini-series of posts about Symphony at an Exhibition. The concert was held last Sunday night, and the response of the audience to both the music and the art was even more enthusiastic than I had expected.  As people entered the lobby of the CPAC, they were treated to the ten works of art inspired by the ten movements of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.  Most of the artists were on hand to talk with symphony-goers about their works, and many people took advantage of the opportunity.  My favorite artist has to have been Barbara Albin, who brought along a little pen light so that people could really see the "icons" from abandoned NYC subway lines that she included in her work entitled Sacred Subway (interpreting the Eighth Movement).

The concert (which was, after all, the reason we were all there) was fabulous.  I have to admit to being a bit distracted during Profokiev's Romeo and Juliet, which was performed during the first half.   I was just so keyed up about the event finally coming to fruition that I found it hard to focus.  The music was gorgeous, though, and I loved Maestro Ponti's opening remarks about "art begetting art."

Then it was time for the main event -- Pictures at an Exhibition.  It was truly thrilling to listen to the music while envisioning the related works of art (both those by Hartmann and those by the VAC artists).  I made a few notes about each movement as I was listening, and I thought I'd share them.

First Movement:  Gnomus -- This movement rivals the Tenth for the top of my list.  The music is lumbering and exciting and suspenseful.  I love the slap of the reprimand to the gnome that you can clearly hear at the end of the movement.  (Thanks to Maestro Ponti's narrative when he met with the artists, I could recognize it for what it was.)

Second Movement:  Ode to a Troubadour -- This movement was romantic and had a Middle Eastern feel at times.  The classical saxophone (also featured in Romeo and Juliet) was wonderful.

Beverly Yankwitt's
Saturday at the Park
Third Movement:  Tuileries -- I could clearly envision children playing in a park as I listened to this movement.  Bev Yankwitt's painting captures the colors of a sunny day and the energy of kids hard at play. 

Fourth Movement:  Polish Ox Cart -- This movement was incredibly powerful with the imagery in my mind of an ox cart bearing its heavy load as it moves through town.  The snare drums add a military presence of the government overlooking everything that goes on, with the drums gaining strength as the oxen reach the middle of town and diminishing as they carry on.

Fifth Movement:  Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks -- The audience loved this movement, and laughed as the music called to mind little chicks dancing.   The contrast to the darkness of the Fourth Movement was quite striking.

Sixth Movement:  Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle -- I could vividly see the conversation between the two old Jewish men -- one rich and one a beggar -- while simultaneously envisioning Brenda's wonderful Conversation of Passion featuring the sandhill cranes. Stuart Kitts, concertmaster, was wonderful throughout the concert, but almost levitated during this movement.  He is a joy to watch perform.

Thalia St. Lewis'
Market at Limoges
Seventh Movement:  Market at Limoges -- The music was so fast in this movement that I found myself almost holding my breath.  I could see people scurrying around vying for the best produce and goods and women taking a break from their household duties to catch up with their neighbors.

Eighth Movement:  Catacombs -- The music in this movement was dark, and there was a distinct feeling of sadness in the somewhat dissonant horns.  As the music faded, I imagined a person moving on to the next world. 

Joy Carol's
Ninth Movement
Ninth Movement:  Hut on Fowl's Legs -- Like Joy Carol's work about the passage of time and Russian history, there was a lot happening in this movement.  The music was dramatic and exciting, and it was hard to sit still while listening.     

Tenth Movement:  Bogatyr Gates -- With a crash of cymbals and lots of wonderful tuba (an oft underappreciated instrument), I could literally hear the fireworks triumphantly exploding in the sky.

Throughout the evening, Maestro Ponti's conducting was the most expressive I've seen all season.  He--and the orchestra--clearly loved performing this repertoire.  And the audience responded in kind.  It was truly a special evening, and the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the VAC and the CSO. 

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