Tuesday, April 03, 2007

National Gallery Of Art And Its Guest Musicians Promote Classical Music Humanism In Tense, Musically And Culturally Underserved, Nation's Capital

"Originally written for voice and piano, Alberto Ginastera’s Cinco canciones populares argentinas were composed during a period of political unrest in Argentina, during which the composer signed a manifesto defending artistic freedom and democratic principles, in protest of Juan Perón’s policies. In the fashion of his predecessors who drew upon folk music in their compositions, Ginastera borrowed from the folk songs and dances of the different provinces and combined these elements with twentieth-century composition practices. Each of the five songs represents a different traditional form. The Chacarera, from chakra, meaning “the farm,” is a rapid dance in triple meter from the central lowlands and northern Argentine interior. Literally meaning “sad,” in this case Triste indicates a nostalgic song of unrequited love. The Argentine Zamba bears no relation to the Brazilian samba but is a descendant of an eighteenth-century Peruvian scarf dance. A traditional lullaby, the Arrorró is the most true to its source; Ginastera left the text, the melody, and the rhythm unaltered, and put an ostinato underneath the tune. Finally, the Gato, or “cat dance,” received the highest praise when these songs were premiered in Buenos Aires. A relative of the Spanish romanza, this energetic, rhythmic dance was most popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in both urban and rural areas of Argentina.

Karen Khachaturian, nephew of the famed Aram Khachaturian, studied composition with Nikolai Miaskovsky, Vissarion Shebalin, and Dmitry Shostakovich as a young man at the Moscow Conservatory. A prolific composer, he has written works in almost every genre, ranging from solo piano pieces to chamber music, and symphonies to oratorios and ballets. In 1967 he wrote a sonata for violoncello and piano, which he dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. The work is in four compact movements, with a slow-fast slow- fast layout that pays homage to the Italian sonata da chiesa, or “church sonata.” In addition to the work’s neobaroque design, the titles of the movements trace their roots back to the baroque era (recitative, invention, aria, and toccata). However, what is most revealing is the sonata’s contrapuntal style, which expresses the complex, shifting emotions of Soviet existence. The opening cello solo (Recitativo ) establishes a world of grief, disillusionment, and despair, to which the piano responds harshly. The dialogue between the two instruments that begins in the Inventio possesses a bitter, twisted, and biting sarcasm that is combined with an underlying fear. Once again in the Aria, forces are juxtaposed: the dominant world of intimacy, love, and passion is interrupted by intense fear from time to time. Cruel reality strikes in the Toccata, which swirls in a demonic fury ridden with hysteria. The ultimate display of sarcasm occurs at the end of the sonata when the piece suddenly ends in C major.

Composer, researcher, and professor Marco Stroppa was born in Verona, Italy, on December 8, 1959. Stroppa studied composition at the Conservatories of Verona, Milan and Venice, and in 1982 he went to Paris at the invitation of Pierre Boulez to work as a composer and researcher at the Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique-musique (ircam). He still teaches at ircam as well as at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris and the Musikhochschule Stuttgart. Ay, There’s the Rub for solo cello was commissioned in 2001 for the International Rostropovich Cello Competition. The work is based on a quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To Die, to sleep. To sleep — perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub.” Delicately written, this piece evokes a striking world of sounds as it employs every type of harmonic available on a stringed instrument: natural, false, trilled, bowed, pizzicato (left and right hand), and sliding false harmonics, the last of which creates a “seagull” sound effect. In Ay, There’s the Rub, transformations and interactions take place that blend elements together, creating a sort of stream of consciousness that crystallizes at the end."

Program notes on Ginastera by Danielle DeSwert. Program notes on Khachaturian and Stroppa by Mark Kosower.

The Sixty-fifth Season of
The William Nelson Cromwell and F. Lammot Belin
National Gallery of Art

2,612th Concert
Mark Kosower, cellist
Jee-Won Oh, pianist
April 1, 2007
Sunday Evening, 6:30 pm
West Building, West Garden Court
Admission free

American classical painting and sculpture at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States

Martin Johnson Heade, American painter
Cattleya Orchid and Three Brazilian Hummingbirds, 1871
Gift of The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation


Martin Johnson Heade
American painter, 1819 - 1904

Martin Johnson Heade (originally Heed) was born in Lumberville, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on August 11, 1819. He received his earliest artistic training from the painter Edward Hicks (1780-1849) and perhaps had additional instruction from Hicks' younger cousin Thomas, a portrait painter. The influence of these two artists is evident in Heade's earliest works, which were most often portraits painted in a rather stiff and unsophisticated manner. Heade traveled abroad around 1838 (the precise date of this first European trip is uncertain), and settled in Rome for two years. He made his professional debut in 1841 when his Portrait of a Little Girl (present location unknown) was accepted for exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1843 his Portrait of a Young Lady (present location unknown) was shown at New York's National Academy of Design.

Following a second trip to Europe in 1848 Heade attained a somewhat greater artistic sophistication and began to exhibit more regularly. He moved frequently in the late 1840s and early 1850s, establishing a pattern of itinerancy that would persist throughout his life. Heade gradually concentrated less and less on portrait painting, and by the mid-1850s was starting to experiment with landscape painting. In 1859 he settled in New York, where he met Frederic Edwin Church, who became one of his few close friends in the American art world. Heade was drawn to coastal areas and began to specialize in seascapes and views of salt marshes; soon he was receiving praise for his ability to capture changing effects of light, atmosphere, and meteorological conditions.

In the late 1850s and early 1860s he began to experiment with still-life painting, an interest he would maintain for the rest of his career. He continued to travel in the eastern United States and then, in 1863, made the first of three trips to South America. Church had already been to the tropics twice, and his large-scale paintings of dramatic South American scenes had won him widespread fame and critical approval. Although Church encouraged his friend to seek out equally spectacular scenery for his own paintings, Heade was generally interested in more intimate and less dramatic views. While in Brazil in 1863 he undertook a series of small pictures called The Gems of Brazil (c. 1863-1864, Manoogian collection), showing brightly colored hummingbirds in landscape settings. He hoped to use these images in an elaborate illustrated book he planned to write about the tiny birds, but the project was never completed. Nevertheless, he maintained his interest in the subject and in the 1870s began to paint pictures combining hummingbirds with orchids and other flowers in natural settings. During these years he continued to paint marsh scenes, seascapes, still lifes, and the occasional tropical landscape.

In later life Heade's wanderings took him to various spots, including British Columbia and California. Never fully accepted by the New York art establishment--he was, for instance, denied membership in the Century Association and was never elected an associate of the National Academy of Design--Heade eventually settled in Saint Augustine, Florida, in 1883. He was married that same year and at last enjoyed a reasonably stable domestic and professional existence. He also formed the first productive relationship of his career with a patron, the wealthy oil and railroad magnate Henry Morrison Flagler, who would commission and purchase several dozen pictures over the next decade. Heade continued to paint subjects that he had previously specialized in, such as orchids and hummingbirds, but he now also turned his attention to Florida marsh and swamp scenes and still lifes of cut magnolia leaves and flowers. Heade and his work were largely forgotten by the time of his death on in St. Augustine on September 4, 1904, and it was only with the general revival of interest in American art in the 1940s that attention was once again turned to him and his reputation restored. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]."

Photo and text credit: (c) National Gallery of Art. All rights reserved. 2007. With thanks.


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