Thursday, August 07, 2008

Nations Capital Conservative Cultural Scene Barely Finds Space For Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Copland, Poulenc, Prokofiev And John Ward Of Hull

I felt that I was finally being treated as an adult last night by Sharon Percy Rockefeller's Classical WETA-FM, as I listened to delayed broadcast performances by the National Symphony Orchestra of Edward Elgar's 'Enigma Variations', Ralph Vaughan Williams's 'shell-shocked' 'Symphony #6 in E minor' [1946-47], and Benjamin Britten's war-time 'Sinfonia da Requiem' (which was commissioned by the Japanese government). The performances and recordings were exceptionally fine, and the evening was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear three consecutive supreme 20th century musical masterpieces on presently non-curated, commercially-driven, conservative Classical WETA-FM, under Ms. Rockefeller's absentee leadership.


I see that this Sunday at 3 PM at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Kathryn Master (flute) and Rebecca Wilt (piano) will grace the Nation's Capital's downtown 'mini-renaissance' by offering a free recital of twentieth-century compositions for flute and piano, including works by Aaron Copland, Francis Poulenc, and Sergei Prokofiev. All three of these works are currently banned from Classical WETA-FM's reactionary WGMS-legacy, 'listener'-tested playlists.

I hope that under an Obama Presidency Classical-WETA -- and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for that matter -- might become as seriously and intelligently administered as is the National Gallery of Art, in the Nation's Capital (of which Sharon Percy Rockefeller is one of a handful of members of the Board of Governors).

John Ward of Hull, The Northern Whale Fishery: the "Swan" and "Isabella", c. 1840, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, 2007.114.1

[Click on image for enlargement.]


"The Northern Whale Fishery: The "Swan" and "Isabella" was unknown to modern scholarship on Ward until its appearance at auction in September 2006. Several other similar paintings of the Swan and the Isabella are extant, each with variations in the placement of the ships, the details of human activity, and the variety of marine animals shown. The Gallery's newly acquired picture is among the most beautifully painted of all of Ward's creations. The two principal ships are painstakingly rendered to capture exact details of rigging and overall form, while other vessels are depicted in the distance. Ice floes drift on the sea, and icebergs loom in the background. The scene is filled with activities associated with whaling: strips of whale flesh are loaded on the Swan at the left; a long boat tows a dead whale in the middle distance; and a boat pursues a sounding whale near the Isabella at the right. Most remarkable is the array of wildlife present, including three seals and pairs of polar bears, walruses, and narwhales; seagulls skim the water and ice, searching for, and in some cases finding, morsels of blubber.

The Gallery's collection has only a few marine pictures by British artists and none depicting an Arctic scene...."


Renaissance Research "Conservatory Project" Summer Assignment: Visit the newly acquired John Ward of Hull masterpiece at the National Gallery of Art (the National Gallery is always free) and find the narwhales in the painting. Write a tone poem, for instumentation of your choice, based upon this, or any other, painting in the collections of the National Gallery of Art.

Image and caption credit: (c) National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 2008. All rights reserved.


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