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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Museum Inspirations

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During July and August, as I try and do every year, we change gears on the Tuesday Blog, and turn our attention to chamber music, or music in a chamber setting, like solo instruments. Our Podcast Vault selection for this month launches this summer tradition for us today.

Our regulars know that one of my go-to sites for this sereies is the Music Library at Boston's Gardner Museum, and so it is only fitting that we look at music that gets its inspiration from museums - and paintings.

And yes, that means Mussorgsky's masterwork Pictures at an Exhibition, in its original setting for solo piano. But it also means music from Claude Debussy and Enrique Granados.

Let's start with the short and pensive Debussy piece, inspired by The Embarkation for Cythera ("L'Embarquement pour Cythère") by the French Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau.

In the ancient world, Cythera, one of the Greek islands, was thought to be the birthplace of Venus, goddess of love. Thus, the island became sacred to the goddess and love. The painting portrays a "fête galante" (an amorous celebration or party enjoyed by the aristocracy of France during the Régence after the death of Louis XIV, which is generally seen as a period of dissipation and pleasure.) The work celebrates love, with many cupids flying around the couples and pushing them closer together, as well as the statue of Venus.

Four decades after Debussy, Francis Poulenc wrote a lively piece for two pianos which took the name of the painting for its title, "L'Embarquement pour Cythere".

Along with Mussorgsky's Pictures, the other major work is the first book of Granados' Goyescas and like the Russian work, it takes its inspiration from the art of the eighteenth century Spaniard Francisco Goya (1746-1828), specifically from a set of sketches of Spanish life that Granados had seen in the Prado museum in Madrid.

The Goyescas use passages reminiscent of the eighteenth century Spanish-resident keyboard composer Domenico Scarlatti to evoke Goya's time, fusing that aspect effectively with the Spanish nationalism for which the composer was best known (and that was certainly relevant as well to Goya's turbulent life amidst Napoleonic occupation).

Happy Listening!

Past Playlists Worth Revisiting:

ITYWLTMT Podcast Montage #19 – The Museum (Piano Edition)
(Originally issued on Friday, August 26, 2011)

Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Book I of Goyescas, op. 11
Bernard Job, piano
[Book II peformed by Alicia de Larrocha here]

Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Kartinki s vystavki – Vospominaniye o Viktore Gartmane (Pictures from an Exhibition) (1874)
Jacques Després, piano

Claude DEBUSSY (1862 –1918)
L’isle joyeuse (The happy island), L. 106
Sergey Schepkin, piano

July 5 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Polska" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more July 5 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.
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Updated Aug-01-2013 at 15:58 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music