Tuesday, 24 May 2016

In the company of two giants

In the company of two giants

Today it was such a pleasure to receive a hard copy of last Wednesday's Wall Street Journal and to find myself, or rather my watercolour painting, at the top of Page D5 in the company of two giants in music and art: violinist Yehudi Menuhin and painter William Turner. Of course, my ego is sunbathing in the reflected light of those headlines "Rediscovering a Maestro" (Menuhin) and "A Leviathan Talent" (Turner)! 

But seriously, both of these great men have illuminated my life and work. Turner firstly through his paintings in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (just across the street from my art college), then through his luminous watercolours in the London Tate Gallery. And Yehudi as a dear friend and an inspiration for many musical watercolours that led me towards my kinetic paintings of transparent colour.
Only last Tuesday could that intrepid WSJ Arts Editor Eric Gibson track me down on vacation in Portugal, to get permission to crop my painting of Yehudi as a visual header for the thoughtful article by David Mermelstein - and voilà - by Wednesday morning it was in the Journal! And subsequently in the Weekend Arts Journal. 

On that same Wednesday evening Daniel Hope was playing a concert in Birmingham Town Hall as an Homage to Yehudi Menuhin - in the very same hall where I, as an art student, got my first taste of classical music at free lunch-time concerts. A mere stone's throw from those Turners.

Talk about serendipity! And hey, over two million viewers/readers is rather more than I usually get at an exhibition. Here's the WSJ link to Mr Mermelstein's fine article: Rediscovering a Maestro and to my un-cropped painting. Thank you, Eric Gibson.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Four great milestones

Four great milestones.

Birmingham, Amsterdam, Geneva, Berlin. Four different projects in quick succession. Each a significant milestone that made me pause, look back thankfully and marvel at inspiring friendships - and at the closing of some great chapters in my life. 
In Birmingham Andrew Jowett retired as Director of Symphony Hall, where he commissioned thirty-two of my paintings. On stage for the unveiling of my painting of Andrew, as described in my previous blog.

Back in  Amsterdam I shared the Dutch TV music programme Podium Witteman with Lis Perry and Liviu Prunaru, both former students of Yehudi Menuhin and now concertmasters of great orchestras, to speak of our friendship with this wonderful man, then join in an audio-visual extract from Bach's Double Violin Concerto. Here's the link - it's in Dutch.
Norman Perryman & Lis Perry celebrate Yehudi Menuhin at 100.
Then it was quite nostalgic to re-visit Geneva, where I lived, exhibited, taught art, set up the Visual Arts programme of the International Baccalaureate, collaborated with left-wing journalist friends in NGO activities in the 1970's and made film around my kinetic painting with music for Télévision Suisse Romande in 1976. Wow, a significant period of my life.

Now, forty years later, I'm invited by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), an agency of the United Nations, to put on a performance of kinetic painting at a major conference in their beautiful new hall. How fulfilling. But was it a little bit of the devil in me to propose l'Histoire du Soldat (composed by Stravinsky on the Lake of Geneva in 1918)? How appropriate for this city of wealth and power, the story of how the soldier sold his violin (his soul) to the Devil, in exchange for a book that "tells you things before they happen" and provides "wealth untold"! Alas, the soldier become millionaire realizes that after all, in reality he has nothing. Terribly familiar? It was great to share the stage with the Ludwig Ensemble, but especially with my son Chris King Perryman, playing the Narrator. His mother Vivian King, whom I met in Geneva in 1974 when she was studying with the cellist Pierre Fournier, would have been so proud.

From Geneva I flew straight to Berlin, for a performance with Daniel Hope and Sebastian Knauer, one of the wonderful series in honour of our dear Yehudi Menuhin, who would have been 100 on April 22nd. There I met many old friends and his daughter Zamira, with whom I was able to share memories of my friendship with Yehudi, illustrated in my memoir "A Life Painting Music". Two of my paintings of him were illustrated in the Konzerthaus Festschrift.

The banner on the facade of Konzerthaus Berlin announces "Music heals, brings comfort and joy". That's what Yehudi lived for. What joy he and Daniel brought to me as I shared in this great festival! Our performance to a packed hall and discussion with audience was received with enormous enthusiasm - they just wouldn't let us go! Warmest thanks to the whole production team. The concert was recorded for television by Deutsche Welle and hopefully will be screened later this month.
Konzerthaus Berlin
Rehearsing with Daniel and Sebastian in the Kleine Saal.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A great Director retires

Andrew Jowett in Symphony Hall Birmingham

Last night was a momentous occasion, as hundreds from the world of classical music gathered on the stage to celebrate the achievements of the retiring Director of Symphony Hall Birmingham. This was a milestone for me too, a celebration of my long friendship with Andrew Jowett, going back to his first commissions in 1990, for what was to become the largest collection of my work in the world: thirty-two paintings of great musicians he programmed to perform in this great hall - Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink and more.

During the last twenty-eight years Andrew Jowett and Symphony Hall became inseparable. So I’ve portrayed Andrew standing with disarming modesty, proud yet relaxed, as he warmly welcomes us into his second home. His gaze betrays the understanding and wisdom of his long experience as Director. I see him as a pillar of strength amidst the music that swirls around him in the renowned acoustics and beautiful colours of ”his” concert hall. The free brush-strokes of this watercolour also reflect an imaginative and dynamic entrepreneur, still full of ideas, even as he retires. The background is a reference to my painting The Mahler Experience - perhaps the most popular of all the paintings he commissioned me to paint for the Symphony Hall Collection. See you around, Andrew - we know that you have much more to offer the world.

Andrew Jowett in Symphony Hall Birmingham
Watercolour 70 x 52 cm, Norman Perryman, 2016.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A synergy of colour & music in Berlin

A Synergy of Colour & Music in Berlin

Even though the great Yehudi Menuhin has passed on, his music and his voice will always be an inspiration to me. I hear it in my head every time I walk into my studio. Twenty-five years ago Yehudi's left this voice-mail message for me, that was later included in the BBC film about my work Concerto for Paintbrush and Orchestra. I still find the sound of his kind voice incredibly moving.

Yehudi was a visionary. He was not only very supportive of my watercolours, but he understood how I was trying to bring art and music together in a new art form. In fact he was the first major musician to ask me to create paintings live on French Television to his performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, filmed by the legendary Bruno Monsaingeon in 1979. 

Now Daniel Hope, after his lifelong personal friendship with Yehudi, has wondrously brought us all together again with a concert of music and painting, together with pianist Sebastian Knauer, for the centenary Homage to Yehudi Menuhin in Konzerthaus Berlin, on April 25th. Our concert Live: Musik und Malerei, will include discussion on the powerful synergy of colour and music. 

In Daniel's book Sounds of Hollywood he explains how that in the early nineteen-thirties composer Max Steiner was given the opportunity to compose and commission music that would underscore the emotions and dynamics of movies throughout the whole film - a major development towards what we now know as "film-music", music that now plays a leading dramatic role in all movies. I am doing exactly the reverse, creating synchronized kinetic images to underscore and elucidate the emotions, drama and structure of the music, in this case William Walton's Sonata for Violin and Piano. 

Jeremy Grimshaw writes of this work: "The genesis...is one of the most unusual and bittersweet in music history. Beginning in the mid-1930s, Walton enjoyed the close romantic companionship of Alice Wimborne, a prominent music patroness. On their way to a vacation in Capri in 1947, Lady Wimborne became ill (it turned out to be cancer) and required immediate treatment. By chance, Walton met the wife of violinist Yehudi Menuhin on a train, who offered to pay for the emergency treatment. As a gesture of gratitude, Walton offered to compose a work for violin and piano to be performed by Yehudi and the husband of his wife's sister, the pianist Louis Kentner. The story gets even more intriguing from there: by the time the work was finished the following year, Lady Wimborne had passed away and Walton had married. Thus, it is not without reason that his biographers hear in this work a strange and poignant mixture of romantic lyricism, elegiac sorrow, and optimistic contentment". 
These are precisely the characteristics that I hope to reflect in my choice of colours and graphic choreography for Walton's wonderful Sonata. Here are a few stills from my kinetic painting. 

See you in Berlin!