Monday 8 January 2018

Art is in Residence

Art is in Residence 
at the Zürich Chamber Orchestra

I feel most honoured that my friend Daniel Hope, music director of the Zürich Chamber Orchestra, has asked me to join a number of distinguished artists such as actress Katja Riemann, choreographer Heinz Spoerli, photographer David Yarrow and others in his series Art is in Residence. Last season also saw the legendary actor Klaus Maria Brandauer as the Narrator of The Soldier's Tale. 

So I'm looking forward to the challenge of an audio-visual premiere on January 30th. in the Maag-Areal Hall, Zürich (here's the linkwhen I paint live to the music of Stravinsky's "Basler" Concerto in D for strings (not to be confused with his Violin Concerto). Several ballet versions have been mounted to this work, but this must be a first with live kinetic painting.
The first page Vivace, with the violas providing the calligraphy
Daniel shares my conviction that the juxtaposition of music with other art forms often results in an extraordinary synthesis that is enlightening  and enjoyable for artists and audience alike. 
Asymmetric abstract shapes, reflecting some of the interrupted rhythms.

Commissioned by Paul Sacher in 1946, a year after Stravinsky was given American citizenship, this is not a well-known work. Yet it's bright, accessible, nostalgic, virtuosic - Typically Stravinsky, it's full of interrupted rhythms and changing time signatures - a bit like a box of crazy bonbons - you are just enjoying one when the next one steals your attention, but you can't quite figure out what the centre is. Actually I found it quite difficult to memorise. Maybe no problem for a professional musician, but my instrument is the paintbrush! I had to design a choreography of brushstrokes that somehow reflect the score, provide its colour and dynamic and be executed in "real time", or instantaneously. Total madness! When you first look at the score you think oh no! But after endless practice I don't have to count anymore - the whole thing is flowing through my veins and my fingers will know what to do.
Below: Eight different time signatures in eleven bars of my annotated score! Don't even try to count them. Above: Sudden blobs of purple at number 34, streaking out then sadly softening.

Perhaps through his best-known works: the three ballets Petrushka (1910), Firebird (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1912), resulting from his collaboration with the celebrated impresario Sergei Diaghilev, Stravinsky became the classic twentieth-century example of music- theatre. He brought together the art forms of painting, choreography, story-telling and music as one total work of art: Gesamtkunstwerk.

The surprisingly gentle lilting second movement (Arioso). Perhaps tongue in cheek, before we are jerked awake by the energy of the violas in the final Allegro Rondo.

Even the First World War couldn't silence him - isolated in Switzerland in 1918, he fused poetry, dramatic narration and music into The Soldier's Talethat I hope to perform this year  in Essen, when Daniel Hope will not only play the violin part, but make his acting debut in the role of the Soldier.  
  The rather neurotic splayed brush, twisting and dabbing, having fun with the sienna splatters towards the end of the final movement.