- Written by Sílvia
The musical illustration is supposed to be the most important thing in my blog posts, but six years ago, online gurus warned that posting without graphic illustrations was virtually a digital suicide. So, I had to think what kind of images could illustrate my texts and songs. The singer's photograph? Sooner or later I would run out of photos and would have to reuse them. The same thing would happen with pianists, composers or poets. What about the album cover? But, not always there is an album available. Then I got it: a painting! It would somehow be a divertimento to find a painting for every post. And thanks to this decision, now I have a word for the Q letter in Liederabend's alphabet: Q is for Quadres, that's to say, for paintings. Otherwise, finding another word for such an unusual letter would have been a real problem!
The first painting I chose was almost as inevitable as the first song: Schubert at the piano, by Gustav Klimt and An die Musik by Franz Schubert. Thinking about that post, I realised that I don't usually mention the paintings, beyond its title and the author. That's why, today, I would like to wrap up how this work came about. The business magnate Nikolaus Dumba wanted to decorate several rooms of his residence in Vienna; painter Franz Matsch oversaw the whole project and he commissioned Gustav Klimt the paintings in the music salon. Seemingly, the pianist who appeared in his first sketches didn't represent any known person; Dumba asked Klimt to represent Schubert and lent him the portrait that Leopold Kupelwieser had made of the composer and he held at that time. That was in 1899; A few years later, this painting and other works by Klimt, including the allegory of the music which shared the music salon with Schubert, were already in August and Serena Lederer hands; they were friends with the painter and also collectors of his work. The Lederer were Jews, and in 1940 the Nazis confiscated from Serena (August had died some years before) her immense art collection. She fled to Budapest, where she died three years later, and the Gestapo moved the Klimt collection to Schloss Immerdorf, a castle where plenty works of art were to be protect from the ravages of war. But on May 7, 1945, when the German army withdrew from the castle, they decided that they wouldn't allow the Russians to have those treasures, and before they left, they set fire to the castle. That's why we only know Schubert am Klavier through copies and reproductions.
I’ve shared more pictures by Klimt and more portraits of composers. For example, in this fragment of Beethoven's frieze, also by Klimt, Mahler is supposed to be portrayed; In this painting of Boleslas Biegas, we can see Wagner. We also had poets' portraits, such as this one of Goethe, by Johann Tischbein, this one of Jacint Verdaguer, painted by Ramon Casas, and even a self-portrait of a performer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The singer hasn't been the only person related to the song that contributed the graphic illustrations; some poets were also painters (or the other way around), as Rosetti, Michelangelo or Blake.
One of my favourite portraits is that of Juliette Drouet, painted by Jules Bastien-Lepage; she was the woman who inspired Victor Hugo the poem that became Fauré's Le papillon et la fleur, one of our buggy songs. Finding images to illustrate the ten buggy songs wasn't that easy, so the result is a heterogeneous set. I had to turn often to still life paintings, although I don't particularly like them, because there are usually bugs (at the end, I kept some left, just in case). Between one bug and another a dragon snaked, an illustration by Pilarín Bayès, a benchmark for every Catalan child; from time to time I like to use some children illustrations, usually in "atypical" posts, such as the little polar bear of H. Lincoln or the Walt Disney's ducklings.
Some songs had their own picture before I even thought of writing about them; Befreit, for example, was linked, in my mind, to this painting of Picasso, and the first cradle song here had to be illustrated by this drawing, also by Picasso. In other cases, it was the other way around; This landscape of Akseli Gallen Kallela or this lovely painting by John Singer-Sargent waited for their song patiently. Other works, such as The Charge, by Ramon Cases, arose imposed by the circumstances. Some paintings were tied to friends: I knew the song for The Corn Poppy, Britten's Cradle Song for Eleanor, as soon as I saw the painting, but it had to wait for its moment. On the contrary, it was difficult for me to find the song for this photograph, Carmen taking the tea, by L. Bassmann; now, some years later, I think that it really fits its song, Geheimes.
That's not the only photo I've ever used; there are some of singers, album covers or even some photos taken by me, but I also chose this pearl by Eric Enstrom, taken around 1918, or this striking Lichtenberg figure. But talking about photos, the most special one is that of "our" lovely children. And, two more exceptions, the two sculptures, both published last year: the Ganymedes of Thorvaldsen and the Faune Barberini.
I usually choose well-known works, exhibited in museums, but, occasionally, I've chosen contemporary works that I found on some artists' web pages; it's a bit risky, because I could be requested to remove them by some authors. It happened once; it was a pity, because it was a beautiful painting perfectly appropriated for the chosen song, but, of course, every author decides where his (her, in this case) work is reproduced. So, where some time ago, there was the painting of a lily-of-the-valley, there is a Monet's painting now. But I still choose recent paintings, when they fit so well their songs like this or this one. And a last confession before going to the music: I don't keep a list of the paintings I've been sharing, so sooner or later (maybe it already happened) I will repeat some without realizing.
The song that I'm sharing this week is special, it is a gift from a reader, soprano Cecilia Montemayor. When I listened to the album I thought this song would musically illustrate the paintings. It is a very brief song, only two verses and barely 40 seconds of music, by the Mexican composer José Hernández Gama. His title is Museo (Museum), it must be our song today, mustn’t it! I don't know which painting named "Universe in green" should have thought the poet, José Emilio Amores; I think of a Rothko's painting. To me, it's difficult to go away from it, I can imagine the power of the green eyes mentioned by the poet. Our illustration today is, however, as in the whole series, an illuminated initial; with the letter Q, Saint George visits us in February. I hope you like the song, interpreted as I told you by Cecilia Montemayor and pianist Cliff Jackson. Thank you very much, Cecilia!
Corri hasta la casa, corri hasta la casa y te pedí los ojos.
I ran home, I ran home, and asked for your eyes.