The program, entitled "Different Trains: String Quartets," included Britten's Three Divertimenti for String Quartet, and Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7 in F-Sharp Minor. Before playing, I gave an introduction about both pieces. Britten completed his Three Divertimenti in 1936, when he was twenty, after a composition process that saw the piece in many different forms. He had originally conceived of these three movements as part of a five-movement character sketch of five classmates. The three movements (March, Waltz, and Burlesque) are distinct in character but consistently embody similar elements of energy, youthfulness, charm, and irony. These elements are also pervasive in Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7, which he wrote in memory of his first wife Nina in the same year that he was forced to join the Communist Party. We offered a performance of both works on three different concerts throughout yesterday afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed each performance and the differing vibe with each group of museum visitors.
I love this series and I hope it continues for a long, long time. Pairing music and art offers cross-cues for experiencing both mediums-- art can inform the music, and the music offers aural cues to provoke thoughts on the art. This isn't to say that there is only one way to interpret works of either medium. Rather, this creates an active, artistic experience for both museum visitors and the performers. As performers in this day and age, this is our challenge-- we must always think about how we can create new and unexpected ways to share our art with the public, and consider ways in which we can offer our own artistic commentary through presentation and programming. In the future, I'd love for this series to figure out a more active, welcoming way for the listeners to engage in dialogue with the artists, and vice versa. If you were at Music in the Galleries yesterday afternoon, I'd love to hear your thoughts on your experience!
A huge thank you to Curtis and the Philadelphia Art Museum for ongoing inspiration and a wonderful afternoon, and certainly to Nigel, Ike, and Arlen for their incredible artistry and friendship.