Ballet

Music and Art: O'Keeffe and Still

By Cathy Fuller   |   Friday, January 14, 2011
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Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven’t time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small.

So I said to myself - I’ll paint what I see - what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it - I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.


These thoughts appeared in a letter written by Georgia O’Keeffe, whose painted flowers overwhelm their canvases with her marvelous, signature style.

Born in Wisconsin in 1887, O’Keeffe studied in Chicago and New York. There was a time of discouragement, though -- a point when she realized that she was seeing in her art an unhealthy sense of obligation to please the public. She began creating abstract charcoal drawings. In 1916 the American photographer and art gallery director Alfred Stieglitz (whom she married in 1924) became interested in those drawings and exhibited them at his gallery in New York City; her work was shown annually in Stieglitz's galleries until his death in 1946. She moved to New Mexico in 1949, a place that attracted her deeply and felt like home.

The painting White Rose with Larkspur, No. 2 is a product of 1927 and hangs in the Art of the Americas wing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Delicate and powerful, I love its color and size. Its uncountable petals seem to crowd out the rest of the world. Busy Bostonians, like the New Yorkers O’Keeffe gently scolds, need to take time, too. I hope you can find some time for it.



Here in our Host Notes, I’m bringing you art in pairs: a piece of music paired with one of the pieces of art in the Art of the Americas Wing. I’m finding pairs that were created in the same year. Even artists with opposing approaches, I’ve found, compel us to find connections.

Today I’ve got a couple of pieces to share with you. The first was composed by William Grant Still in the year that O’Keeffe painted her White Rose. Still was an extraordinary man – the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. He’s known as "the dean" of African-American composers. Below is a clip from his ballet score “La Guiablesse”, a ballet commissioned by Chicago Allied Arts with a story based on a legend of Martinique.

Still: La Guiablesse - Final Scene (excerpt)


The second is a setting of the excerpts from the O’Keeffe letter above. Contralto Elizabeth Anker sent that excerpt to her friend, the composer Francine Trester asking her to turn it into a song. Elizabeth sang the result with pianist John McDonald, and here is a clip from that studio performance:

Trester:  Nobody Sees a Flower (excerpt)


If either of these pieces, O’Keefe’s painting, or her story hold a particular resonance with you, I’d love to hear it! Post a comment below.


 

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker

Monday, October 18, 2010
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Hear a new recording of Tchaikovsky's beloved ballet from the Berlin Philharmonic and conductor Sir Simon Rattle.  (photo:  courtesy of the artist)

Oct. 18: Rattle and the Magic of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker

By Cathy Fuller   |   Friday, October 15, 2010
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Sir Simon Rattle says that he wasn’t always a huge Tchaikovsky fan.  “As a young man, as a timpanist, I played and listened to too many bad performances of Tchaikovsky.”  He liked the ballets, but didn’t listen to the entire Nutcracker till relatively late on.  His friends said, “Have you any idea where Petrushka came from?  If you don’t know where Stravinsky stole it all from, you’d better listen to the first act of The Nutcracker.”

Sir Simon has just recorded the entire ballet with the Berlin Philharmonic, and he’s had a pretty wonderful time of it.  “We fell in love with this music, rehearsing and performing it, and we think it’s magic.”

It’s astonishing, Rattle says, “that you could write such original music when the choreographer not only told you what the plot was, but how long every section of music was.  That now there will be 64 bars where you’ll do this, there’ll be an eight-bar transition, there will be this type of music.  The detail that Petipa instructed Tchaikovsky to write in is unprecedented.  And yet he could still produce music like this.  He was probably, at this stage of his life, the most deeply depressive composer there’s ever been. He left someone like Mahler standing.  But he could write music of such joy and generosity, and that’s hard for me to put together.”

I believe in the magic of the Nutcracker, too.  My daughter Alexandra danced it every year at the Walnut Hill School, and she thrilled at becoming Clara one year.  Night after night after night I was immersed in this score.  It carries its dancers into an extravagant universe of color and atmosphere, in a beautiful and revolutionary way.  

This morning at 10:00, please listen in for extracts from Sir Simon Rattle’s newest EMI release:  The Nutcracker.  Take a few minutes if you can for the reminder of the spellbinding beauty in the dancing of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland below.

And in case you didn’t know, Simon Rattle is conducting an orchestra of Boston Symphony musicians on December 5th at Jordan Hall to aid in the fight against breast cancer. The Concert for the Cure program features Mahler’s Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5, the Brahms Symphony No. 2, and pianist Marc-André Hamelin plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, K.453. The evening happens thanks to flutist and cancer-survivor Julie Scolnik, with the help of The Susan G. Komen Foundation.
(photo:  Peter Adamik for EMI)


Oct. 14: Finding the Dance

By Cathy Fuller   |   Thursday, October 14, 2010
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Mark Morris  reaches into music and finds its dancers within. His insight into scores is miraculous.  For me, there is tremendous reward in discovering the deep, internal dance in music.  In my performing days, I often imagined choreography in my lonely, isolated practice sessions.  And in my radio days, I've enjoyed hearing from choreographers that they've heard something they'd like to bring to the stage.

Tonight is opening night for the Celebrity Series of Boston, and   the Mark Morris Dance Group begins a four-day run at the Cutler Majestic.  Listen today at noon to hear the music that inspired this new dance,  the second string quartet by Heitor Villa-Lobos. You'll also hear Barber's marvelous set of piano pieces called "Excursions", also danced on this program.

Learn more at the Boston Globe, and check out these two videos:  the first features Mark Morris talking through his approach to choreography, and the second a great example of that choreography come to life.  (Photo:  Gene Schiavone for Mark Morris Dance Group)





Jared Bowen's Arts Ahead: Keep it Real

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, March 1, 2012
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March 1, 2012

ballet

Altan Dugaraa, Sarah Wroth and Yury Yanowsky by Gene Schiavone



BOSTON — Fans of the performing arts can contemplate what makes a work of art this weekend, with three events: ballet that reveals the pure essence of the dance, circus acrobats that take the body's performance to the extreme without any fanfare, or play about a painting and its inherent value.

Play with Fire
The Boston Ballet interrupts its season with three incredible, cutting-edge works, including Jorma Elo’s Sharp Side of Dark, a revival of Jirí Kylián’s Bella Figura, and a Company premiere of Christopher Bruce’s Rooster, featuring music of The Rolling Stones. 
At the Boston Opera House through March 11

Circa's CIRCA
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
At the Paramount Theatre through March 4th

Circa is a performance troupe from Brisbane, Australia that currently consists of 14 members. With no elaborate sets or gymnasticscontraptions, performers use their own bodies and mesmerizing skills to conjure classic circus showmanship with a touch of Vaudeville. CIRCA explores the modern circus: no clowns, no animals, no flames.  Just raw human skill and acrobatic feats with ropes, aerial feats, hoops and trapeze acts. 

Bakersfield Mist
Presented by New Repertory Theatre
At The Arsenal Center for the Arts (Watertown) through March 18th

Maude Gutman bought the ugliest thrift store painting she could get her hands on as a gag gift, but when it's rejected, Maude tries to offload it at a yard sale. She learns it just might be the “find of the century,” an undiscovered Jackson Pollock painting. Lionel Percy, a renowned art expert, arrives at Maude’s trailer to investigate the painting’s potential, and the two embark on a fiery debate over class, truth, and what we personally perceive as valuable.


PBS Arts Fall Festival Fridays

Monday, October 17, 2011
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About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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