Review of Starry Night Project
Montage Music Society
“Richly colored music inspired by some equally colorful art.…illuminating (Starry Night)…
absolutely delicious (Seurat)
…sumptuously lyrical (O’Keeffe) …purely joyous and exuberant (Gauguin)..”
“..an effective and natural unifying idea which musical organizations and concert presenters frequently use to inspire both their audience and themselves.”
Although the Montage Music Society’s Starry Night Project is one of those scary-sounding not-for-profit projects that involve more logistical support than small naval skirmishes, any commissioning initiative that results in such lovely music written exclusively about works of visual art is its own justification. In fact, it’s an effective and natural unifying idea which musical organizations and concert presenters frequently use to inspire both their audience and themselves.
In this case, the featured paintings belong to prominent collections including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Matthew Harris leads off the night with illuminating and perspective sketches based on paintings by Van Gogh, Rousseau, Picasso, Ensor, Matisse, Dali, and Mondrian, their brevity making this an excellent game for classical music parties.
Stephen Paulus contributes a beautiful adaptation for cello and piano of his rhapsodic, hypnotic song-cycle Art Suite, inspired by Brueghel, Degas, Seurat (absolutely delicious) and Larry Rivers. Libby Larsen’s “portrait” of six Georgia O’Keeffe paintings are suitably ominous and spare, and every now and then sumptuously lyrical. Andrew Lists’s Noa Noa, inspired by a monumental tableau by Gauguin, is the most purely joyous and exuberant music on the program.
The recordings were made in 2008 at Merrimack College’s Rogers Center for the Arts in North Andover, Massachusetts. The sound is full of life and detail, just the way composers like it. The booklet-notes by the composers or collaborators is a historic document in itself.
Laurence Vittes, GRAMOPHONE, December 2009
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