This afternoon I attended a performance by the Aizuri Quartet at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia as part of the Curtis Institute of Music’s collaboration with the Barnes. The event was offered in tandem with a wonderful exhibition of the art of William Glackens, the American painter and friend of Albert Barnes who selected artworks in Europe for the collection. The quartet premiered a new work, Parallels, by my friend the composer Alyssa Weinberg, which was her reflection on the work of Glackens. In this evocative piece, the four strings were layered upon each other like brushstrokes of differing intensity, with striking lyrical passages emerging from abstract textures. Then the Aizuri gave a beautiful performance of Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor, movements II and IV. Written in 1893, the modernity of this music is still striking today, and made a great pairing with Alyssa’s new piece as well as a fitting companion to the art of Glackens. Debussy’s quartet fills me with joy, but I so wanted to get into the act that I had to add my Syrinx, which you hear now with the Debussy quartet at the same time (Emerson Quartet recording).
It was peaceful to play Syrinx on a hot summer afternoon in front of the limestone façade of the Barnes Foundation. The architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, used limestone from the Negev in creating the magnificent new home for one of the world’s great private art collections. I love the unique way the stone takes on different casts depending on the quality of the sunlight.
I attended a preview of the spring class at the Barnes Foundation. I have visited the collection, in its new home in Philadelphia, several times. The late Dr. Albert C. Barnes collected a staggering number of masterpieces, specializing in Impressionist and post-Impressionist, and early modern painting, African art, and Pennsylvania Dutch metalwork, furniture, and ceramics.
One of my many favorite pieces in the collection is Henri Matisse’s The Dance (1932-33), a mural commissioned by Barnes to cover three arches in the main gallery. About his magisterial work Matisse wrote to his son: “It has a splendour that one can’t imagine unless one sees it — because both the whole ceiling and its arched vaults come alive through radiation and the main effect continues right down to the floor…I am profoundly tired but very pleased. When I saw the canvas put in place, it was detached from me and became part of the building.”