Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Feeling grateful for all the good things, including beautiful music.
I performed “Syrinx” while perusing the exhibition right before giving a recital with guitarist Gideon Whitehead at Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. It was part of my Dolce Suono Ensemble’s series of co-presented concerts with the gallery.
Our program explored the themes of Paris in the second empire and travel, with works by Verdi/Genin, Donjon, Paganini, Bosch, Dyens, Robert Maggio, and Lowell Liebermann.
It was fitting to perform Syrinx at the exhibition “A Sense of Place: Modern Japanese Print” at Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. Among the artworks displayed were works by Hiroshige and Hokusai, artists who inspired Claude Debussy.
This concert, on May 14, 2015, was one of Dolce Suono Ensemble’s series at Arthur Ross Gallery, offered in conjunction with its exhibitions.
I performed Syrinx at my recital with guitarist Allen Krantz at the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania at the first concert in my Dolce Suono Ensemble’s new partnership with the gallery on October 2, 2013. I felt inspired to play Debussy among the works of his friend Rodin at this exhibition.
To see photos of recent performances with Dolce Suono Ensemble at the Hispanic Choice Awards, Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania, and as soloist with Delaware County Symphony, please visit Mimi Stillman‘s Facebook page and Dolce Suono Ensemble‘s Facebook page.
DSE on the red carpet pre-performance at Hispanic Choice Awards
Left to right: Celina Velez, violin, Daniel Lee, viola, Mimi, Louis Xavier Barrette, guitar, Hannah Ji, violin, Robin Kesselman, bass
In the Roman gallery at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology I decided to play some Bach in addition to Syrinx in the very resonant acoustics. Here is the opening of Bach’s Partita for solo flute in A Minor, Allemande. Debussy greatly admired the music of Bach.
Today’s Syrinx performances at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were among the highlights of my nearly entire year of performing Debussy’s work every day, and I have done so in many impressive and beautiful places. In this video, I appear in the Egyptian gallery with the largest sphinx in the Western hemisphere and architectural features from the palace of the pharaoh Merenptah (r. 1213-1204 BCE). The palace, located in Memphis in Lower Egypt, is the best preserved royal palace excavated in Egypt. The red granite sphinx is inscribed with the names of the pharoah Ramesses II, and his son and successor Merenptah.
As my sound reverberated against the ancient stone, I wondered about all the
other sounds the sphinx, standing so grandly and impassively through the
ages, had heard.
Thank you to Pam Kosty, Tom Stanley, Therese Marmion, and the rest of the Penn Museum team for welcoming me so warmly today.
Over the past two days I have had wonderfully stimulating visits to two great museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Debussy and Syrinx are me all the time, so I noted some inspiring connections with the works I saw.
First in this video is Robert Henri’s Boulevard in Wet Weather, Paris (1899), which the American artist painted on his honeymoon in Paris. He was an influential painter and teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and with William Glackens and John Sloan was a founding member of “The Eight,” a group of progressive artists who rebelled against the policies of the National Academy of Design in New York. Henri exposed his students to Old Masters and encouraged them to paint the everyday world around them.
The second painting accompanying Syrinx is Edward Redfield’sLate Afternoon (c. 1917), a Pennsylvanian painter influenced by the French Impressionists. He painted en plein air (open air) as they did, depicting the effects of light on natural surroundings. Redfield was a classmate of Henri, and they both studied in Paris after graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where they encountered the works of Monet, Pisarro, and other Impressionists. I was struck by how trans-Atlantic the artistic world was between the United States and France in Debussy’s time, Mary Cassatt being a famous example of this.
Next is an Attic Hydria in the spectacular collection of classical Greek art and artifacts in the U. Penn Museum. Not only was I very interested to study this collection in relation to the mythological setting of Syrinx, but I found it particularly edifying since I am currently reading the plays of Sophocles.
Finally, you see the cover of the Museum’s magazine Expedition, featuring the exhibition on Beth Shean. A University of Pennsylvania team conducted the excavations on the Tel (mound) of Beth Shean (Bet She’an), Israel in 1921, which I visited last summer. I launched Syrinx Journey last August 22, 2012 with my performance of Syrinx in the Roman theater at Beth Shean (Syrinx Journey Day 1).
This afternoon my family had a visit from one of our dearest friends in all the world, Roger Blood, who was in Philadelphia to give his annual presentation at a conference at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve known Roger and his wife Sarah since I was a child in Boston, and was only sad that Sarah was not here too. It was wonderful sharing Debussy with Roger today.
Yesterday I gave a performance at a program celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania and the opening of a wonderful exhibition entitled “La Tauromaquia: Carnicero, Goya, and Picasso.” The exhibit features 70 etchings, aquatints, and lithographs on the subject of bullfighting, from the magnificent collection of Arthur Ross and the Arthur Ross Foundation. I performed at a program honoring the memory of Mr. Ross, the gallery’s founder, with moving remarks by Janet Ross, his widow, Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, and gallery director Lynn Marsden-Atlass. It was a special feeling to be in the company of such erudite people recounting their rich life experiences, surrounded by compelling works of art.
I planned a program for the theme of tauromaquia: Marin Marais’s Les folies d’Espagne to illustrate the French and Europe-wide imagination of Spain, Emilio Arrieta’s El oasis, my solo flute arrangement of this song for voice and piano, and François Borne’s Fantasy on themes from Bizet’s Carmen (with probably the most famous bullfighter in music history!). Arrieta was a 19th-century Spanish composer who was instrumental in developing the zarzuela genre. During the Arrieta, my mother, Hispanist Ronni L. Gordon, joined me in reading excerpts from Federico García Lorca’s famous poem of Tauromaquia, “Llanto por la muerte de Ignacio Sánchez Mejías.”
My program did not include Syrinx but I decided to pair today’s rendition with images from the exhibition. Debussy’s only visit to Spain was to attend a bullfight in San Sebastián, yet Spanish imagery and themes were a significant source of inspiration for several of his works including Ibéria and La Soirée dans Grenade. He was one of many French artists captured by the exoticism and mystery of Spain, and who in turn evoked Spain in his music so well that the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla wrote that “Debussy wrote Spanish music without knowing Spain.”
I love this intricate window at the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. Frank Furness’s design for the Fisher Fine Arts Library, home to the gallery, is filled with lovely architectural features like this decorative window. While playing Syrinx I stood facing the length of the gallery, enjoying the long decay in the resonant space.