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9 June 2016

The Clouds of Interpretation

Text: Sergei Khachaturov
Photo: Denis Kuznetsov, Evgeny Evtyukhov

The subject of music and art is a most captivating and treacherous one. It entices us with seemingly beautiful parallels and juxtapositions, with the ease of new discoveries. Indeed, we often tend to use musical terms when speaking of art. “What a mellifluous composition!” we exclaim, looking at Watteau’s pastoral scene. And vice versa, when listening to music, our imagination picks up on the trappings of the traditional logocentric schooling, looking for semblances and familiar patterns, and  happily paints - pun intended — artful depictions of a sweet scenery or epic celebration. 

However, I must admit that projects on the theme of the convergence of visual art and music are rarely convincing. Each form of art has its own laws organizing the language of communication and the apparent ease of transfer, ease of interchangeability is deceptive. Their points of interception are postulated as reality where understanding of complexity gives way to consumer perception of common places, reducing the rich and unique language of Art to banal clichés. There is a far more productive alternative: not to pamper self-loving salon truisms about the availability of interpretation of one form of art to another, but stimulate understanding of the complexity and uniqueness of both in their dramatic, not always harmonious and benign adjacency. This path was chosen by the first VIVA ARTE festival in the Tretyakov Gallery.

The ideological platform for this event was the brilliant VIVACELLO festival created by the U-ART foundation and Boris Andrianov, which is deservedly recognized in Russia and throughout the world. It is unique in its virtuosic statement of the problem of understanding how one seemingly cumbersome, ponderous-sounding, clumsy instrument could create a space for universal musical communication. What manner of strength and possibility of artistic expression allows us to trust boundlessly that the CELLO will lead us along the most whimsically winding paths of art? The cello remains the cello. It does not become a paint palette. It does not turn, authentically into a piano, choir or orchestra. Yet the genius of Andrianov and Co. enables this instrument to touch the very strings of the soul, that which is “universal”, even universal responsiveness, which then becomes a channel for various wonderful worlds and spaces. It provokes thought on the complex and ingenious.

Another platform of the VIVARTE festival is the “Cello e Pittura” project which is also supported by the U-ART foundation. (Taking place during one of the VIVACELLO festivals). Three musicians and their wonderful cellos entered the hall and improvised on the theme of three works by contemporary artists. They chose the necessary words to express feelings and emotions, but not in the language that they had mastered but in the language of Music. They neither adapted nor profaned either art form, nor did they try to adapt them. Rather, they forced the listener-viewers to correlate the two messages, to find their similarities and trace their differences. They stimulated understanding of the world of space and volume.

Each evening Tretyakov Gallery art critics gave a lecture before musical performance

In the new VIVARTE festival the task has become more complex. Musicians do not improvise on a theme given to them by the pictures but create whole programs on a carefully created theme in which the picture is just one of the inspirations. The great Tretyakov Gallery has become a participant in its own right. Museum staff assisted in the development of the theme, but were kept in the dark as to exactly what picture would be presented at the concert. Multi-level, saturation of different texts, references, and research was organized into a formally generous and luxurious communicative concert space.

Each concert was accompanied by a display of an art piece from Tretyakov Gallery’s depository

One must agree that the link between the portrait of Pavel Tretyakov by the brush of founder of the “Union of Russian Artists” Nikolai Dosekina, and the quintet by Antonin Dvorak and the “Memories of Florence” sextet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky is not obvious. The system of their union refers more to the territory of social consciousness, reminding us of the general themes and dedicated internal friendships and intellectual artistic unions of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries. Cubist Futurist still life paintings with the violin of Lybov Popova were satellites in which an enormous alpine horn performed the solo in the opus of the young Richard Strauss.  Outstanding musician Arkady Shilkloper, singer Tatiana Kuindzhi and pianist Stefan Vladar created a similar sense of mystery, or to use the terminology of contemporary art: performance. Author-compiler and editor of the festival catalog, Tatiana Davydova, described the emotion that gave rise to Strauss’ “Alpine horn” as “inescapable melancholy”.

Thus, this sense of melancholy, thanks to the performative space of Tretiakov Gallery and the concert they that was chosen to accompany it, thanks to the cubism-futuristic still life of Popova, happened to be dissected in a strange tactile 3D quality. The romantic world is literally refracted in the face of the hypertrophied, aggressively present (as, indeed, an alpine horn itself on stage) objectivity. This objectivity gives new emotional, visual, auditory, tactile experiences, to even an academic concert. Defined conservative conservatoire path experiences are broken down. And that is great.

Virtuoso pianist Mikhail Ivanov

Similarly complicated convergences of different systems of perspective and conditioned the uniqueness of the format and programs of the festival. There were no games of ‘Russian chess’, no dissimulation of music and painting or vice versa. The language of each art form, structured in its own way, has its own morphology, but their interaction, established thanks to today’s outstanding musicians and the masterworks of Russian art of the past, makes it possible to discover new perspectives for understanding the artistic process in its entirety and unity.

And these perspectives substantiate the symposium of different forms of art for the sake of identifying common systems of principles. In this regard, the final concert of the festival, a concert dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the birth of Dmitry Shostakovich, is very telling. The venue of the concert is the Vrubels Hall. On the easel sits a work by Pavel Filonov “Shostakovich’s First Symphony”. The “Seven Romances by Alexander Blok” (soloist Tatiana Kuindzhi) and the arrangement of the 15th Symphony for violin, cello, piano and percussion by Viktor Derevyanko and Mark Pekarsky are heard. This new version of the symbolist poetics, the cycle dedicated to Galina Vishnevskaya, defining perception and unexpectedly supporting the visual art around it, was broadcast in the space of the Vrubel Hall. The “Song of Ophelia”, “Gamayun, Bird of Prophecy” wonderfully complimented the pictures with mythological themes: pictures that were piquant with exalted, crystal-like brilliance.

A French horn improvisation by Arkady Shilkloper

However, music is not art and the time is different. Dissonance and contrast, tension and release provokes memories of style in which Shostakovich wrote his cycle: the international modernism and symbolism that the USSR, to a large extent, also relied on. In painting and sculpture the new wave of post-war modernism, the so-called neobrutalism  of the 1960s (Ernst Neizvestny) makes itself felt in many ways in the outsider method of  Filonov, which in turn has a lot to do with the faceted world of the works of Vrubel.

In his symphony Shostakovich inferred the aesthetic code of the enormous period of life of all art forms between the 1970s and the 1990s. The great composer distinctly marked the border between modernism and his searing lyricism and the rebellious romantic themes of post-modernism with his use of quotation and rhyming logic.  It was not for nothing that Shostakovich named the first movement of the 15th Symphony the “Toy Shop”, with its piquant quotations, including Rossini’s “William Tell” overture. The juggling of different texts from musical culture also fits into the rhythm of the impressions of the paintings in the hall, where the molecular suspension on the modernist Filonov suddenly dissolve into the corpuscles of the symbolist paintings of Vrubels. Similar calls to life and clouds of interpretation at the festival give freedom and lightness to movement in the art world, where construction may be different but the overall landscape is the same.




The festival booklet fascinates visitors of all ages

Zelfira Tregulova, Director General of Tretyakov Gallery, and Tamaz Manasherov

Kristina Zakurdaeva (Skolkovo Foundation)

Alexander Golovaty (AORI) and his wife Natalya

Alexey Abramov, Director of the Institute of Medicine of the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

Elena Kaysheva

Marina Elzesser, Deputy Director General on Educational and Publishing Matters, Tretyakov Gallery

Iveta Manasherova with the chief physician of the ECSTO clinic Andrey Korolev and violinist Vadim Repin

Leonid Zichenkov, CFO of UNIDENT, and his wife Yulia.

Elisa Iranzo de Carbajal, spouse of the Ambassador of Spain, and ballet dancer Anna Tikhomirova

Anatoly Andrianov and his wife Tatyana

Tatyana Getman, Curator of Special Projects, Tretyakov Gallery, and Olga Muromtseva, Director General of the U-Art Foundation

The performance begins in a few minutes

A selfie to remember

Promenading musically in the Muzeon Park

Tamaz Manasherov, Olga Sviblova (Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow), and Ekaterina Moiseeva (Bosco di Ciliegi)

Tony and Dina Manasherov

The festival's happy extended family

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