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20.11.13

Bartók and Hungarian Modernism

Here is a cool idea -- a new exhibit, Allegro Barbaro: Béla Bartok et la modernité hongroise, 1905-1920 at the Musée d'Orsay, juxtaposes the music of Béla Bartók with the paintings of a group of Hungarian modernists known as the Group of Eight, who were exhibited in Budapest around the time of the composer's first performance of his Allegro Barbaro. Ariane Bavelier and Thierry Hillériteau have an article (À Orsay, Bela Bartok pris dans les toiles, November 19) for Le Figaro (my translation):
Everything was done with the staging of the exhibit to make Bartók's music resonate in the light of his painter compatriots. With, for example, real "cocoons" in the form of niches where you can curl up to listen to excerpts of Bartók's scores. The entrance into the exhibit is made to the rhythms of his Two Portraits for Orchestra. An introspective gesture -- the first of these portraits explicitly quotes his own violin concerto -- that does not shrink from self-ridicule. It was, three years before the triumphal march of the Allegro Barbaro, the already ill-tempered self-portrait of a young composer, both an activist and an innovator. Other self-portraits face off with it, those of painters whom one follows throughout the exhibit. We are in "the age of revolution in Hungarian art." Dezsö Czigány, a gypsy, paints himself with a green reflection, József Nemes-Lampérth, in pink tie and blue collar, works with a knife in barbaric tones. Robert Berény and Sandor Ziffer reinterpret in their own ways the canvas where Gauguin paints himself, in 1893, wearing a straw hat.
The Nemes-Lampérth self-portrait, shown here, was painted in 1911, the same year as Bartók's Allegro Barbaro (embedded below, with the composer at the keyboard). The exhibit, whose concept hits all the right receptors in my brain, will be in Paris through January 5.

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