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Andsnes and Rhode: Pictures Reframed

Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist (photo courtesy of NRK)
Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist (photo courtesy of NRK)
On Friday night, sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes (in his first local appearance since a recital at Strathmore last year) and South African visual artist Robin Rhode presented Pictures Reframed, a multimedia concert centered on Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. The program revolved around the theme of childhood, an inspiring idea, and Andsnes seemed completely at peace with himself, without pretense -- in short, exactly the kind of pianist who will succeed in the changing world of classical music. He began, without any flourish, with Mussorgsky’s unfinished, two-movement work Memories of Childhood and Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Each work was conceived as the reminiscences of an adult looking back on childhood, but Andsnes’ simplicity was so utterly childlike one almost forgot that there was maturity behind the music.

Other Articles:

Anne Midgette, Andsnes and Rhode's 'Pictures': The frame doesn't fit (Washington Post, November 23)

Igor Toronyi-Lalic, Lief [sic] Ove Andsnes combines music and visual art (The Times, November 21)

Martin Bernheimer, Pictures Reframed (Financial Times, November 18)

Jason V. Serinus, Putting It Together (San Francisco Classical Voice, November 17)

Kenneth Delong, Pianist great, visuals not (Calgary Herald, November 17)

Richard Lacayo, Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" — Plus More Pictures (TIME, November 16)

Anthony Tommasini, Sound and Vision: A Piano Recital With a Multimedia Heart (New York Times, November 15)

Albert Imperato, The Art of Collaboration and the Meaning of "Pictures Reframed" (Huffington Post, November 12)
Andsnes was remarkably steadfast, unaffected, and economical in his movement, and did not seem to feel the need to give the pieces too much nuance. He performed the music as a child would, without the jaded years of experience, and it was gorgeous. The intermittent short films, dubiously received, were programmed as a seamless extension of the music, with Andsnes handing over the baton during his final notes. The first of the two featured films, Rhode’s Kid Candle, was a mixed media film of a live action boy interacting with a hand-drawn horizontal plane and candle, the image all the while flickering as a candle would between the negative and positive film. The art beautifully complemented the music, an outwardly simplistic commentary on the imagination of a child.

The idea of setting Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition to new images is certainly nothing new. However, the way in which Rhode drew upon Viktor Hartmann’s pictures, the original inspiring art, was certainly interesting, if also difficult to follow (only upon reading Rhode’s program notes did many of the connections become illuminated). As in the music itself, the promenade was the only connective tissue, for which Rhode created the marvelous image of a youth whose feet are unable to touch the ground. The boy is discovering his path, portrayed by geometric shapes that move and transform at the touch of his feet.

In the crowded elevator leaving the concert, the silence was heavy as thoughts and reactions were surely in development. Then a simple question was posed by a smiling man: “What did you all think...?” And just like that, former strangers were now connected and engaged. If nothing else, Andsnes and Rhode created dialogue and passion among the patrons of their art, a much needed element to keep the field living and breathing. For better or worse or unknowing, at least the audience members felt something.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really enjoy Andsnes' playing generally. And I am all for multi media collaborations. Just think of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe with Bakst & Benois, ... Martha Graham with Noguchi... Robert Wilson with Peter Sellars, Messiaen... all brilliant, inspired stuff. Sadly, the event at The Terrace Theatre was much less so. The Q & A session that followed was even sadder. It is truly amazing that the curator from the Hirschhorn could barely speak or utter a coherent or creative thought. My synesthetic response to him will be that every time I see him I'll hear the shrieking of those fleeing in the opposite direction.