Thrilling to the Met’s merge of painting and music
For example, in the gallery of 16th-century Venetian paintings, where Venus clings to her mythological lover in Titian’s Venus and Adonis, the luscious play of muscle beneath the goddess’s back seemed to throb in human, not metaphorical, response to the amorous lament “Sweet nightingale, you call to your dear companion singing ‘Come to me my love’” in Monteverdi’s Dolcissimo Uscignolo. In gallery 634, among the Dutch paintings collected by New York department store magnate Benjamin Altman, sackbuts and cornettos rang out a soundtrack of the lives portrayed on the walls. “Do you understand me now?” Rembrandt’s stern self-portrait seemed to be saying. (“Yes, I do!” I wanted to shout back.)
Special mention should be made of the Quicksilver ensemble, who played in the gallery displaying huge canvases of the Italian Baroque. Their evocation of the stile moderno, music “with no agenda but the imagination of the composer—and no standard form but the passionate give-and-take of friends in conversation,” in the words of co-director Robert Mealy, resounded with singular fervor, as if the players had found the music of their souls.
On their website, the Met describes the Grand Tour as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We hope not. The living presence of the musicians vivified the works of the great painters, while the paintings’ physicality concretized the music’s transitoriness. Both sound and image profited, but not nearly as much as the lucky audience who took the Grand Tour. Hopefully, the Met will provide this wonderful opportunity for more Grand Tourists to come.
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