On Sunday, March 16, in Richardson Auditorium, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert of great music inspired by great art. Presented in collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum, and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning guest conductor Gunther Schuller, the orchestra will showcase three orchestral pieces with distinctive compositional styles, each selected for its connection to works of art. The works selected for this collaborative concert include Ottorino Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano, Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler: Symphony, and Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee by guest conductor Schuller.
Composed in 1926, Trittico Botticelliano reflects Respighi’s interest in the great traditions of Italian art. Inspired by three Botticelli masterpieces; La Primavera, The Adoration of the Magi, and The Birth of Venus, each movement of Trittico Botticelliano is a vivid musical depiction of this Renaissance artist’s most renowned paintings.
Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler: Symphony is based on the story of the great German Gothic painter Mathias Grunewald, an artist who abandoned his craft to devote himself to his people’s struggle for freedom. Living in difficult times marred by international conflict, Hindemith himself took a serious view of the artist’s responsibility to society. It was the image of the artist as hero that inspired this dramatic symphony, whose three movements are named for the panels of Grunewald’s masterpiece, The Isenheim Altarpiece: Concert of Angels, The Entombment, and Temptation of St. Anthony. Created between about 1512 and 1515, The Isenheim Altarpiece is now housed in the museum of Colmar, Princeton’s sister city in eastern France.
In composing Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, American composer Gunther Schuller analyzed the visual forms of Klee’s paintings and assigned musical ideas that could express them, using contrasting styles including folk music and jazz to describe mood, title and the actual design, shape and colors of the paintings. The combination of Schuller and Klee represents a remarkable intertwining of painting and music, as Schuller was an avid painter in his youth who chose a career in music, and Klee remained an active amateur musician after choosing a career in art.
The March 16 concert will also feature an exhibition of art by middle school students from John Witherspoon Middle School, Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, and the Hun School. Twelve students participated in this project, which was the first initiative of Listen Up!, a newly created extension of PSO’s education program, BRAVO!, designed to engage middle school students in the appreciation of classical music.
The participants were invited to attend PSO’s November 4 concert to listen to the American premier of Colours of Autumn for String Orchestra by Russian composer Victoria Borisova Ollas. They were then asked to create a work of art inspired by the music in the medium of their choice. The students’ work was displayed at the art museum throughout the weekend of February 9 and 10 as part of their Mini Masters Exhibition, and to coincide the museum’s annual gala on February 9.
On Saturday, March 15, from 3 to 5:30 p.m., at East Pyne 010 at Princeton University, Princeton University Art Museum’s curator of education and academic programs Caroline Harris will moderate a panel discussion with Gunther Schuller and Peter Paret, professor emeritus, modern European history, from the Institute for Advanced Study.
Paret will examine Hindemith’s choice of Grunewald as the subject for his symphony, and discuss what Hindemith wanted to convey about politics and art in the late 1920s and ’30s. Schuller will discuss Mathis der Maler from a musical standpoint.
The Inspiration of Art, Sunday, March 16, 4 p.m. Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Richardson Auditorium. Music of Respighi, Schuller, and Hindemith conducted by Gunther Schuller. Pre-concert lecture at 3 p.m. $16 to $64. 609-497-0020 or 609-497-0020.
Post-concert reception at the museum. Tickets, while free of charge, are required for this event. www.princeton.edu/utickets or the museum shop on the morning of the event.