Novel take On Messiaen’s compositions
RICHMOND House Music Room will host a collaboration between a pianist and a painter at the next Classics at the Castle event – never before staged in Port Alfred. This unique music and visual art presentation on May 28 by artist Heleen du Preez and pianist Benjamin Fourie, features the work of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) – an extraordinary 20th-century composer, pianist and organist.
Fourie, who performed at Classics at the Castle last year, returns to play Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant – Jésus (20 Contemplations on the Christ Child) surrounded by an exhibition of Du Preez’s 25 paintings, which were inspired by the music. Messiaen was a child prodigy from a literary background and also a devout Catholic. He became one of the most acclaimed composers of the last century, creating this epic work during World War 2 in 1944, in Paris.
Having been a prisoner-of-war himself, he searched for a language of mystical love amid the most depressing turmoil of war. Vingt Regards is considered one of the most awe-inspiring works for piano ever composed and presents extreme challenges technically and in terms of interpretation.
Fourie says of the piece: “The grand style of the music caters for listeners, who are prepared to be thoroughly immersed in art”. Nature-lovers will be intrigued to hear how Messiaen incorporates the birdsong he loved. He regarded birds as the “greatest musicians on our planet”.
Fourie gave the South African première of this work at the 2006 National Arts Festival and has since performed it at several other venues.
Du Preez, an artist from Lady Grey, has done 25 abstract paintings on the 20 parts of the music and she and Fourie have collaborated in various music/visual art presentations, including the 2014 Lady Grey Passion Play weekend.
“The music of Messiaen always intrigued me,” Du Preez said. “I have the CD of bird-calls that Messiaen wrote the piano notation for. After attending Benjamin’s performance of the entire Vingt Regards I started visualising the colours, lines and movement I experienced. “When my husband passed away in March 2011, the mystical/spiritual quality of this monumental work offered comfort and I slowly began a process of interpreting the first eight movements visually, infusing my mind with every note of the music.”
The Classics at the Castle concert will start at 3.30pm with a 30-minute interval at 5pm and the second half from 5.30pm-7pm. Audience members are welcome to chat to the artists during interval and before and after the concert. “Art and music lovers will likely experience this event as totally absorbing and even transcendent,” classics host Sue Gordon.
Tickets became available at KNA on May 2.
Similar to last year when Fourie performed in Port Alfred, an entire three-part package has been arranged. The full package includes a special three-course meal at the Wharf Street Brew Pub and Restaurant after the concert and art exhibition. Tickets for this entire package (concert, exhibition and meal) are R230 per person.
The price for the art experience and piano recital combined, is R100 and includes welcome drinks and detailed programme notes. Out-of-towners may call KNA to reserve tickets – to be paid for within three days. Grahamstown residents may call Sue on 082-456-7437 to make special arrangements.