Saturday, September 30, 2017

MONET'S FLOWERS OF WAR: the last shining of the Belle Époque

Performed by the Flowers Of War
Jane Rutter, flute
Tamara Anna Cislowska, piano
David Pereira, cello
Christopher Latham, director and violin
James O Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia to 30 September

Reviewed by Len Power 29 September 2017

If you’re lucky enough to go to L’Orangerie in Paris on a quiet day and sit for a long period in the centre of the room surrounded by Monet’s vast Waterlillies canvases, you’ll have the extraordinarily strange feeling that you are being drawn deeply into these huge paintings.  The Flowers of War concert at the National Gallery provided a similar experience.  With Monet’s work projected on a large screen and impressionist era music played by four consummate musicians, this was an especially immersive and memorable concert.

In the program notes, Christopher Latham explains that the music program is about the last flowering of impressionism in art and music, an era swept away by the Great War.  Using Monet’s late work, it is also an exaltation of his exploration of the emotional resonance of pure colour as he struggled with eyesight problems.

From left: Jane Rutter, Tamara Anna Cislowska, Christopher Latham and David Pereira

Tamara Anna Cislowska played piano for all of the works presented and was joined as required by Jane Rutter, flute, David Pereira, cello, and Christopher Latham, violin.  Grouped in themed sections such as ‘The Garden’, ‘The Weeping Willow’, ‘The Shimmering Pool’ etc., they played works by Debussy, Ravel, Cras, Gaubert, Boulanger and Saint-Saёns, all composers prominent in that impressionist era.

Highlights of the concert were many, including Tamara Anna Cislowska’s solo piano on Lili Boulanger’s ‘D’un jardin clair’, Jane Rutter’s exquisite playing of Jean Cras’ ‘Paysage maritime’ and Philippe Gaubert’s ‘Soir sur la plaine’, David Pereira’s especially sensitive cello on ‘La cygne’ by Saint-Saёns and the beautiful combination of piano and cello with Christopher Latham’s violin in Ravel’s ‘Passacaille’.

The selection of paintings projected as the music played were a feast for the eye and matched perfectly the mood and atmosphere of the music.

The Flowers Of War concerts remember the lost voices of World War One.  More than 350 French artists were killed during that war.  These concerts are a sombre reminder of that tragedy but also an opportunity to ensure that these artists are not forgotten.

Photographs by Peter Hislop
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s new ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.