Soprano Susan Narucki of the music faculty sings music by Maurice Ravel, Charles Ives, Gyorgi Kurtag, John Cage and Juliana Hall as The Art of Music series commemorating the centennial of the Panama California Exposition in Balboa Park continues March 19 at 7 pm at the San Diego Museum of Art's Hibben Gallery. The series is curated by Jann Pasler of the music faculty.
The Art of Music brings performers together with modern paintings from the museum's collection. The series continues monthly through January 2016. Following Narucki is UC San Diego Department of Music harpsichordist Takae Ohnishi, on April 16.
Narucki, who will be joined by UCSD composer and pianist Stephen Lewis, describes their program:
Ravel's Trois poemes de Stephane Mallarme (1913) are considered masterpieces of Impressionism with their exquisite sense of color and nuanced text setting. Ives' 114 Songs, however, transport us to places distinctly American in sensibility. Dating from 1905-1922, the songs delve into the collective memory; they are snapshots of a busy street in Manhattan, longing for home left long ago, a child watching her brother sail off to war.
The recital also includes two composers who explore the act of song in a different way. Hungarian Gyorgy Kurtag, one of the greatest living composers, used passages from poet Attila Jozsef's journals for Attila Jozsef Fragments, prose poems and lyric verse and transformed them into a cycle for unaccompanied soprano. Completed in 1986, the work is prescient, seeking to make sense of our experience through the juxtaposition of seemingly disjointed, but thoroughly beautiful fragments of text. Cage's Songbooks (1970) dwell in a space where the imagination and intent of the performer and the interpretation of whimsical (and at times, contradictory) notation ask the listener to re-imagine the act of singing itself.
Finally, the most recent song cycle returns to the simple song form. American composer Juliana Hall's Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush (1989) are set to letters of the great American poet Emily Dickinson. Intimate and clear, the seven songs describe the intense personal life of Dickinson. In this letter to Samuel Bowles (the younger), Dickinson writes:
Had I not known - I was not asleep, I should have feared I dreamed, so blissful was their beauty - but Day and they demurred.
Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy, and I am richer then, than all my fellowmen.
Hall's songs reassert the connection that all artists share, no matter what the medium or form. Our inner life is where we dwell; it is here that we ask the fundamental questions that shake us to our core, and - if we are fortunate - where we find the wealth we seek.
Tickets for The Art of Music are $15 for museum members, $17 for students-military-seniors, $20 for non-members.
San Diego Museum of Art: (858) 232-7Γ1