Music & the Impressionists

February 17, 2017

Impressionist painters are very familiar to us all but their influence on the other arts is often overlooked.  Tim Porter, the local historian, visited the Shipston Music Society in February and gave members and guests an enlightening talk on the influence of these artists on the composers of the time. Members learned that the academic scaffolding that had prevailed up to that time was removed, allowing  music to flow in such a way as to give an impression of, for instance, a cornfield or a summer garden, grey clouds or “nocturnes”. The rule book was thrown away so that the fleeting nature of light so well known to us in the paintings of Renoir, Monet and others could be transposed into musical form.

It came as a surprise to some in the audience that composers such as Liszt and Smetana were part of this “new” music and they certainly might not come to mind as readily as Debussy or Delius.  But Smetana composed his Bohemian Woods & Fields a year after the famous Paris Impressionist Exhibition of 1874, and Liszt composed his Grey Clouds in 1881. Two British composers, Arnold Bax and John Ireland also responded to the impressionistic technique - with very different styles - but both broke away from the existing British nationalistic style that was becoming popular at the time.   This talk was liberally illustrated with enjoyable excerpts which proved to be a very relaxing and soothing way to end the week!  

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