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“Les Musiques de Picasso”
Anonymous (Guitares gitanes): Fandango, El Malagueño [1]
Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez: “Adagio” [2, 17, 20] – Fantasía para un gentilhombre: “Españoleta” [2, 17, 20]
Manuel de Falla: Canción [4] – Serenata andaluza [4] – El amor brujo [3]: “Canción del amor dolido” [18], “Danza ritual del fuego”, “Canción del fuego fatuo” [18] – El Sombrero de tres picos: “La tarde” (part I), “Danza de la molinera” [3]
Pablo de Saraste: Fantasie de concert sur des thèmes de Carmen, opus 25 [5, 6]
Igor Stravinsky: Suite n° 1 for chamber orchestra: “Española” [2] – Pulcinella: “Tarantella”, “Serenata”, “Scherzino”, “Allegro”, “Andantino” [2] – L’Histoire du soldat: “Danse du diable” [7] – Three pieces for solo clarinet [21]
Enrique Granados: Goyescas, opus 11: “Final del Fandango”[8]
Darius Milhaud: Scaramouche, opus 165 (trans. for clarinet and piano): “Vif” [9, 10]
Claude Debussy: Masques, L.105 [11] – Mandolin, L.43 [12, 13] – Syrinx, L.129 [20] – Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, L.86a [14, 15, 16] – Six épigraphes antiques, L.131b: “Pour invoquer Pan, Dieu du vent d’été” [11]
Erik Satie: Les pantins dansent [10] – Avant-dernières pensées: “Aubade” [10]
Arthur Honegger: Sonatine for clarinet and piano, H.42: Movement III, “Vif et rythmique” [9, 10]
Maurice Ravel: Miroirs, M.43: “Alborada del gracioso”, n° 4 [2, 18] – Daphnis et Chloé, M.57b: Part III, “Lever du jour” [15, 16, 19]

Antonio and Marino Cano [1], Marco Socias [17] (guitar), Marina Heredia [18] (cantaora), Sophie Karthäuser [12] (soprano), Javier Perianes [4], Natalia Gous [6], Alexandre Tharaud [10, 21], Alain Planès [11], Eugene Asti [13] (piano), Graf Mourja [5] (violin), Bernard Cazauran [7] (double bass), Philippe Bernold [20], Marion Ralincourt [14] (flute), Philippe Berrod [7], Ronald van Spaendonck [9], Walter Boeykens [21] (clarinet), Giorgio Mandolesi [7] (bassoon), Bruno Tomba [7] (cornet), Giullaume Cottet-Dumoulin [7] (trombone), Eric Sammut [7] (percussion), Orquestra de Cambra Teatre Lliure [20], Mahler Chamber Orchestra [3], BBC Symphony Orchestra & Singers [8], Les Siècles [15], Orchestre de Paris [18], Ensemble Aedes [19], Josep Pons [2, 8, 18], Pablo Heras-Casado [3], Jean-Christophe Gayot [7], François-Xavier Roth [16] (conductor)
Recording: Various venues (1970 - 2018) – 111’03
harmonia mundi HMX 2908980.81 (Distributed by PIAS) – Booklet in French and English

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was not much of a musician, nor did he express an insatiable interest in music like some of his contemporaries. But there is music both primitive and highly sophisticated running through his art.

You can almost hear the out-of-tune antics of Three Musicians or imagine a dreamy melody by Ravel as the Girl on the Ball dances for herself alone. More dramatically, the crumbling of art conventions, the dissolution of form are mirrored in the barbaric arrhythmias of The Rite of Spring and flamenco rasqueado by a gypsy campfire in the moonlight.

With this in mind, an exhibition celebrating the implicit relationship of Picasso’s art to music is long overdue. Right now, through January 3, 2021 The Music of Picasso is rectifying this oversight at the Philharmonie de Paris. To be sure, there have been smaller tributes in the past (a show on Picasso’s representation of guitars at the Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] in 2011), but nothing on the scale of Philharmonie’s selection of nearly 200 works from public and private collections.

To accompany this exhibition, harmonia mundi has released a two-CD set of music in the spirit of Picasso and his era, focusing on the first half of the master’s long and productive career. The 28 selections are taken from previous recordings and feature artists such as Alain Planès and Alexandre Tharaud, pianists, and conductor Josep Pons leading the Orchestre de Paris and Orquestra de Cambra Teatre Lliure, as well as other musicians, singers, conductors, and ensembles.

The recordings reveal the silky side of Picasso, with five short works by Debussy, seven by de Falla, and assorted dreamy interludes like Daphnis et Chloé and Alborada del gracioso. Most of the works are Spanish or French (Picasso was born in Spain and died in France), and even the Stravinsky is sweet (Pulcinella). Performances are correct, sometimes a little dull, but occasionally delightful (the unnamed oboist in two selections by Rodrigo). The orchestras are elegant, though either chamber-sized or close to it, odd for a remembrance of a creative giant who was larger than life.

In short, the album presents a nice selection for lemonade on the veranda, or perhaps to capture the mood of an exhibition featuring Fragonard. But to reflect the spirit of Picasso? The man who invented modern art? The artist who made the vanishing point vanish, and blazed new trails not just in the visual arts, but by impacting music, film, ballet, and literature as well?

Some of these mellow selections do reflect the spirit of Picasso in music. His works are frequently “a beaker full of the warm South”, to quote Keats, celebrating Mediterranean folk culture with sensuous colors and shapes (take a look at that sunny, though uneasy, portrait of two young men on the album cover). But let’s also hear the revolutionary Picasso, the midwife at the birth of modernism.

Missing is the radicalism Picasso embodied in the 1910s and 20s. How about the Ballet Mécanique by George Antheil (1900-59) of Trenton, New Jersey, USA, with its discords, airplane propellers, and electrical devices. I can hear its cheeky rhythms every time I look at “Still Life with Caned Chair” or the boxy “Portrait of Ambroise Vollard.”

Or what of the cubist twist of the Suite Burlesque by French female composer, Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983)? And since Spain can look over its shoulder to all of Africa, why not a selection from the opera, Treemonisha, by Scott Joplin (1868-1917), an American composer of African descent? A short work or two by one of the twelve-tone masters would give us a taste of a different kind of radicalism percolating in Austria.

These works reflect the adventurous spirit of music in the Catalan master’s time, an age of diversity and daring we encounter in the singing lines of his sculpture and drawings, the defiant colors of his canvases. Here is music that bespeaks an expansion of spirit ranging far beyond restrictions of convention, habit, and even good taste.

To paraphrase Whitman, such music sings the Picasso electric, and harbingers the yen for free expression still advancing in our time. Alas, for this album, we could use a little more satyr, and a little less faun.

Philharmonie de Paris Website

Linda Holt




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