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ALPINE SYMPHONY - RICHARD STRAUSS
In 1997 I received the MAFA Bursary Award which enabled me to visit Warsaw in Poland, three times, to study musicians at the Warsaw Philharmonic and Chopin Conservatoire. On my second visit the Philharmonic performed Richard Strauss’s ‘Alpine’ Symphony; the visual quality of this piece impressed me so much that I took an opportunity art and music with Professor Dutkiewicz at the Warsaw Conservatoire and Piotr Ciegielski, leader of the Warsaw Philharmonic. The professor had studied art prior to his career and music and I discovered that in Poland there was a real dialogue between artists and musicians.
I recorded my research and thoughts in a series of sketchbooks, followed by a ‘drawing’ of the pages of the whole symphonic score. This enabled me to understand the structure. I did not want to merely splash colour on a sheet in an expressive way to demonstrate my response to the music.
Once these drawings were completed I began to analyse each page of the score in terms of colour with the help of my singing teacher James Eastham, who, as a horn player and conductor was very familiar with the score in addition to having a high degree of musical knowledge
As the music is divided into stages of the journey I was able to create a ‘composite’ from several of the studies. For this I used digital technology to reinterpret sections of the score. This is a very long term project with large individual paintings dedicated to those who have assisted me in realising ideas, James Eastham, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Tim Reynish and Michael Kennedy, to name just some.
Up to now, I have produced six paintings and exhibited them all in three pairs at Manchester Art Gallery, Salford Art Gallery and Oldham Art Gallery. The project is ongoing.
Other projects I am developing are focussed on ‘An Album for my Friends’ by composer Edward Gregson and a series of works based on ‘British Meadows’.
Sadly, a collaborative project with the concert pianist, Natalia Strelchenko has had to be abandoned due to her untimely death at the age of 38. This was, firstly, an exploration of the character of music with pieces selected by the pianist follwed by a visual recording of the vocal works of Agnes Backer Grondahl to be undertaken during recording in Norway and to be used as illustrations for the CD set.