CMA Thinker
Published in

CMA Thinker

The Sounds of a Cleveland Museum of Art Summer

Drawing Connections between Music and Visual Art

With Arseniy Gusev, Student at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Tom Welsh, CMA Director of Performing Arts

When the worlds of music and visual art collide, an audience can feel, grasp, and absorb the material in a whole new way. As the museum’s director of performing arts, Tom Welsh explains:

“Music and the visual arts are often intertwined; indeed, this is one of the many reasons the Cleveland Museum of Art is so terrific — the founders understood this from the beginning, and here we are carrying on their vision more than 100 years later. Musicians work their magic through sound and vibration, but they share with visual artists the never-ending search for human insight and deep emotional contact.”

This summer, the CMA offers two contrasting experiences that combine the powers of music and visual arts: the featured exhibition Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900; and the return of City Stages, the museum’s free acclaimed summer concerts featuring the best in global music.

Claude Terrasse’s Petites scènes familières (Familiar Little Scenes) was recorded by pianist Arseniy Gusev which can be heard in the Private Lives exhibition galleries. An illustrated copy of Terrasse’s complete album, with 19 lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, appears in the exhibition as well. Private Lives explores the beautiful, enigmatic, and paradoxical work of four members of the Nabi brotherhood through Post-Impressionist paintings, woodblock prints, watercolors, and lithographs.

Gusev explains, “I remember quite distinctly how, as a child, I came to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and saw Bonnard’s paintings. There, his art is held in a separate gallery. I remember the lightness and transparency and, at the same time, the depth of the atmosphere in each artwork.”

Petites scènes familières, 1895. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947). Album of piano music by Claude Terrasse with 19 lithographs; 35.6 x 27.6 x 0.7 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Jane B. Tripp Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, 2019.233

“When Tom Welsh mentioned Terrasse, Bonnard’s brother-in-law, I was surprised that I had never previously encountered music by this composer. To my pleasant surprise, the works in Petites scènes familières turned out to be more than salon pieces. The collection of compositions is a daylong cycle, similar to Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album. The most notable difference, apart from the music itself — which sounded much more like Schumann and Mussorgsky played in a French manner — was that Terrasse arranged his 15 pieces from late evening to early morning and that most of the music takes place at night.”

Petites scènes familières, 1895. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947). Album of piano music by Claude Terrasse with 19 lithographs; 35.6 x 27.6 x 0.7 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Jane B. Tripp Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, 2019.233

“Bonnard’s wonderful illustrations for each piece served as a certain compass to me when I was working on working on the performance. I have always been amazed at how much a monochrome image, sketch, or lithograph can reveal about an artist. After spending long evenings with Bonnard’s black-and-white illustrations, I am convinced how much an illustration can tell the artist’s story. ”

Petites scènes familières on display in Private Lives

“It was a very special pleasure to record two cycles of Terrasse’s piece. Many phonic details, previously inaccessible, suddenly became part of my performance. The natural combination of music, illustrations, and the piano was an incredible source of inspiration and an unforgettable immersion in the world of two artists, Bonnard and Terrasse. Upon visiting Private Lives, it seems to me that the spirit of Paris from 1889 to 1900 is conveyed incredibly well.”

Arseniy Gusev is a native of Saint Petersburg, Russia, who is studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music and actively performs in Russia, Europe, and the United States. Watch as Petites Scènes Familières (Familiar Little Scenes) come to life through the production and performance by Gusev in the video below.

Tom Welsh offers insights into the highly anticipated City Stages summer concerts on August 18 and 25.

City Stages in front of Transformer Station. Photo: Scott Shaw for the CMA

“The City Stages summer concerts, which started in 2013 with the arrival of Transformer Station in Ohio City, are focused on global music at the highest level — something that wasn’t readily available to audiences in Cleveland previously. The rich musical traditions of so many regions have been featured over the years, from Africa to Central and South America, to the Caribbean, to Eastern Europe, but there is always a common thread — energy, fun, and celebration. The pandemic has been heartbreaking on many levels, including the complete disruption it’s caused in the lives of performing artists. This year, because of the impossibilities of international travel, we’re excited to present artists who live in the US.”

Angel Melendez and the 911 Mambo Orchestra, this year’s first City Stages performer.

“Concerts like these are a window to the larger world. The sheer variety of artists reminds us of the joy of discovery, and the things that link us all. I get inspired when people respond so enthusiastically to these artists, almost all of whom are performing in Cleveland for the first time, and by the way they are consistently amazed at how great our audiences are. The very first City Stages concert in the summer of 2013 was with Amadou & Mariam, who are from Mali. I remember there was a guy in the middle of this huge, dancing crowd, and he said to no one in particular, ‘I can’t believe I’m standing in a street in Cleveland watching Amadou & Mariam!’”

“There’s a lot of distance between the 19th century salon music of Claude Terrasse and the Malian griot music of one of this year’s City Stages performers, Cheick Hamala Diabate. But as Elvis Costello said, that’s the wonderful thing about music — you don’t have to choose, you can love it all.”

Cheick Hamala Diabate, this year’s second City Stages performer.

#StepInsideCMA to experience the sights and sounds of Paris in Private Lives, on view through September 19. Visit us for Community Wednesdays and gain FREE admission to the exhibition. And be sure to venture over to Transformer Station for City Stages on August 18 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. to enjoy summer in the city with LIVE global music performances in an outdoor setting.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store