Hippo Manchester
November 3, 2005

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Arts: All together now

Currier and Philharmonic join forces for unique program

By Michelle Saturley  msaturley@hippopress.com 

The New Hampshire Philharmonic is collaborating with the Currier Museum of Art to bring the museum’s newest exhibit to life through classical music. “In the American Grain,” the Currier’s latest exhibit on loan from the esteemed Phillips’ Collection, features works from early American abstract artists Georgia O’Keefe, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and their mentor Alfred Steiglitz. All of these artists were influenced by the abstract movement in Europe, but used it as a springboard to find a uniquely American voice.

NH Philharmonic executive director Paul Hoffman saw this exhibit as the perfect opportunity to join forces with the Currier.

“We had been looking for a way to work with the Currier for a long time, but this exhibit just seemed like a perfect fit,” Hoffman said. “The idea behind the collaboration is to enhance both the exhibit and the music by giving them a sense of place and context.”

Hoffman and music director Anthony Princiotti got an up-close-and-personal tour of the pieces in the exhibit from Currier curator Sharon Matt-Atkins.

“She sat with us for almost an hour, walking us through the pieces and their stories,” Hoffman said. “It was like a mini art history lesson for me.”

After looking at the exhibit and learning about the artists, Hoffman and Princiotti put their heads together to come up with a program that would complement the body of work. The pair used two sets of values to determine which music was a fit.

“Anthony is the scholar; mine was a much more visceral, gut reaction to the music selections,” Hoffman said.

Inspired particularly by Dove’s “Me and the Moon,” and Marin’s “Pertaining to Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street,” the pair decided on Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G,” along with Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess: Suite.”

“The Ravel piece was chosen because of the Jazz influences found within,” Hoffman said. “Though Ravel wasn’t American— he was French— this concerto was written after he visited North America in the late twenties where he was exposed to Jazz.”

The Gershwin piece was chosen for more obvious reasons.

“Gershwin is a perfect counterpart to these artists, because what the artists were doing with their paintings—finding a unique American voice—is what Gershwin was doing with his music,” Hoffman said.

The concert will be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. at the Palace Theater in Manchester. Atkins will be on hand for a pre-show discussion of the Currier’s exhibit, starting at 7 p.m. For tickets and information, call the Palace Theater box office at 668-5588, or visit the Currier’s website at currier.org.