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Playing to the Art

CSO Music Director Ken Lam with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

Our mission at the Charleston Symphony Orchestra is to inspire and engage our community through musical performances. While many of our concerts are performed at the Gaillard Center, we often partner with colleges, schools, community groups, and other arts organizations to reach a broader audience. The CSO is thrilled to be collaborating with the Gibbes Museum of Art this season by performing five chamber music concerts inspired by the museum’s collections in the beautifully renovated rotunda.

Sunrise at Grand Manan, 1861, by William Hart

Sunrise at Grand Manan, 1861, by William Hart (American, 1823–1894); Oil on canvas; 12 x 20 inches; Courtesy of the Higdon Collection.

I think it is very important for our musicians and patrons to explore connections between visual art and music on a broader level. Painters and composers have always been influenced by the artistic and intellectual movements of their time (such as romanticism and nationalism in the 19th century as we can see in our upcoming collaboration inspired by the Museum’s Hudson River School exhibition). More specifically composers often wrote works that were inspired by paintings, while artists such as Kandinsky and Mondrian were very much influenced by the music that they heard.

On Wednesday, February 22, the CSO Principal String Quartet (consisting of Concertmaster Yuriy Bekker, Assistant Concertmaster Micah Gangwer, Principal Viola Jan-Marie Joyce and Principal Cello Norbert Lewandowski) will perform chamber music inspired by the New World, featuring the “American” Quartet by Antonin Dvořák. This work, written in 1893 while Dvořák was on summer vacation in Spillville, Iowa, was written within two weeks and one can certainly hear the influence of spirituals or perhaps even a Kickapoo Indian tune that Dvořák might have heard while in Iowa.

CSO String Quartet

CSO String Quartet performing in the Campbell Rotunda at the Gibbes Museum.

Every collaboration with the Gibbes is an opportunity to bring our symphony audience to the museum and vice versa. I hope these events will provoke conversation among concert and museum goers and as a result, enrich our experiences. Of course, at the heart of it all is our belief in the ability of art and music to bring people of different backgrounds and walks of life together.

Ken Lam, Music Director, Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Top image: CSO Music Director Ken Lam with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. © William Struhs 2015

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