w 1913 - A special concert program created for the National Gallery of Art - Michael Arnowitt, pianist

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This innovative program was originally created in 2013 for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to be performed in conjunction with their special exhibition “When Art Danced with Music: Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.”

Click here to read an all-positive review of the concert in the Washington Post newspaper

Some excerpts from the Washington Post review:
“A beautifully thought-out program ... He played with an exquisite sense of touch, color and musical imagination.”
“He doesn’t go for cheap effects. He listens intently ... three of Debussy’s Book 2 Preludes trickled off the keys with shadings of dynamics that were almost imperceptible but perfectly satisfying ... his music moves with tantalizing inevitability, and he produces the most rewardingly supple lines.”
“The concert’s smashing finale was a technically brilliant and musically convincing performance of Arnowitt’s arrangement of the first half of The Rite of Spring, an impressive tour de force ... the applause was loud and long.”


Claude Debussy ⋅ From Préludes, book 2
    Brouillards (Mists)
    Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses (The fairies are exquisite dancers)
Sergei Rachmaninov ⋅ Allegro agitato, first movement from Sonata no. 2 in B-flat minor
Erik Satie ⋅ Embryons desséchés
Alexander Scriabin ⋅ Sonata no. 9 “Messe noire” (Black Mass), op. 68
Charles Ives ⋅ The Alcotts, from Sonata no. 2 “Concord, Massachusetts 1840-1860”
Leo Ornstein ⋅ Suicide in an Airplane
Igor Stravinsky ⋅ The Adoration of the Earth, part 1 of The Rite of Spring

Program description

If you were alive in 1913, what sort of music might you have heard? This fascinating program offers a window into the past by presenting contrasting pieces of piano music by major classical composers all written in the single year 1913. This was a true crossroads time between the old and the new in both music and world history. The first decade of the twentieth century witnessed an unparalleled creative explosion in all the arts. The world situation was equally rich in change, with the end of aristocracy, the birth of new technologies such as the car, the airplane, and electricity, and mass social unrest over the issues of equal rights for women and the working conditions of factory laborers. Tensions were further heightened by a series of diplomatic and military crises that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I the following year.

With the Romantic era in its twilight years, new and original music was emerging everywhere. These new musical currents included responses to expressionist and impressionist visual art, nationalist styles using energetic folk music elements, compositions aiming to create a mystical experience, pre-Surrealist music, and what was dubbed at the time “futurist” music, pieces that did indeed foreshadow the 100 years of music to come.

The most sensational musical event of 1913 was the famous riot that took place at the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in Paris. Featured on this program is the complete first half of the Rite of Spring, “The Adoration of the Earth,” in Michael Arnowitt’s extraordinary piano transcription. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Sergei Rachmaninov’s lush, nostalgic Sonata no. 2, the epitome of late-period Romanticism. Contrasting both these major works is Alexander Scriabin’s powerful Sonata no. 9 “Black Mass,” perhaps a musical depiction of what it was like to be at one of the many supernatural séances popular at the time.

The program of “1913” also includes Charles Ives’ “The Alcotts” from his Concord Sonata, “Suicide in an Airplane” by Leo Ornstein, the most controversial and important figure in American music in the 1910’s, Claude Debussy’s “Ondine” and “Mists,” and Erik Satie’s “Embryons desséchés,” modestly comic and gently whimsical pieces about sea cucumbers and crustaceans that prefigured Surrealist art and writing. “1913” offers a vibrant and rich program that brings you right into this extraordinary time.