By Edward Kliszus

Connections between music, visual art, history, and literature are inextricably linked to the human experience and came to light in The Orchestra Now presents Sight and Sound. Under the leadership and baton of Maestro Leon Botstein, The Orchestra Now explored these ties in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today was an informative and inspiring musicological venture into the parallel psyches and pathos of great art.

Botstein welcomed the audience and explained how today’s program was structured to examine specific artistic and metaphorical connections associated with the rise of the Tudor dynasty and through the 45-year reign of Elizabeth I that spanned 1485-1603 and defined the English Renaissance. Luminaries of this remarkable period include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson, Sir Francis Drake, John Webster, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Kyd, and Thomas Nashe.

Botstein expanded his context by referring to 20th-century English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. This reference of special note informed the primary substance of today’s musicological expedition. As with many soldiers who survived the horrors of WWI, Williams participated in a national post-war movement revitalizing England’s sense of pride and history. For Williams, this included veneration of the 20th-century Queen Elizabeth II, who became an image of intellectualism, hope, and pride for a nation recovering from The Great War.

Acclaimed Museum curator Adam Eaker ascended to the stage and described the MET’s current Tudor exhibit and its association with the “afterlife of Tudor culture through the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams” in what he considered a second Elizabethan era spanning from the 1950s until the death of Elizabeth II in 2022. The Tudor style affected more than England. You may recall ubiquitous Tudor-style architecture that proliferated in America in the post-WWI years.

Great Hall - Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York City. Public Domain

Great Hall – Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City. Public Domain

Botstein returned and opined on inferences to visual artworks as artifacts and the discovery of concomitant musical connections through a kind of “mythological pseudo-history.” This approach elicited similar excitement to this writer to the theories expressed by Leonard Bernstein in his Harvard lectures in elegantly exclaimed observations of sounds, intones, and syntax in linguistics. Intriguing, inspiring, passionate, and syllogistic.

As Botstein described characteristics of the music of multiple 20th-century composers concurrent to tonight’s themes, and especially through the works of Ralph Vaughn Williams, he used the Orchestra and soprano soloist Kirby Burgess to perform and demonstrate concepts aurally. Also examined were musical works befitting the artistic psyche of Elizabeth II.

After intermission, The Orchestra Now performed music from the film Three Portraits from The England of Elizabeth (1955) by Ralph Vaughn Williams. The work is divided into three segments: Explorer, Poet, and Queen. After the performance, Maestro Botstein led an informative audience Q and A.

Today was a splendid example of the expressive power of visual and auditory art articulated with a fine orchestra, magnificent art exhibit, and stimulating repartee. Be sure to visit the Tudor exhibit that runs through January 8, 2023, and see the links below to exciting and equally stimulating and entertaining adventures through the arts by the nonpareil Maestro Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now.

Runtime two hours, including intermission.

The Orchestra Now

Leon Botstein, Music Director, and Conductor
For information, calendar, and tickets, go to. https://ton.bard.edu/

PO Box 5000
30 Campus Rd.
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson NY  12504
845-752-2422

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England
For information, go to https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/tudors

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The Orchestra Now presents The Lost Generation, Master Your Mindset: The Master’s Way, and The American Classical Orchestra presents Remember.