Friday, September 24, 2010


Last week I made a brief visit to the Neue Nationalgalerie, housed in a crystal wonder designed by Mies van der Rohe, which specializes in early 20th century, mostly German art. And how could you have a museum of early German modernism without some portraits of early modern Germans (or adopted Germans)?

So here is Max Oppenheimer's jagged painting of everyone's favorite eclectic, Ferrucio Busoni.
Busoni is one of the unsung heroes of nascent musical Expressionism, an Italian who prized the German canon and decided to place himself within it. His unfinished opera Doktor Faust is a pluralistic dreamland, packed with every imaginable musical style available in 1916, but one of my favorite Busoni works is the super-duper indulgent Piano Concerto. It's seventy minutes, an incredible drain on any performer (Garrick Ohlsson, one of its only interpreters has an excellent recording with the Cleveland Orchestra), and to top it off, it ends with a male chorus. The best part? They're singing from a German version of Aladdin. It's basically Mahler 2 minus women plus piano plus Arabian Nights.

Weirdly enough, there is a huge Wikipedia entry on the piece--apparently there are 13-plus recordings.

I also discovered that Edvard Munch painted a portrait of the Weimar Republic's most well-connected dandy, Count Harry Kessler.
I wrote about/excerpted Kessler here and here; his diaries provide invaluable description of the political, social, and artistic fabric of post-WWI Europe.

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