Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Impressionism in the springtime

When spring is in the air, Debussy is on the sound waves.

Last weekend, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performed a concert opening and closing with works by music's most popular Impressionist. On Tuesday, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art hosted a program centered around a Debussy piece in their Music and Museum series.

As I walked away from each concert, Tryon Street's cherry blossom petals floated around me, straight out of a Monet garden painting.

The tie between Impressionism and springtime isn't exactly a mystery. There's a high concentration of natural subject matter for these artists--the ocean, meadows, all those water lilies Monet painted--and springtime allows our rediscovery of nature (maybe only theoretically since winter in Charlotte hardly keeps one indoors).

Musically, Impressionistic qualities include freedom, undulating dynamics and loose rhythm. Like the out-of-focus sunsets and reflecting pools in Impressionistic paintings, the music lacks defined boundaries. I think the thing that places this late 19th-century aesthetic in this season is its likeness to heat. In the opening of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," the flute solo drips downward and rests lazily on the lowest note before languidly moving back up the scale. Listening to the CSO play this Friday night slowed the speed of a hectic week, giving me my first deep breath in a busy spring season.