Pictures Reframed

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Musorgsky,Schumann
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Schumann: Kinderszenen
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano), Robin Rhode (visuals)
CATALOGUE NO: 967 0052 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture)

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Here’s an intriguing attempt to marry the world of musical sound with that of visual imagery and, by implication, reach out to a wider audience than the classical hardcore.
 
The starting point is Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, itself inspired by a set of paintings. But this collaboration between Leif Ove Andsnes and South African artist Robin Rhode presents a drastic reinterpretation of the score with moving images that have a far closer connection with the world of Soviet constructivism than that of 19th-century Realism.
 
Traditionalists expecting to view something in line with the grotesque figures of Gnomus and Baba Yaga or hatching chickens may well be nonplussed by Rhode’s abstract patterns of wires, printed fabrics patterns and a calliper compass.
 
It’s also difficult to fathom the various bank symbols that morph across the screen in response to ‘Goldenberg and Schmuyle’. But other images such as the metal fence and barbed wire that accompany ‘Bydlo’ are stimulating and provocative. And Rhode saves his most daring stunt for the final ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ in which a piano is ceremoniously submerged into the sea.
 
The DVD includes the preview that took place at the Risør Festival. It also offers a moderately interesting if somewhat long-winded portrayal of Andsnes set against the background of the rather fraught circumstances that surrounded the partnership between pianist and artist.
 
Andsnes remains surprisingly calm and collected throughout, graciously allowing Rhode an absolutely free hand and responding to all his suggestions with a completely open mind.
 
Fortunately, after several false starts, all seems to turn out well in the end with the audience demonstrating wild enthusiasm for the project. Erik Levi