CBSO and Norman Perryman

THE EYE DEFEATS THE EAR

THE SEA

Norman Perryman and the CBSO at Symphony Hall ****

Norman Perryman's sensitive, astute swirling paintings of music and musicians grace the foyers and corridors of Symphony Hall, and it was a wonderful idea for the CBSO to commission him to paint a live concerto for artist and orchestra to accompany the UK premiere of an important work by the Lithuanian composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis.
Ciurlionis' symphonic poem The Sea had a troubled gestation, composed in 1903 but not premiered until 1936 (25 years after the composer's death in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 35), and not heard in its original version until 1990.
It is a wonderfully opulent Straussian work, demanding, and receiving from the CBSO huge generosity of playing, and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla unfolded her compatriot's score with love and authority.
The trouble was, we were scarcely aware of this gorgeous music, so absorbed were we in Perryman's paintings as they evolved on a huge screen suspended in front of the organ. Many years ago Perryman painted a live response to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Simon Rattle conducting the CBSO, and it was a brilliant triumph.
But that was music we knew, and which hummed along in our subconscious as we admired Perryman's scintillating brushwork.
This time we admired the rhythmic deployment of his brushes, sometimes lyrical, sometimes angry, the suggestion of underwater creatures evoked by his spider-like brush-head, the splashes of colour eventually coalescing into memorable seascapes.
But we had lost the music, relegated to being a poor relation in this feast for the eyes. I'd love Perryman to come back, this time painting to a score we all know backwards -- Debussy's La Mer.
Christopher Morley

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