“Water has always inspired composers and artists – it has texture and colour, it’s prismatic and vibrant, it catches the light and yet it can obscure the sun. Mist and fog create a sense of mystery and strangeness. For my recital on the 26th of June in the Markson Pianos Bösendorfer Series, I have chosen pieces that are all inspired by water: Tchaikovsky’s Barcarolle, Chopin’s Second Ballade, Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau, Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral and Gardens in the Rain and Ohana’s Quintes. Very often, in my concerts, I like to have a theme or a leading thread which links the pieces. I like to play music which tells a bit of a story. As part of the performance, I usually talk about the music and give the sources of inspiration of the composers. That really makes the music come alive.
I don’t think that music can be totally detached from its artistic and aesthetic context. It’s true that Stravinsky said that music is powerless to express anything and therefore does not have any meaning outside itself, but in my view, I feel that music does have strong connections to the real world, to emotions, to landscapes and to art in general. The repertoire which I will be playing at the concert, from the 19th and early 20th centuries, was composed at a time when the musicians frequented the famous “salons” where artists from different backgrounds used to meet. Composers would constantly be talking with poets, writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, etc. Musicians used to go out a lot, to the opera, to the theatre and ballet. Music was not composed in the abstract, and I like making connections between what we hear and the context in which it was composed – but in an imaginative way. It’s all about art being suggestive, it’s not about imposing a specific view of the work, it’s about making the whole musical experience of the concert even more poetic and expressive, by showing how the music starts from something real but then moves into the realm of the inexpressible. As Debussy once said, music is made for the inexpressible but at the same time, he gives us suggestions for titles, between brackets, at the end of each of his Preludes. The Sunken Cathedral is both the story of this majestic cathedral rising out from the depth of the ocean, and yet it is also about the abstract musical relations, textures and colours which are often far from being painting in sound but are the embodiment of abstract correspondances, to be enjoyed for themselves.
How do I create this sense of poetry and music in recitals? Well, the visual is always very strong in our lives. As soon as we are shown a projected image, that image dominates our imagination, often to the exclusion of all else. So, for example, in a multimedia concert with projections of paintings, the projections can, in a way, overwhelm the music. In my concerts, I like to include poetry and story-telling, and even little anecdotes about the composers, and I do make references to famous paintings, like Monet’s Waterlilies, but it is sometimes better if people can conjure them up in their minds, rather than have them in front of their eyes. Of course, if one is performing in an art gallery, with the original works on display, the atmosphere is very different.
I think it’s very special if the person who is playing the music, who is interpreting it at the piano, is also sharing their creative process in words as well as in music, sharing their sense of communion with the composers and their sources of inspiration. To take an example, Ravel was fascinated by the vision of the fountains of Versailles, captured in poetry by one of his friends, the symbolist poet Henri de Régnier. The poem speaks of statues that seem to come alive and start frolicking in the water gardens of Versailles and Ravel particularly liked the reference to the River God, who“laughs as the water tickles him”. From that one line, Ravel wrote a whole composition full of light, full of colour, full of movement and full of humour.
All this just gives you that tiny spark, opening a window into the imagination of the composer, and then the music seems to acquire that many more shades of meaning.” (Emilie Capulet June 2013)
Hear Emilie Capulet Wednesday June 26th at 7pm at Markson Music & Wine Evening
St Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Munster Square, London NW1
Tickets £6.00 on the door or pre-booked ; £3.00 Concessions