Thursday, October 25, 2012

Francesco Guardi’s Venice with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

As frequent visitors to the blog are aware, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has a penchant for viewing great art while listening to Jazz.

This usually takes the form of developing a slide montage of the works of a particular artist, adding a favorite Jazz recording as an audio track and then posting this “video” to YouTube via the dadocerra YouTube channel.

So when we became aware that this year Musée Jacquemart-André was offering an exhibit commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Francesco Guardi [1712-1793], whose paintings of the city of Venice are unsurpassed, despite the fact that Canaletto [Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768] is more famous for his depictions of the city, we thought that Guardi’s paintings of Venice would afford us with the theme for our next Jazz and Art audio-visual compilation

“If Venice’s best-known painter, Canaletto, created imposing framed memories for Grand Tourists to enjoy back home, Guardi captured the city’s moods; its damp and heat; it’s evening sky, a dirty blue, the wispy clouds a pinkish color and the gondolas lit up by the fading sun.”

Because of its intimacy, the Musée Jacquemart-André is a special place to view art exhibits in Paris, a city that abounds with large museums that exhaust you from the exhilarating energy it takes to traverse them and to take in all of their treasures.

Like the Frick Collection in New York, the Musée Jacquemart-André presents collections worthy of the great museums in a magnificent private mansion that was built at the end of the 19th century. It is located on the Boulevard Haussmann, one of Paris’ great thoroughfares, and it is but a short Metro or bus ride away from the Arc de Triomphe.

Exhibited in rooms graced with good lighting and plenty of places to sit and savor, the Musée Jacquemart-André’s “Canaletto and Guardi” [now until January 14, 2013] is “a joyous eye opener.”

In their review of this exhibit, the editors of The Economist went on to explain and to discuss Guardi’s significance and artistic appeal.

© -The Economist, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Francesco Guardi is unsurpassed as Venice’s poet in paint.  Last year a large view of the Rialto bridge sold for £26.7111 ($42.7) at Sotheby's, the second-highest auction price for an Old Master painting. Now, to celebrate the 3OOth anniversary of his birth, Guardi is the subject of two important exhibitions - a retrospective in Venice [Francesco Guardi, 1712—1793" is at the Museo Correr in Venice until January 6th] and a Paris show pairing and comparing him with Canaletto.  Guardi has emerged from the shadows and his achievements glow.

Francesco Guardi was born and died in Venice. His father was a painter, as was his brother Giovanni Antonio. (Their sister Maria-Cecilia married another Venetian artist, Giambattista Tiepolo.) Guardi strug­gled financially. He was middle-aged be­fore he achieved any recognition and old before he was sought after. Fame came only after his death. In the 19th century he was feted as the bridge to Impressionism; some called him the first modern artist.

Archival information about Guardi's life is scarce and his pictures are difficult to date. Controversies about attribution dogged his last retrospective in 1965. Subse­quent scholarship has made authorship more certain.

The retrospective … [‘Canaletto and Guardi: Two Masters of Venice’ at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre until January 14th] in Paris is a joyous eye-opener.

This is a tightly focused show of 50 paintings, all Venetian views and capric­cios. The freshness of Canaletto's early works points to why his pictures were so prized. Guardi saw these paintings and was clearly influenced by them. As the exhibition unfolds the older artist's vision hardens. Canaletto's people are there not as individuals but to provide scale for the architecture. His buyers wanted to recol­lect the city's beauty, not the life of its peo­ple.  Guardi the artist, if not the family man with bills to pay, benefited from having few clients and therefore only himself to please. Canaletto's Venice is a cold beauty, Guardi's city a living dream. The visitor leaves the Paris show smiling, full of admiration for his painterly spirit.”

We have no idea why this exposition of Guardi’s paintings called to mind a pairing with The Blues Goose as performed by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, but it did.

Maybe it was all that blue in the Venetian skies of Guardi’s painting? Or maybe it was the fact of coincidence in that we were hard-at-work on two previous features about trumpeter, Bert Joris, who served as a principal composer and arranger for the Brussels Jazz Orchestra for many years? Or perhaps we were just looking for an excuse to look at the grandeur of Francesco Guardi’s art while listening to the 1995 BJO track from their Countermove CD entitled The Blues Goose?

Whatever the motivation, subjectively or otherwise, here’s the final result.

Solos are by pianist Nathalie Loriens, alto saxophonist Frank Vaganee [who also composed the tune] and Nico Schepers on trumpet. [You may wish to view the video at full screen by clicking on the directional arrows on the bottom right.]