The Metropolitan Museum has paired music and masterpieces for its concert series Sight & Sound
, organised in partnership with The Orchestra Now (TON, pronounced “tone”), a new music training and master’s degree programme at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson New York. On 7 February, the orchestra and its conductor Leon Botstein presented Strauss, Watteau and Nostalgia, which examined Richard Strauss’s 1912 suite for Moliere’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme (The Middle Class Gentleman) alongside Antoine Watteau’s The French Comedians (1721).
Antoine Watteau’s The French Comedians (1721)
As the orchestra performed teasing snippets from the suite, Botstein discussed how Strauss looked back to the playfulness of the 18th century for inspiration, bypassing the “deadly seriousness” of Romanticism. He managed to throw in some good-natured digs, from a playful swipe at Prince Charles to a critique of gift shop culture (“In those days, department stores had concert halls—now concert halls have department stores,” he said about an early 20th-century Strauss performance at the New York shop Wanamaker’s).
The orchestra later played the entire nine-part suite. The next and last performance in the series, on 22 May, is Mendelssohn, Turner and Romantic Imagination, and will pair Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (1829-42) and J. M. W. Turner’s Whalers (around 1845).