February 27, 2014

"a moonlit landscape fair"

Lt. Frank Stokes: They tell us, “who cares about art?”. But they’re wrong, it is the exact reason we are fighting, for culture, for a way of life.  (from the movie "The Monuments Men")

While I was doing some additional research on Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Art Museum for yesterday's post, I was delighted to find that the museum had its own connection to the real life WWII monument men. The museum employed four of the Monuments Men, including Paul Gardner, the first director of the Nelson-Atkins and Laurence Sickman, another director.  Gardner served as Director of the Fine Arts Section of the Allied Military Government in Italy, and Sickman was a technical advisor on collections and monuments and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his war services.  You can read more about these brave men and their courageous efforts to help locate and restore European art collections here.

While I was falling in love with Monet's art at the Nelson during my college years, I didn't overlook the beautiful works of Manet, Renoir, Pissaro, Cassat and other impressionist painters.  I was captivated in particular by the delicate ballerinas of Degas and the lovely fleeting moments of en pointe captured on canvas for all time.

During my senior year I was lucky enough to student teach in an integrated fine arts classroom, and a field trip to Kansas City with a group of high school students was a truly memorable experience.  We attended an orchestra rehearsal of the Kansas City Symphony, followed by a ballet class at the Kansas City Ballet, and ended our outing with a tour of the impressionist collection at the Nelson, where Degas' lovely ballerinas floated on air, quite a contrast from the mashed toes the real life ballerinas had displayed at ballet class earlier!

Such lovely memories, but my grandest and sweetest memory of all is the concert that literally took my breath away--I know it did because I can remember gasping for air after the performance.  Several fellow music students and I piled into my car one Saturday evening and drove to KC for a night of magic...Van Cliburn on stage.

His artistry was unforgettable, his mastery of the piano keys sublime.  And the encore that seared its way into my heart and makes me sigh with delight every time I hear it?  Debussy's Clair de Lune, his dreamlike impressionistic masterpiece.  Every time I gaze at the moon the sublime melody with its rivulets of rolling notes, colorful harmonies and dynamic phrases plays through my head again, and leaves me forever grateful for the memory of Kansas City, Van Cliburn, Debussy and the haunting phrases of the song of the moon. Sometimes, life is just about perfect.

Paul Verlaine, a French poet, wrote "Claire de Lune" in 1869, and it was the inspiration for Debussy's work in 1890.  And in addition to the poem, I'll throw in an extra treat today--you can listen to Van Cliburn's rendition here.
Clair De Lune
Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair, 
Peopled with maskers delicate and dim, 
That play on lutes and dance and have an air 
Of being sad in their fantastic trim. 

The while they celebrate in minor strain 
Triumphant love, effective enterprise, 
They have an air of knowing all is vain,- 
And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise, 

The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone, 
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree, 
And in their polished basins of white stone 
The fountains fall to sob with ecstasy. 

Clair de Lune, by Deborah Paris

1 comment:

  1. We are so blessed, here in KC to have world class art and music at our fingertips.