Cellist Deidre Emerson will perform at the opening of the Frist Center’s Kandinsky exhibit

KandinskyCan abstract instrumental music actually be painted?

Wasilly Kandinsky, the celebrated Russian artist, was sure of it. In 1911, he attended a concert in Munich featuring some of the newly minted atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg. To Kandinsky, the father of modern abstract painting, Schoenberg’s thorny, dissonant works came across as heartfelt songs without words. He attempted to capture the emotional warmth he felt in his masterful abstract painting “Impression III (Concert).”

D_Emerson1On Friday, Sept. 26, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts will open Kandinsky: A Retrospective, a major exhibit featuring more than 100 paintings, drawings and other works drawn mostly from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In recognition of Kandinsky’s passion for music, cellist Deidre Vaughn Emerson will perform a recital on Friday at the Frist Center.

“It will be a wide-ranging program,” says Emerson, a frequent performer at the Frist who teaches cello and directs the orchestra at Tennessee State University. “I will perform music that influenced Kandinsky, and I will also play works that were influenced by him.”

Like many artists who came of age in the late 19th century, Kandinsky initially came under the spell of the German composer Richard Wagner. He was especially taken with the Wagnerian aesthetic ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“universal artwork”), which resulted in works, like Wagner’s opera, that synthesized many different arts forms.

Emerson will perform Friday at the Frist from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Frist Center’s Grand Lobby. The performance is free and opening to the public, but patrons should RSVP by calling 615-744-3987 or emailing at membership@fristcenter.org. The exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2015.


Wassily Kandinsky. Small Worlds VII, 1922. Color xylograph. Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, Paris, Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981, AM 81-65-720 (10). Photograph © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/ Dist. RMN-GP © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.