OMF 2019 SEASON
A b o u t t h e S e a s o n
The inspiration for the season came to me inadvertently one day a few years ago while looking at the paintings of contemporary Iranian artist Hessam Abrishami. Viewing his art, hung in an ocean-side Florida town in an upscale gallery (which seemed more geared toward the passing tourist than an art connoisseur), I realized that Abrishami's work breathed life-like realism imbued with palpable emotional power. The paintings were fluid, sensuous and dramatic rather than sentimental or simply decorative. Moved by what I saw, I decided then and there to create, at some future date, a concert season that would combine various incarnations of the Romantic spirit: the emblematic, on-the-sleeve romanticism of the 19th century; its recast version, the Post-Romantic era of the first part of the 20th century; and, finally, its newest incarnation: the sparse and ethereal music of the contemporary mystics. The composers that immediately came to mind were first of all the giants of the 19th century: Schubert, Schuman, and Brahms; then came the Neo-Romantics: Vaughan Williams and Kodaly; and finally the composers of our time, Pēteris Vasks and Sofia Gubaidulina. While one may wonder about the inclusion of such figures as Gubaidulina, Kodaly and Vasks -- still relative strangers to American audiences -- I am certain that upon hearing their music you will likely concede that their inclusion is warranted. This is, what may be called “music beyond Mozart’s Requiem” -- an introduction to great works that are little known to our community yet well deserving of a hearing.
On encountering such music one cannot but be awestruck, or at least become cognizant, that one has come to a “sacred place.” When Rachmaninov heard the premiere of Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, he wept, having been moved to the core. While Schubert’s 8th symphony remains “unfinished” and thus supposedly “imperfect”, it is, without a doubt, one of the most profound and perfect works of art in existence. And what is one to say about the monumentality of Brahms’ Requiem (closing the OMF’s Summer Edition), the sheer brilliance and stirring expressivity of Kodaly’s Te Deum or the stark, wrenching sparsity of Gubaidulina’s Fachwerk (Oregon premiere)?
Yet, the festival is not only about great compositions but about artists and performances. Consequently, this season includes a line-up of distinguished artists that range from our own local Portland Symphonic Choir and Oregon Festival Orchestra to the internationally acclaimed Eroica Trio, the avant-guard Mivos Quartet and a variety of vocal and instrumental soloists who boast enviable national and international careers. As Abrishami’s painting “Sensations” (this season’s emblematic painting) suggests, experiencing art should not be and cannot be a nominal experience. Rather it is an encounter of the highest kind; an experience when one’s mind and senses engage in all that is beautiful, deep and noble -- a time of spiritual transcendence. In this important sense all great art is transformative and sacred!
Cover art by HESSAM ABRISHAMI
With the 2019 season OMF is opening a new collaborative relationship with visual artists. The spirit of the 2019 season entitled “Three Faces of Romanticism” is aptly summed up in the work of the Iranian artist HESSAM ABRISHAMI. Recognized world-wide, Abrishami’s style is fundamentally Romantic, though his language is modern. Loose, vibrant and full of joy, he creates works of amazing depth, feeling and dimension that intrigue and disarm the viewer.
Hessam paintings are influenced by his dramatic life experiences. He has exhibited throughout Europe, Asia and North America. The French press has called his paintings “a statement in the fluidity of human figures . . . with tension between each figure, a kinship that provokes the viewer to seek reasons for such a relationship” -- the same kind of interplay of expressive language found in the music of composers of the 19th century, the Neo-Romantics of the first part of the 20th century and, eventually, in modern mystics of our era. It is this spiritual kinship that has caused us to use Abrishami’s work as a visual representation of the 2019 season -- the art that takes the viewer or the listener to a realm of suggestion and mystical beauty where everything is alive with a sense of constant fluid motion.
The cover art of the Summer Edition is a detail from Abrishami’s painting called “Sensations”. You can find more about the artist at https://hessam-artist.com/.