Wednesday, 8 May 2019


New York has long been a hub for the artistic intelligentsia - the go-to one stop shop in the American east for Gesamtkunstwerk.

The Big Apple is set to blaze several degrees hotter in the coming months as a slew of historically significant works of art will be made available, entirely cost-free, for public consumption - a move I enthusiastically applaud - great art deserves to be shared!

The first item on the docket is the contested Caravaggio, which Unraveling Musical Myths discussed in a previous post in April of 2016.

Starting this Friday, May 10, the recently discovered allegorical painting of Judith decapitating Holofernes, “Judith and Holofernes” (ca. 1607), found in the attic of a home in Toulouse in 2014 and later attributed to Caravaggio (which remains a subject of debate) will be making a week long pit-stop at the Adam Williams Fine Art Gallery (24 East 80th Street) before returning to Toulouse where it will be briefly displayed before being auctioned off later next month (at the Halle aux Grains, 1 place Dupay.)

This is a great time to view this stunning work of art up close - whether or not this piece is in fact a second go at this famous Old Testament tale by one of the most influential masters of the Italian Baroque/Renaissance or the work of another, incredibly gifted artist (some believe it to be painted by the brush of Louis Finson, who copied an original work)[1], it is worth making the trip to the gallery: the Louvre declined the acquisition of this piece back in 2016 (for budgetary reasons) and it is presently unknown with whom - or where - this controversial painting may wind up. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime visual experience for those U.S. bound.

If indeed a true Caravaggio, the c. 1607 Judith Beheading Holofernes would make the piece the 66th surviving work of the artist. Caravaggio's known work based on this scene from the Book of Judith was rediscovered in 1950 and is presently part of the collection of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Rome.

UPDATE: Judith Beheading Holofernes has been sold to a private buyer who intends to display the work in an as yet unrevealed "major" public gallery. The purchase occurred two days ahead of the painting's scheduled auction on Thursday, 25 June, 2019. Read more about the transaction here.

Visitors to Unraveling Musical Myths may recall my recommendation of Arma, Caedes, Vindictae, Furores from Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernes barbarie, performed by the great I Barocchisti and Coro della Radio Svizzera under maestro Diego Fasolis to accompany the enjoyment of this masterful work of art. I present it here again for those who missed it - never before have I heard a better interpretation of this movement in particular - it is simply an incredible rendition, from the blood-boiling timpani crescendo which opens the martial movement, to the rich tapestry of voices offered by the mixed choir.

Juditha Triumphans, save for it's overture, which has been lost to the hands of time, is Vivaldi's only surviving oratorio. It was originally scored for an all female cast (for performance by the women of the Ospedale della Pietà with which the composer was linked) and the biblical subject matter meant to serve as a metaphor for the Venetian victory over the Turks at the siege of Corfu in 1716.

As for the "Caravaggio," visitors to the Adam Williams Fine Art Gallery can expect to view the painting until May 17.

Exciting, admission-free events take a musical turn in late 2020, as the New York Public Library gets set to launch its very first permanent exhibition.

Residents of and visitors to New York will soon be able to
view, up close and in person, Mozart manuscripts, free of
charge, courtesy of the New York Public Library.
As yet unspecified, original sheet music in the hands of classical music titans Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, among other historical items of interest (ranging from rare books and manuscripts to film, photographs and ephemera - even Thomas Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and a prized Gutenberg Bible) will make an appearance. Each acquisition will be hand selected from the NYPL archives. Previously accessible only to visiting scholars, the documents will be viewable on rotation in the 6,400-square-foot Gottesman Hall exhibition space (located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.)

The world of dance will not go unnoticed: a personal diary belonging to 20th century Russian dancer and choreographer/Parisian icon Vaslav Nijinsky of The Rite of Spring fame will also make the public round. 

It is all part of the Library's commendable initiative to "showcase the depth and breadth of the Library's holdings," according to Library President Tony Marx, who added that he hopes by allowing these formerly exclusive items into the open, it will "excite a new generation of researchers.”

In an age where digitization of composer manuscripts and memorabilia is rapidly becoming commonplace, a live, in person, physical manifestation of the musical past is an added - and much overdue - welcome.

The NYPL's much anticipated exhibition is the result of a generous $12 million donation from philanthropist Leonard S Polonsky's Polonsky Foundation.

Unraveling Musical Myths will keep you updated when the day of launch is formally announced.

I am celebrating these momentous occasions with a listen of David Deveau's reduction of Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 14 (presented below is the works' second movement, the "Andantino")

If you haven't already heard Deveau's charming rendition of Mozart's inaugural mature concerto, you are missing out on a truly unique listening experience. The pianist's collaboration with the Borromeo String Quartet recently released on the Steinway and Sons label made quite a buzz earlier this year and it's easy to see why.

Deveau has adapted the a quattro form by way of an added double bass (performed by Thomas van Dyck of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) to enhance the (chamber version) of Mozart's Concerto while keeping intact the composer's original cadenzas. It was not uncommon in the age of Mozart, with the era's rapidly expanding subscription concert sector, for popular works to be adapted for play in the private home with a small ensemble. Over a dozen of Mozart's concerti (nos. 1-14) served as ideal models for performing "a quattro" - that is, in a transcribed version for soloist and string quartet.

Deveau's intimate recording takes us back to this time - in the age before radio and televised broadcasts - into the private salons of the musical 18th century Viennese.

[1] Louis Finson (Ludovicus Finsonius) was a known acquaintance of Caravaggio and has been documented to have been in possession of several of the master's paintings, and known to have painted copies of Caravaggio's originals.

Some scholars believe this to be a variation on his ca. 1607 "Giuditta decapita oloferne" (seen below) after an original, since lost, second depiction of this scene by Caravaggio. It should be noted, however, that the 1607 work to Finson is also an attribution.

Finson's (attr.) Giudetta decapita Oloferne:



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