April 12, 2023 704 PM
MARFA — Original compositions on solo cello that have been inspired by painter Charline von Heyl’s re-interpretation of Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera will be performed live in Marfa this weekend by cellist Matt Haimovitz. The concerns will take place 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Chinati Foundation Arena, 3 p.m. Saturday at Marfa Book Co. and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Crowley Theatre.
Performances will last around an hour and are free to the public. The concerts are being put on by the collaborative Primavera Project, which began in 2019 when co-founders Haimovitz and Jeffrianne Young met artist von Heyl in her Marfa studio, and asked if she would consider creating a modern reimagining of the Renaissance painting Primavera by Botticelli, which they had recently seen in Florence.
Von Heyl agreed to participate in the project and the resulting work debuted last spring at the Venice Biennale. The painting is also the subject of 50 original musical works by contemporary North American composers, commissioned by the project, with 30 more in progress. Recent performances have taken place in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Naples, Italy, but Haimovitz said the Marfa iteration marks the first three-day experience and brings the project back to where it all started.
“I think Marfa made it possible for us to have this kind of a project and bring music and art together. We’re looking forward to giving back to the community and also to just seeing what the interest is in the community,” said Haimovitz.
The large-scale Primavera painting by von Heyl will not be on display during the performances but has inspired the themes of the three concerts, which are titled “Figures and Shadows,” “Rites of Spring” and “Through the Centuries.”
Each commissioned composer took a different approach in crafting their musical contribution to the project, said Haimovitz. Composers include Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli, Gabriella Smith, Tomeka Reid and more.
“Some of the composers have really bridged the centuries beautifully between the Botticelli and the von Heyl,” said Haimovitz. “Some of them are really interested in one specific character [in the painting], or even David Sanford, for example, is interested in some of the blossoming flowers.”
Jazz cellist and recent MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Reid, for example, focused on the bird in flight in von Heyl’s painting for her solo cello composition, imagining it flying over the ocean for weeks at a time.
The Primavera Project has recorded some of its music — including in von Heyl’s studio while she worked on additional Primavera painting interpretations — which is available on their website, along with videos of performances set in the Chihuahuan Desert landscape.
Haimovitz and Young said while the project was ever-evolving, they are excited to bring the works to life for a Marfa audience, and that while it was not required to attend all three concerts by any means, it would give the viewer the full opportunity to hear the music in a variety of settings.
“When you take music out of the concert hall and put it in a different space, it suddenly has a different meaning,” said Haimovitz. “That is sort of what we’re doing in Marfa. You’re going to get a very different experience of the music and each one of these spaces.”
Correction: A previous version of this article identified one of the contributing composers as Gabrielle Smith. Her name is Gabriella Smith. We regret the error.