Arts in Harmony: An Art Gallery’s Musical Heritage at the Royal College of Music
The museum in the Royal College of Music is hosting a new exhibition to honour the lives and work of the émigré musicians who greatly contributed to classical music in Britain. The collection forms part of the celebrations marking the centenary year for the opening of Ben Uri, a gallery containing the world’s most distinguished body of work by artists of European Jewish descent.
Arts in Harmony: An Art Gallery’s Musical Heritage showcases artefacts once belonging to musicians who fled Nazi persecution from 1933-1945. The small collection aims to shed light on both their personal stories and the extent to which they influenced music during the war years. The exhibition shows how European artists remain a major part of British musical heritage. For instance, Piano Recital (1946) is included, a piece by German-born composer and former student at the Royal College of Music, Franz Reizenstein. He later interned on the Isle of Man in 1940 where he “helped keep the music alive”.
Along with concert programmes and recital flyers from the 1920s and 30s, paintings are exhibited that contextualise the whole display. Daniel Moiseiwitsch’s The Pianist and Josef Herman’s Musicians – both pen and ink on paper – capture the mood of the era. The main attraction is Issac Lichtenstein’s The Blind Fiddler from 1924, a beautiful oil painting with a strong Cubism influence. It works as another example of the impact European movements had on British arts.
The exhibition follows Ben Uri Gallery and Museum from its original home in Marylebone in 1943, to its new place on Dean Street in Soho in 1964. It has now finally settled on Boundary Road. The museum itself boasts more than 1,300 works, and while Arts in Harmony displays only a select few, Ben Uri holds many more pieces from artists of Jewish descent.
This is an exhibition with a theme ideal for those with some previous knowledge on the topic and an interest in war-time classical music. Though it is a good place to start, the highly selective nature of the collection certainly leaves viewers asking for more.
Arts in Harmony: An Art Gallery’s Musical Heritage is on at the RCM Museum of Music from 28th April until 29th August 2015, for further information visit here.