Marc Chagall's (1887-1985) interest in musical instruments in general, and in the figure of a solo violinist in particular, is evident through a series of highly expressive paintings that cover an important part of his production. Two paintings by Marc Chagall arises from the contemplation of two of Chagall's best-known paintings dedicated to the violin: "Green Violinist" (1923-24) and "Blue Violinist" (1947). It would be, in a way, the music that I imagine the figures painted by Chagall could be playing.
Marc Chagall: Green violinist (1923-24)
Marc Chagall: Blue violinist (1947)
Based on this pretext, the piece presents in its first section the musical material suggested by both violinists, in accordance with the character of each painting: the one painted in green is more rhapsodic, lyrical and sometimes dramatic, and the blue one with openly light and scherzante tonality (I have deliberately avoided playing easy games with the term blue). Once exposed, the material is extensively developed in the second and last section, in which the thematic elements corresponding to both violinists intermingle and dialogue with each other, always within a highly complex virtuosic writing put at the service of maximum expressiveness, and that in any case allows the soloist to fully display his technical and interpretative abilities.
Two paintings by Marc Chagall was written at the request of the violinist Manuel Guillén, to whom it is dedicated, between the months of July and August 2009, who premiered it at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on November 4 of the same year. and the subsequent recording, included in the CD "The Spanish solo Violin in the XXI Century", published by the Nibius label in 2019.
Cover and back cover of the CD ""The Spanish solo Violin in the XXI Century"" (Nibius, 2019)
Question.- Why did you choose these two paintings as a visual model to compose this work?
Answer.- Because I have always been very interested in that recurrence of Chagall with the figure of the violinist. Apart from these two paintings, in which a violinist is the absolute protagonist of both, there are many others in which he appears with other characters, in ensemble scenes. That's why I thought they were an excellent starting point for a work for solo violin.
Q.- Before writing the music, what impressions did you receive from the paintings?
A.- I think the previous question already answers this one. It would be fatuous to say that the music I have written is what I imagine each of the violinists could be playing at the time it was painted. The impression was purely plastic, as corresponds to a pictorial work, and therefore from there everything enters the field of the most absolute subjectivity.
Q.- Why did you exhibit the Green Violinist first and then the Blue Violinist? Does it have anything to do with the order of the paintings, 1923-1947?
A.- Because of the character that each one of them suggests to me from the impression received by contemplating the paintings. Green is more complex and focused, more reflective; Blue, more energetic and lively. And formally I was interested in presenting the musical ideas in that order.
Q.- Did you have any stories about the paintings? For example, if at the end of the dialogue the violinists talk, discuss or make music together; or if one of the violinists feels like a teacher and the other like a student...
A.- I already said that everything in art, be it pictorial, musical or any other manifestation, is very subjective. The music is not intended to accompany a staging of dialogue or discussion between two characters; if anything, the musical idea of each violinist is different, and what is sought is a contrast between both.
Q.- Which violinist did you find most difficult to compose in the exhibition of the work?
A.- Obviously Blue, due to the complexity of its development.
Q.- Which violinist dominates at the end?
A.- None, because each one is presented and elaborated in his own way. As there is no contest, there is no dominance of one over another.
Q.- Do you have any special sympathy for one of the paintings?
R.- I love both equally, I have no predilections.
Q.- In your opinion, what is the main characteristic that differentiates the two violinists?
A.- As I said before, the concentrated character of Green, more prone to expressiveness, compared to the luminous Blue, more apt for a brilliant, virtuosic treatment of writing.
Q.- What was your feeling when you heard the complete work at its premiere?
A.- I have to say that until now I have not heard it in concert, because although Manuel Guillén has played it several times I have never been able to be present. Yes, I was at the recording, supervising it (although the CD has not yet been released), and the experience was very gratifying. I am frankly satisfied with this work, and I hope it will be well received by violinists.