Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A beautiful presentation of Bosch's eccentric art

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of its famous home-town artist, the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands put on what has been called "one of the most important exhibitions of our century," from February to May 2016.  Though they have no works of Bosch themselves, they were able to bring to Den Bosch 17 of Bosch’s 24 extant paintings and 19 of his 20 drawings, and the resulting gathering has given art experts opportunities for new insights of connoisseurship as well as a chance to use the new technologies of the local Bosch Research and Conservation Project to look beneath the surface of Hieronymus's gorgeous paint. Talk about a critical mass!

With such a small oeuvre this 90 minute film, shown in theatres around the world last year, can give us a pretty good overview of this eccentric art. It's done in beautiful HD video, with more complex camera pans than we're used to from Ken Burns' documentaries. I was impressed with the context that the film-makers provide: clear explanatory text (with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, German & Dutch), location shots and music from Bosch's time. The latter especially adds value, since music of the time in the low countries was as sophisticated and inspired as the visual arts. The only fly in the ointment was the Prado's reneging on sending their Bosch works after the de-attribution of two of their "Bosch's" by the Den Bosch experts.  That was a shame in terms of the physical exhibit, though for the purposes of our film we still had a chance to see the Prado's famous Garden of Earthly Delights in a very high definition digital file. 

The talking heads in the film provide some interesting insights into Bosch's paintings, most especially film-maker Peter Greenaway, whose own art owes a lot to Bosch and his contemporaries. The only caveat about these pronouncements is that Bosch's sense of humour was almost completely ignored, which I find quite scandalous. When it was finally mentioned, an hour in, I had lost some good humour of my own. But on the whole this is a successful project, most beautifully presented.

Here is the trailer from Seventh Art:

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