The Last Judgment (1549)
Marcello Venusti (1512/15-1579)
Palestrina/Mendez - "MEDITATION ON HUMANISM, BEAUTY AND POWER"
This work is an assemblage of artistic interfaces between music, paintings, visual media, videography and AI technology through which forms and styles are in continuous conversation. Inspired by the Farnese Collection, this assemblage shows how contrasting forms of arts co-exist within the flow of time and space, and the place of art objects within a larger continuum. The orchestral work presented here captures the live performance of Camilo Mendez's (White) Planes in Dissolution written in 2020 juxtaposed with a 16th century motet by Palestrina in a sequence of dialogues that moves back and forth in time, across cultures and mediums.
CAMILO MENDEZ (b. 1981) - (WHITE) PLANES IN DISSOLUTION FOR CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (2020)
Music inspired by White Planes in Dissolution (1917) by Kazimir Malevich (1879 - 1935)
Collegium Musicum Hong Kong X Johnny M Poon, Music Director
Performance premiered and recorded on 28 June 2021, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA (c. 1525 - 1594) - DOMINE, QUANDO VENERIS (1587)
Performed by Human-Artificial Intelligence (AI) Choir
Prototype singers: Cyanne Chan, Gianna Lam, Chris Lau, Geoffrey Tang
Generative model for AI singing voices developed by Dr. Wei Xue
AI research supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Project No. [T45-205/21-N])
Programme Note "MEDITATION ON HUMANISM, BEAUTY AND POWER" The Farnese Collection has noble roots: Pope Paul III Farnese (1463–1549; r. 1534) amassed a collection that grew over the following two centuries thanks to acquisitions made by his heirs until 1731, when the last male descendant, Antonio Farnese, died, leaving his collection to his niece, Elisabetta Farnese (1692–1766), Queen consort of Spain. She then passed the collection down to her son, Charles of Bourbon (1716–88), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, who was crowned sovereign of the newly created Kingdom of Naples in 1734. Given her familial heritage, Elisabetta understood the importance of investing the new Neapolitan king with a dynastic collection, a symbol of power and wealth. From 1735 to 1739, the collection journeyed from Parma and Rome to finally, the Capodimonte Palace in Naples, which was commissioned by Charles and designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano. The collection continued to grow under the reign of Charles, and his son and successor Ferdinand IV of Naples (1751 –1825), and during both the French Decade (1799–1815) with acquisitions made by Joachim Murat, and the tenure of the Savoy family, who succeeded the Bourbons in 1861 with the Unification of Italy. In the 1930s, the Savoy ceded the palace to the Italian State, which continued acquiring works for the collection. In 1957, Capodimonte opened to the public as an art museum. When Alessandro Farnese (1463–1549), later known as Pope Paul III, began to collect and commission art, such endeavours were an aristocratic expression of knowledge, power, and status. Acquiring art was one of his strategies to realise his noble ambitions, which he achieved with his ascension to the papacy in 1534 and the elevation of his territories in Parma and Piacenza to a duchy in 1545.He was a patron of many great artists of his time, such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. He commissioned several portraits from the latter featuring various members of the Farnese family, including himself. As Pope, Paul III called Michelangelo (1475–1564) from Florence to Rome to paint The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. To commemorate this monumental achievement, his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589), commissioned Marcello Venusti (1512/1515–1575) to copy the fresco as a celebration of their patronage. Paul III also hired Michelangelo to supervise the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. To the humanists, beauty was considered an expression of truth, virtue, and morality. Artists such as Titian (1488/90–1576), Parmigianino (1503–1540), and Bronzino (1503–1572) explored this concept through their depictions of finely-dressed courtly women, their elegance an external manifestation of their moral character. This section features some of the most famous female portraits from the 16th century. Parmigianino depicts Antea with striking realism, positioning her body frontally at centre, gazing the viewer. Her extremely elegant and detailed clothes and jewelry, refined hand gestures and inscrutable gaze, reveal the artist’s extraordinary skill in fostering a psychological connection between his subjects and the viewers. In his Portrait of a Lady, Bronzino explores a similar concept. The pose of the noble model and the great descriptive attention to the textures of her garment through smooth brushwork are hallmarks of the Florentine painter’s strongly realistic style.In contrast to the polished surfaces of Parmigianino and Bronzino, Titian rendershis sensuous Danaë in a swirling cloud of loose brushwork. Texture and colour work together to enhance the luminosity that bathes the central figure. The art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) wrote that when Michelangelo saw the painting, he celebrated its colourism but criticised its lack of disegno, or drawing, fundamental for Florentine artists. Physical strength, expressed through well-built, muscular bodies, was considered an expression of the masculine virtues of power, rationality, and discipline. The paintings of Annibale Carracci (1560–1609) illustrate these ideas. Carracci came from a family of painters. His studio was famous for producing works that synthesised the study of nature with the idealised forms of classical sculpture and 16th century painting. In Rome at the end of the 16th century, both Carracci and his rival, Caravaggio, produced a new approach to naturalism that was fundamental to the development of early modern art. In the 16th century, systematic archaeological excavations took place throughout Rome, unearthing ancient sculptures, frescos, and architecture that were influential to local artists and collectors. The Farnese were active collectors of such ancient works, like the Farnese Hercules and Farnese Bull discovered in the Baths of Caracalla in 1546. Fittingly, the Farnese hired Carracci to paint classically inspired frescoes in their luxurious palace in Rome. Carracci’s two academic nudes testify to the importance of classical art in his production. Like many artists of his time, he looked to examples of ancient sculptures as models for his paintings. His keen attention to the musculature of bodies is best depicted in Bacchus and the River Allegory, which the underlines with luminous flesh tones and the soft chromatism of the surrounding landscape.
Domine, quando veneris (1587)
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)
Domine, quando veneris is a motet for four voices, originally written to be sung as a responsory to commemorate the decedents at matins. In this soundtrack, the human soprano and alto voices with AI-generated tenor and bass represent the repentant and incorrigible souls' pleading for God’s mercy on the Day of Judgment.
Domine, quando veneris judicare terram,
ubi me abscondam a vultu irae tuae?
Quia peccavi nimis in vita mea.
Commissa mea pavesco et ante te erubesco,
Dum veneris judicare, noli me condemnare,
Quia peccavi nimis in vita mea.
O Lord, when thou comest to judge the world,
where shall I hide myself from the face of thy wrath?
For I have sinned exceedingly in my life.
I dread my sins, I blush before thee:
When thou comest to judge, do not condemn me,
For I have sinned exceedingly in my life.
Domine, quando veneris
X (White) Planes in Dissolution
(White) Planes in Dissolution by Camilo Mendez
White Planes in Dissolution (1917)
painting by Kazimir Malevich (Museum: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)