A Phenomenal Four Seasonal FenómenoThursday, April 23, 2015
|Monica Huggett - Portland March 29 2015|
When it comes to violinists, virtuosity is not entirely the result of mechanical finger velocity and sheer technique, as it is with pianists. The violin is an instrument which has almost human whims—it is attuned to the mood of the player in a sympathetic rapport: a minute discomfort, the tiniest inner imbalance, a whiff of sentiment elicits an immediate resonance . . . probably because the violin, pressed against the chest, can percieve our heart’s beat. But this happens only with artists who truly have a heart that beats, who have a soul. The more sober, the more heartless a violinist is, the more uniform will be his performance, and he can count on the obedience of his fiddle, any time, any place. But this much-vaunted assurance is only the result of a spiritual limitation, and some of the greatest masters were often dependent on influences from within and without.
Thoughts on the Violin and on Violinists
Heinrich Heine (1843)
I began this blog in January 2006. Since then I have written 3404 blogs. Some of them are pretty good and some are perfunctory or simply written to fill in the week.
One of the reasons for the blog block could be that I am in the throws of taking portraits of women who specialize in the playing of instruments that were in use in the 17th and 18th century. I could have saved myself some unneeded worries if I had approached this project (which has taken me to Portland, Seattle, Victoria and locally to places like Ladner) with my Fuji X-E1 digital camera. Somehow I thought that these women deserved my best and my best could only be delivered in b+w film exposed with my medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD. With that camera in my hand (but on a tripod as it is very heavy) I feel the same certitude of success as King Arthur must have had while wielding Sword Excalibur.
I have at this point photographed 23 women who play instruments not all currently seen is a conventional symphony orchestra. I have had to process rolls of 120 film (ten exposures) in my darkroom which has been truly dark for some time but not of late! Knowing I could not return to re-shoot any of these women I had to make sure those 10 exposures (that was my self-imposed limit, one roll per musician) were processed correctly and that I did not precipitate the many possible mishaps that might have resulted in the ruination of my efforts.
Happily I can report that the 23 women (so far) are all perfectly exposed.
Here is a preview (I must not let the cat out of the bag) of one of the women. She is violinist Monica Huggett who is a solo/virtuoso violinist of note around the world who happens to be the Artistic Director of the Portland Baroque Orchestra.
She and her beloved and most artistically efficient orchestra will be in Vancouver on Friday, May 1 at the Chan and will perform Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which are part of his Opus 8, entitled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione. I will write a preview, at length, about this Early Music Vancouver concert in a later blog in a couple of days.
For now I want to explain something about the colour version of my portraits of Monica Huggett. Those who have commissioned me for this project will select the final images. But not this one in colour! There are four other exposures, and in one of them Huggett closed her eyes. There is one where she shows a fine smile. But I like the no-nonsense look of this one.
I own an extended collection of Huggett’s works (all baroque) and I have seen her live a few times. When not playing she could be one of your British aunts or the cat lady around the corner. She is a serious gardener and has one by the sea (and mostly difficult chalky soil, I would guess) in England but lives in Portland.
When she plays she is transformed into another person. She plays with fuerza (I like that Spanish word) and a passion second to none. She can be delicate in quiet passages but note her formidable forearms. With them she executes music (in both senses of that verb) with no comparison in anybody else that I have ever been lucky to listen to.
Many years ago Saturday Night Magazine hired me to photograph violin prodigy Corey Cerovsek when he was 14. They wanted me to convey in my photograph that somehow Cerovsek had talent that came from some connection with the devil. Such a connection was also attributed to Niccolò Paganini. I was able to convey the diabolical connection with lighting and a raised eyebrow but I felt happier with my image of the young boy (and a young boy he was) wearing my striped T-shirt and a bike behind him.
There is no possible way that anybody who has met Monica Huggett could ever think of such ungodly links as an explanation for her virtuosic talent.
I have a far simpler explanation courtesy of my Spanish grandmother who once saw Manolete in a bullfight. She said he was a fenómeno. There is no rational explanation for that kind of talent while the assertion that its rarity is a given. I have met one person who was a fenómeno. That was and is Canadian dancer Evelyn Hart.