The New Yorker | 2/9/2015 | Composers and Caravaggios

The New Yorker | 2/9/2015 | Composers and Caravaggios

The highlight of this season’s Grand Tour was a performance by the vocal ensemble TENET, one of the city’s liveliest and busiest early-music groups. The setting was Gallery 621, which features Caravaggio and like-minded artists. The room is dominated by sombre classical and religious scenes: the self-flagellation of St. Dominic, by Tarchiani; the Dormition of the Virgin, by Saraceni; a tense exchange between Sts. Peter and Paul, by Ribera; and, most memorable, Caravaggio’s naturalistic imagining of Peter’s denial of Christ, in which the saint looks befuddled and his accuser triumphant. There are no musical references in this gallery of pictures, at least in its current configuration. (An exhibition in a neighboring gallery, entitled “Painting Music in the Age of Caravaggio,” displays Caravaggio’s mischievous early canvas “The Musicians,” in which a trio of scantily clad neo-Grecian youths tune their instruments and study a score while a Cupid figure busies himself with a bunch of grapes.) Instead, the music of Gallery 621 is largely one of color: the red of Paul’s tunic, in the Ribera, emerges from a dark background like a tone from silence.

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