piano

Commission: SMCQ, with support from the CCA

Premiere: April 14, 1991, Concert 202 [Yvar Mikhashoff], Théâtre Paul-Desmarais — Centre canadien d’architecture, Montréal (Québec)

Twenty-one transformal variations (in thirteen movements) on the “Scenes from Childhood” by Robert Schumann.

One of the most remarkable accomplishments in the history of painting is the seventeenth century masterpiece by Velázquez entitled, Las Meninas, a compelling portrayal of the artist himself in the act of painting Philip IV and his wife, Mariana of Austria who, surprisingly, can only be seen in the reflection of a mirror placed at the back of the room that furnishes the setting for the scene: an impromptu gathering of ‘lesser royals’ (las meninas), that is, the Infanta Margarita and the various ‘children-in-waiting’ of the royal family, who are looking at either the King and Queen being painted, or glancing at someone who has just happened upon the entire scene.

Because of its multileveled content and structure, this work has charmed a variety of commentators and visual artists into comprehending, reading and interpreting its meanings, from Foucault to Dali, for example, to Picasso who, between August and December 1957, painted no less than 44 variations on it in his own inimitable final style.

In my own variations on the Scenes from Childhood, Robert Schumann’s masterful depiction of the preoccupations and games of little (‘lesser’) people, the final scene of which contains the Schumann self-portrait/self-quotation, I have tried at once to recreate the feeling that, as Velázquez’ teacher used to say, “the image must go beyond its frame”, and to offer changing points of view, the perspectives of numerous observers who happen upon the scenes: inevitable reinterpretations of the elements that make up the substance of evanescent perceptions.

Las Meninas was commissioned by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (Montreal) at the request of pianist Yvar Mikhashoff, thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The work was given its premiere by Yvar Mikhashoff on April 14, 1991.

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  • Score available at Éditions Musigraphe (Montréal, 1991).

Performances

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