Vista Lirica is a New York City-based chamber music ensemble with a special purpose. Through our concerts and events we seek to strengthen the link between music and and an awe for our native planet. In the works of the great 19th-century Romantic composers, we discover a full range of expression in which Nature’s power and emotionality take center stage. Translated from Italian, ‘Vista Lirica’ means ‘lyric perspective’. Our perspective embraces the human as part animal, instrinsically connected to planet Earth, yet certainly not within an arid intellectual vacuum. Rather, we refer back to the way that Romantic movement considered mankind: always a part of the exuberant, rolling spectacle of Nature, not apart from it.
The artists of VL comprise a collective, with core members who have garnered recognition as soloists and seasoned chamber musicians in the United States and abroad.
In addition to traditional chamber music concerts, Vista Lirica has also presented events with prominent environmentalists. In 2008 we shared the stage with alternative energy activist Martin Vosseler as part of his walk from Los Angeles to Boston promoting solar power. As Mr. Vosseler is an amateur violinist (in addition to being a wonderful person), he was a great guest ‘soloist’ in this event held at Bechstein America. It was a concert intertwined with discussions between Mr. Vosseler, Emily Howard and myself. I had the pleasure of having met Mr. Vosseler in 2007 when he docked his solar powered catamaran in a New York City marina, after having led the first solar powered voyage across the Atlantic;
We have presented fundraising events for organizations such as the Marine Conservation Institute and have enjoyed an ongoing rapport with founder Elliott Norse. Norse’s affinity for French music inspired us to program Fauré’s L’horizon chimérique; the first song of that cycle La Mer est infinie . . . , the first song of the cycle L’horizon chimérique was the centerpiece for this event, and reminds one of a freer, early 20th c. mindset. Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici performed his A Visitation. Del Tredici, the pioneer of American neo-Romanticism and some of his his students, including Dalit Warshaw and Steven Burke, have joined Vista Lirica’s circle and will collaborate with Vista Lirica for future events. We are inspired by the prospect of sharing our vision with these great talents;
intent on exploring Romanticism from many angles and dimensions, we’ve also created a multi-media events with artists of other disciplines:
In Tchaikovsky and Brahms’ epic chamber music works one can find all the ineffable answers from the universe, if our hearts are open to listening. The works of the great Romantic composers speak to us today, heralding a way forward through the perils of the modern age.
L: Brahms Quintet; clockwise: L. Zoernig, F. Foerster, E. Grossman, Itamar Zorman, N. Rynston
below: Tchaikovsky Trio: B. Levin, E. Grossman, L. Zoernig
A personal note from artistic director Neil Rynston:
As the 19th-century Romantic movement was concerned with our place in nature, so too is the modern environmental movement. That essential link invigorates Vista Lirica’s musical explorations and our outreach to other artists, other disciplines, other perspectives. The Romantics sounded a prescient alarm over the observable disconnect between man and Nature. Such a viewpoint strikes me as eternally fresh and disturbingly current.
Like Frankenstein’s monster, our self-created technology has turned on us. How would Mary Shelley, Robert Schumann, ETA Hoffmann and other 19th-century artists greet the modern world? How would they react to Fukushima, climate change or deforestation? What would they make of genetically modified organisms, those Frankenstein monsters being forced into our fields?
In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, the monster confronts his creator, Count Victor Frankenstein, pleading for a female counterpart. If Count Frankenstein would only create a she to complement his he, the monster promises to depart with her for the wilds of Patagonia and never be heard from again. If not, he will wreak vengeance to the end of his days. In other words, the invented id-ridden creature too petitions for balance.
I detect a similar plea for balance in many of the great spiritual traditions of humankind which Vista Lirica’s mission explores. In Chinese thought, female yin energy might check the monster’s hyperbolic yang energy. The Gnostics might reference the Gaian view, considering our planet as a living, sentient being, which would preclude a careless pursuit of invention. The Hindus recognize a planetary tantra which humankind ignores at its own peril, an energy that must be worked with, not against.
The above paragraph can easily burst in a thousand directions, and so it shall. It also speaks to the universality of a lyric perspective and also to a keen interest on the part of the Romantics to explore all things oriental and exotic. This new path led them away from the 18th- century paradigm – Cartesian, binary and all too neat.
Count Frankenstein ultimately tries and fails to create that essential balancing female being. To me, his monster is the symbolic embodiment of our 21st century eco-disasters: Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon: it is exhausting even to try to list them all. The monster of technology continues to run amok. It is up to us to create a countervailing force.
In pursuing the mission of Vista Lirica, I’ve been in contact with environmental scientists and discovered brilliant thinkers and inventors in both mainstream and independent milieux. Through books such as <em>Slanted Truths</em> by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan which explores the above cited Gaian hypothesis in hard science and also through listening to programs in alternative media, I’ve been increasingly drawn to independent figures working to restore the vital humans-in-nature balance put forward two centuries ago by the great visionaries of the Romantic Age. Many of these modern-day cutting edge Romantics –scientists, comparative mythologists, geo-biologists, geo-archeologists, inventors and artists are relegated to the fringes. A few are gaining long awaited recognition. What becomes increasingly evident is that the effort has to be a common one, involving people in all disciplines.
That’s where I locate the future of music and art. That’s what we seek to do with Vista Lirica.