February 27, 2019

Double Take Reveal: Art and Music Larger than Life


On Friday, March 22, three NWS Fellows will present Double Take: The Human Effect, a search for how artists respond to their world and an imagining of our future, present and past through art that stirs, inspires and empowers. 

Second-year Viola Fellow Kip Riecken is one of the three Fellows hosting Double Take: The Human Effect. In advance of their special event, he shares his unique connection to Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler.

Something has just always had me coming back to Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter).

I was just 11 years old, at an out-of-town event with several other youth orchestras from the country, when I first encountered the work. Though my older brothers were there, so were many other older musicians I did not know.

Kip with siblings
Me, right, with older brothers and younger sister.

During rehearsal, the conductor passed out copies of the paintings that inspired Mathis, from Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. 

Music about art? What would the art mean to young people with little to no art education? But he believed it was important. He showed and talked. He called attention to the artist’s grotesque style. His use of color. Lucifer, the fallen angel, making a sinister cameo in Concert of Angels: 

Concert of Angels
Detail from Concert of Angels. Lucifer above the head of the angel playing the stringed instrument in the foreground.

New surroundings mixed with a formative age. And then this piece about the mammoth subject of religion touching on the eternal struggle for spiritual salvation, and on the battle of good vs. evil. I was taking in a lot and wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Maybe there was a kinship I felt in this painting. As if with this fantastical style the painter seemed to show he was also experiencing a lot and couldn’t fit it all in the traditions of his day.

The Catholic Church commissioned the altarpiece in Germany in the early 1500s. Religion was king. Just like reach of the church, the scope of these Biblical subjects was huge. 

The large cathedral I grew up attending really gives a sense of a massive presence. I felt the size of the spiritual. It’s daunting, as it surely was in the Middle Ages. It leaves lots of room for the imagination of an eleven-year-old playing Mathis der Maler for the first time. 

Cathedral Interior

The canvas wasn’t big enough for what the artist felt.

And I felt it in the music too.

I am still deeply moved by this piece. When the opportunity arose to present a work of my choosing at a New World Symphony performance, Mathis der Maler was the obvious choice.

Double Take hosts

Three Double Take co-hosts, me, Joe Peterson and Mark Grisez, recording podcast about Double Take as part of separate project led by fellows Douglas Aliano, Johnathan Smith and Dillon Welch.

Our program, Double Take: The Human Effect, explores the role of the artist in today’s world. Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler is all about artists grappling with their role in a world that seems chaotic. Although Hindemith, the work’s composer, is not alive today, he faced an artistic dilemma in Nazi Germany similar to what Grünewald faced in Protestant Reformation Germany. Grünewald looked for himself in the grandiose and Hindemith did the same. And both found in it a rawness and deep individuality.

At Double Take I will present the work’s final movement, The Temptation of St. Anthony

The Temptation of St. Anthony
The Temptation of St. Anthony, Matthias Grünewald

Although we’ll only perform this one movement of Mathis der Maler at the concert, I invite you to explore the rest of this stirring piece.


Friday, March 22 at 7:30 PM
New World Center


Fellow-driven projects are made possible with the support from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation and the American Orchestras' Futures Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras made possible by funding from the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation.

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Posted in: Concerts, Double Take, Events, Fellows

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