‘Music in the Galleries’: Where music, paintings come together

Jessica Chang performs in concert with her viola.

It’s not every day that masterpieces of Mozart and Picasso meet in the middle. The “Music in the Galleries” series, presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Curtis Institute of Music, blends two art forms into one harmonic experience.

The monthly series features gifted young musicians from Curtis performing live in the galleries, tuned to a particular work of art. Prior to each concert, performers and audience members examine the centerpiece artwork, discussing how it visually informs the musical interpretation.

This multidimensional conversation sparks “wonderful spontaneity with each performance,” said violist Jessica Chang, one of last month’s players.  While the students’ rehearsal of the repertoire is “purely musical,” certain elements remain unrehearsed. 

“One of the coolest moments is when we see the artwork for the first time.  We suddenly realize how the visual element guides our understanding of the music,” says Chang.

Not only does the artwork bring an organic quality to the interpretations, but the venue itself encourages exploration.  “The art gallery is very different from traditional concert halls.  It removes the formality,” said Chang.

Engaging the unusual environment through space, sound and sight, Chang added, “It’s all about the context. It forces you to step outside the norm. It’s real life.”

Rocking out

Curtis students keep it classy, and not always classical. When she’s not practicing works from the canon, violist Jessica Chang gets performance-ready with:
Ella Fitzgerald – “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Ben Folds’ cover of Elton John – “Tiny Dancer”
Maroon 5 – “The Sun”
AC/DC – “Back in Black”


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