Freer Gallery Presents Pianist Ganz & Actor Tolaydo Merging Whistler & Debussy

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Freer Gallery Presents Pianist Ganz & Actor Tolaydo Merging Whistler & Debussy

St. Mary's College of Maryland Musician in Residence Brian Ganz will be joined by former Director of the college Theater Program, Michael Tolaydo, for a dramatic presentation merging music, theater, art, and poetry. Ganz and Tolaydo will present "Whistler's Lecture: James Whistler, Claude Debussy and the Lecture That Changed Art." Whistler's lecture, more commonly known as the 10 O'Clock Lecture, spelled out his then-radical views on the purpose of art. In the canonical lecture, he discussed the idea that beauty should not be "confounded with virtue," and that art is a separate entity from a social and cultural framework.

The performance will take place Saturday, September 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the Meyer Auditorium at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Tickets are $6 in advance and free at the door. For more information, visit

"The point of departure for our program is James Whistler's magnificent 10 O'Clock Lecture, a beautiful piece of writing and a lucid exposition of many of Whistler's ideas about art," said pianist Ganz. "The presentation will include an edited delivery of Whistler's lecture, along with imaginary dialogue with a musician from our time. Michael will play the part of Whistler and I'll play the musician," said Ganz.

The lecture and dialogue will be illustrated with performances and discussion of several works of Debussy and other composers, including Debussy'sPreludes(Books 1 and 2), Images(Books 1 and 2), and Estampes. Complementing these are works by composers Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, jazz pianist Bill Evans, and George Crumb, all of whom were indebted to Debussy. In between musical selections, Tolaydo will read from Debussy's letters and Whistler's influential Ten O'Clock Lecture. These are read alongside poems by Stephane Mallarmé and other Symbolist poets, whose imaginative and evocative writings influenced both Whistler and Debussy.

Ganz was invited to create this presentation for the Freer Gallery of Art, in conjunction with an exhibit of Whistler watercolors. "I immediately thought of Michael, and was delighted when he was available and interested. I've always wanted to try my hand at acting, and to do that alongside a former colleague is a joy. The writing was an added challenge...and pleasure. I fell in love with Whistler's lecture, and it provided all the inspiration we needed."

"Whistler and Debussy were friends, and Debussy was captivated by Whistler's lecture," Ganz continued. "We associate the phrase 'art for art's sake' with Whistler, and credit him with a fresh vision of artistic beauty. And we also say that Debussy taught us to hear harmony in a new way, thus ushering in a 20th century of extraordinary creative vitality in music. This presentation explores common ground in their artistic world views."

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