Three Portraits of Isabella  (2003) for solo piano - 14'

-Written for Jeremy Denk in collaboration with the Isabella Gardner Museum

-Premiered December 2003 at the ISGM

Program Notes

As an Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2003, I lived in an apartment for about five weeks actually within the museum. It was February and March and you may remember that year Boston had a record snowfall. I had a monk-like experience, cloistered there in the museum because outside it was snow to my waist—I really wasn’t going anywhere! That was fine; the museum is a place of total inspiration, born out of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s singular vision, and filled with the most unique objects of art presented in the way that she left them. I felt like Mrs. Gardner was in a way my patron, though she has been gone for decades.

Each movement of this work was inspired by paintings in the museum of the patron herself—musical portraits of portraits. Two of the paintings (the outer movements) are byJohn Singer Sargent, the other by Anders Zorn. My goal was to capture that essence of Isabella Gardner as a reflection of these artists’ work. In the first movement, Mrs. Gardner is a young woman—formal, but radiant with life. The second, she is in Venice—older, but illuminated from below to show the great spirit in her face. The last movement, Gardner is just a few years before her death, wrapped in white shrouds as if already a ghost in the world, with colors of lightness all around her.