There is precedent for visual art inspiring music. Vicktor Hartmann’s drawings became Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
A Debussy piece was prompted by a Japanese rendition of an ocean wave. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” jump-started French and Finnish composers. Botticelli’s early Renaissance work sparked Respighi to three classics.
Astoria Music Festival organizers are hoping it will work in reverse.
Saturday afternoon, artist Darren Orange will be on stage at Astoria’s Liberty Theater with brush and palette poised.
As cellist Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev perform Igor Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne,” their Russian countryman’s musical depictions of a Punch and Judy comedy, Orange will create a visual accompaniment.
Orange’s work is featured in the 2016 Music Festival poster and program cover. His Astoria studio is close to the Columbia River, one of his influences.
“Where I’m at completely informs me. The area permeates my psyche,” he said. “My paintings are straddling representation and abstraction, back and forth, but where I’m at always comes out in my work.”
Portland art critic Richard Speer has called Orange’s work, “far from pretty, yet somehow perversely brilliant.”
Orange said his paintings are “like jazz, free-form and not referencing the literal interpretation of landscape.” He becomes absorbed in the act of creation: “I’m just playing, being free, with no preconceptions about outcome.”
The artists dreamed up the “Sight and Sound” idea after the program for the 2016 festival of 13 concerts was printed. They considered adding it to Tuesday’s “Bach by Candlelight” event at Grace Episcopal Church in Astoria, but decided it would reach a bigger audience — and have more space on stage — if moved to the Liberty Theater Saturday. Tuesday’s concert issold out.
It was added to the 4 p.m. “Sergey’s Happy Hour” event as a “duo,” featuring only Antonov, but Kazantsev embraced the idea and it expanded into “Trio for Cello, Piano and Artist.” The musicians have known each other since third grade and have played together, often as part of the Hermitage Trio.
Antonov has been fascinated in the healing power of classical music, and said he has wondered how it could inspire a visual artist to create something spontaneously.
“It was always my intent to try something like this, and I am happy that Darren liked the idea,” he said, the excitement evident in his voice.
“It’s going to be very special, and this is the first time in my life we have done this. I think whatever Darren puts on canvas — that’s how he sees the work. And there’s absolutely nothing that can go wrong with it.
“If we were to play the piece, then play it again and have him start over, too, it would be a completely different painting. That’s what’s amazing about live performances.”
Other compositions on tap — without painter — include Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo Capriccioso,” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Three Preludes by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky’s Cello Suite No 1 and Astor Piazzolla’s 1974 work “Libertango.” Pianist Cary Lewis, the festival’s chamber music director, will also appear.
A second show at the Liberty 7.30 p.m. Saturday is a Symphonic Showcase. That concert features the Astoria Music Festival Orchestra, conducted by Keith Clark, with Kazantsev playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, mezzo soprano MaryAnn McCormick from the Metropolitan Opera of New York singing songs by Mahler, and visiting strings soloists Jeffrey Thayer from San Diego and James Van Valkenburg from Detroit performing a Mozart piece for violin, viola and orchestra.