Colouring the Sound

Tommaso De Meo's Visual Interpretations of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies

The Second Symphony

Second Symphony, First Movement

In the series addressing the Second Symphony, the artist deals with a tragic phase in the composer's life, namely the recognition of his advancing hearing loss. De Meo's motif of choice are poppy-coloured flowers swaying in a gentle breeze. These particular flowers appear to be irises, whose natural colours are blue, purple, or yellow and whose petals face downward: the iris as a symbol was subject to many interpretations in Christian culture and Oriental literature, from being associated with the Virgin Mary to representing a love scorned.

With this idyll, the artist expresses Beethoven's attachment to nature, which was most apparent in his long, solitary walks. The flowers in the centre of the otherwise gaunt landscape symbolise the growing solitude of the great musician.

Second Symphony, Second Movement

To Beethoven, his own life has become bleak and dreary. De Meo shows the musician's crisis via a sombre sky in which the gathering clouds signal the onset of a storm. The musician is unable to find any solace in the idylls of nature. The withering flowers are a metaphor for Beethoven's forlorn despair: the loss of his hearing is now a certainty, the downcast blossoms a testament to his despondency.

Second Symphony, Third Movement

De Meo views the third movement of the symphony as a triumph of art over adversity. The composer seems to have crossed the nadir of his despair, drawing new strength from his music. Gaily coloured, fanciful figures are twisting as if in a dance. De Meo shows music as a dream which consigns all pain to oblivion.

Second Symphony, Fourth Movement

With the fourth painting, De Meo addresses Beethoven's struggles against the recurring desperation over his loss of hearing. His inner demons resist the composer's attempts at finding peace in spite of his impaired senses. Before the musician, the abyss looms like a hellish door: despair and loneliness, here shown as a grotesque, fiery grimace, endeavour to possess the composer.