Colouring the Sound

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

The Fourth Symphony

Fourth Symphony, First Movemen

The series about the Fourth Symphony once again illustrates the link between the music as understood by the artist and its realisation on canvas. The carefree jauntiness of the Fourth Symphony, written in the summer and autumn of 1806, is a testament to the composer's joyful elation born of his love to Josephine Deym (née Brunsvik) - De Meo saw therein evidence of an inner poise and serenity hitherto unknown in Beethoven's life. Thus, it is that very serenity, expressed in cool yet intense shades of blue, which is at the core of the cycle about the Fourth Symphony. The first painting reflects the opening motif of the first movement: the distinctive, drawn out b-flat minor, so sombre and gloomy at first, subsequently gives way to brighter, less tense impressions. In De Meo's treatment, this first tone is transformed into an interminable expanse of water, its murky surface separated from the even darker night sky only by a faint shimmer of light on the distant horizon. And yet, where the dark night and deep, calm waters would speak of tranquillity, the painter seems to sense a certain underlying restlessness: the jagged shores of  rock or ice at the bottom of the picture, as well as the shadowy flock of seagulls suggest some hidden, restless dynamics at work behind and underneath the calm surface.

Fourth Symphony, Second Movement

Like the gnarled, jagged finger of a rocky titan, the earth itself appears to reach for that faraway, solitary celestial light, just to lose itself in the primordial nothingness. Both in its forceful pursuit of that light and in its inevitable dissolution, this motion echoes the crescendo of the symphony's second movement, which likewise closes with powerful energy transitioning into gentle serenity.

Fourth Symphony, Third Movement

The once calm waters have been whipped into a frenzy by a massive storm. In the foreground, the spray of the waves condenses into clawed monstrosities threatening to drag Creation itself into the murky depths, while beyond the horizon, the very heavens and their harried clouds appear to flee from this scene.

Fourth Symphony, Fourth Moveme

For the first time, living nature makes an appearance, while in the sky, light and darkness are joined into a new, perpetually moving harmony. The earth itself appears renewed, as well: gentle hills have now replaced the jagged rocks of prehistory, and the first dabs of warm, vivid colours herald the dawning of a new age.