Colouring the Sound

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

The Seventh Symphony

Seventh Symphony, First Movement

In the annotations to his paintings, De Meo, referring to Richard Wagner, defines Beethoven's Seventh Symphony as "the apotheosis of dance". In this purest and most exalted form of dance, the movements of the human body and the rhythm would virtually become one. He perceived the first movement of the symphony as mystical and contemplative, which is reflected in his choice of imagery: in a mysterious, mist-shrouded scene set in the orient, forbidding, rocky peaks rise into the sky behind a small pagoda. Said pagoda, while standing by itself in the deserted valley, seems nonetheless not abandoned, as the lights behind its windows would attest to. The decisive aspect of the overarching theme of dance is the wind, which - undeterred by the starkly solid mountains - would appear to play with the supple trees and the ephemeral wisps of the clouds and the fog.

Seventh Symphony, Second Movement

Owing to the solemn nature of the second movement, De Meo views it as another funeral march, which he links to the second movement of the Third Symphony "Eroica". Accordingly, he depicts a grim landscape, which he calls "a blood-soaked marsh", representing death. A fiery, ominous sky watches over the red quagmire, from which scrawny, withered trees rise.

Seventh Symphony, Third Movement

The Seventh Symphony's third painting is the first to show human figures explicitly. On the right margin, a male figure is helplessly raising his hand towards a sensual, long-haired female form, while she is dancing towards the black crag  rising menacingly out of the red waters in the picture's centre. In its inherent energy, her powerful, yet graceful pose stands in stark contrast to the three wraithlike female figures wearily cowering on the rock like resting crows. Movement and contrast suggest that hers is indeed the dance of death: despite his best efforts, man cannot prevent his companions from being torn from this life by this last dance, whose portentous magnetism even draws and condenses the very elements around it.

Seventh Symphony, Fourth Movement

Above the limpid sea and the sublime masses of ice, a many-towered, yet desolate city of ice looms like a mirage in the morning light. Is it there that we may find our life's lost companions? Will all our journeys end in yonder city? It seems like De Meo is asking us those questions. Above us, a murder of crows flies eerily by, the birds' beating wings and plaintive cries accompanying us like music on our final journey.