Ben Uri past exhibition
28th April – 9th October 2015
A partnership between Ben Uri and the Royal College of Music (RCM) during our centenary year to exhibit the hidden treasures of our musical heritage for the first time at the Royal College of Music Museum of Music.
Ben Uri’s musical heritage
After the rediscovery of material from our extensive archives (now catalogued for the first time with the aid of a generous donation from a charitable trust), and in association with Royal College of Music’s major research and performance project Singing a Song in a Foreign Land, the exhibition included artworks, photographs, cuttings, correspondence and programmes.
The exhibition highlighted Ben Uri’s musical heritage whilst revealing powerful stories of émigrés and emerging second generation musicians, such as the Austrian pianist Ferdinand Rauter and polyglot Lieder singer Engel Lund, who stood up to anti-semitism in Germany in the 1930s by refusing to stop performing Yiddish songs. Other émigré musicians featured in the display include Yehudi Menuhin, Thomas Rajna, Franz Reizenstein, Emanuel Hurwitz and Paul Hamburger.
Ben Uri not only organised regular recitals but had its own orchestra, chamber orchestra, choir and opera appreciation circle, which even today is unique within the context of an art gallery. Furthermore, Ben Uri brought art and music together: Alexander Goehr, who came to England as a small child, premiered a new composition in 1953, only a year after his photographer mother Laelia Goehr had exhibited her works at the Ben Uri Gallery.
Art responding to music
Accompanying artworks were been selected from Ben Uri’s unique collection of over 1300 works; usually kept in storage, these provide an expressive visual and narrative counterpoint to the archival items. Embracing both traditional and modernist responses, the artworks include a folk-art inspired design (1915) by Ben Uri founder, Lazar Berson; a glorious colourist Still-Life with Guitar (1935) by Mark Gertler, key ‘Whitechapel Boy’ and associated with the Bloomsbury set; Isaac Lichtenstein’s angular Blind Fiddler (1924), showing the influence of Cubism and the ‘Ecole de Paris’; Josef Herman’s poignant sketched recollection of a life destroyed by the Holocaust (c. 1940-43); and Mark Wayner’s satirical jibe at celebrity of the day, Sir Henry Wood (1931, recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from the RCM).
The exhibition runs alongside Singing a Song in a Foreign Land, RCM’s research and performance project led by Norbert Meyn, which investigates the impact of émigrés on British musical life. Video testimonies from eminent performers and composers including Dame Janet Baker, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and Alexander Goehr will be shared in a free online resource available from 14 May 2015, and a Grove Seminar at the RCM Museum of Music on 31 May will focus on estates, archives and music restitution.
Photos from the Private View can be seen in our Arts in Harmony Facebook event.
Arts in Harmony was curated to accompany Out of Chaos: Art Identity Migration: 100 years of Ben Uri in London 1915-2015, a major centenary exhibition held at Somerset House East Wing, King’s College London, from 1 July – 13 December 2015, in association with the Cultural Institute at King’s College London and supported by the HLF.
Left to right
Enrico Glicenstein, Back of Conductor and Musicians, pencil on paper, 20.5 x 17, Ben Uri Collection
Isaac Lichtenstein, The Blind Fiddler, 1924, oil on canvas, 95 x 70 cm framed, Ben Uri Collection
Mark Gertler, Still Life with Guitar, 1935, oil on board, 34 x 51.5 cm. Ben Uri Collection