Out of the Box: Cliff Eidelman's "Night in the Gallery"

Oct 27, 2019

Inspired by several paintings hanging at the Louvre in Paris, this wonderful work for chamber orchestra is a perfect candidate for Out of the Box -- a fusing of visual and audio art that brings both to life with seductive magic.

WHAT: Cliff Eidelman: Symphony for Orchestra & Two Pianos, and Night in the Gallery. Members of the London Symphony Orchestra and Cliff Eidelman, conductor.

MUST LISTEN TRACKS: Night in the Gallery for Chamber Orchestra:

1. "Seduction and Mischief"
2. "The Tempest and the Mysterious Clown"
3. "Islands of Love"
4. "Liberation and Innocence"

WHY I THINK YOU'LL LOVE IT: It's a lot of fun, and very satisfying to listen to! Simple as that.  Eidelman is a film composer with a film composer's refined knack for musical storytelling, and so from the first notes to the last, you truly get the sense that you're wandering the halls of some darkened art museum, spying on paintings and sculptures as they shed their daytime pretense of inanimacy and instead fully come to life.

Before I came to work at WCRB, I was (among other things) a waiter for a major catering company here in Boston. This company, which is headquartered at the Central Branch of the Boston Public Library, would hosts all sorts of events in the stately old McKim building on the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston. There were several lavish, multi-hundred person weddings each year, and elegant fundraising galas for big local charities, not to mention reunions, receptions, and sometimes, just tea-time. And as I bussed and served and cleaned, I developed a deep fondness for that old building, and all its sneaky back passageways and dark basement hallways.

I have sort of a love affair with being in places like the BPL when no one else is there. Perhaps I've been unduly influenced by movies like "Toy Story" or "Night at the Museum," or perhaps it was all those Thursday evenings spent sliding down the halls of my elementary school in my socks while I waited for my mom to finish up a faculty meeting. Who knows. But I really love being in those places alone - especially the museums.  Wandering those halls you begin to anthropomorphize the art around you, and to convince yourself that if you turn your head just fast enough you'll be able to catch the two-dimensional characters on the wall out in conversation with one another, or sneaking up behind you. You could call it spooky if you want, but I don’t. I just think it's cool. 

"I started imagining that the characters from all these various paintings started to come out off the canvas and into life, into this music." - Cliff Eidelman

I don’t miss the catering work. In fact, I am very grateful that my days of footsore and weary eight-hour shifts distributing cocktail napkins and inquiring after wine preferences have been supplanted by a career where I get to geek out about music all day. But I am nostalgic for the late-night access that the catering gig gave me to spectacular places like the BPL (or even, on one occasion, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), where I could stroll quietly in the empty, darkened halls, essentially alone.

Antoine Watteau, "Pierrot, formerly known as Gilles" c. 1718 (Oil on Canvas), one of the paintings which inspired Eidelman's "Night in the Gallery"
Credit WikiArt

Cliff Eidelman's 2018 work, Night in the Gallery, got me thinking about those moments again. It's inspired by several works hanging at the Louvre Museum in Paris, works like Antoine Watteau's 1718 Pierrot, and Georges de la Tour's 1635 The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds. Taking these works (and several others) he fused them together into a story of living art in a museum, with movements like "Seduction and Mischief" or "The Tempest and the Mysterious Clown." Each is filled with a playful, winking mischievousness that reminds me both of the paintings mucking about behind my back at the BPL, and of the thrill of wandering those halls at night in the first place.

Ultimately, Eidelman's Night in the Museum is as seductively magical as its title suggest, and I hope it ignites your imagination as much as it did mine. Happy listening! 

You can read the liner notes to this album at Eidelman's website, as well as explore the musical score. And, if you want to have your own late night museum experience, there are a few non-catering ways to do that. The MFA is open every Wednesday-Friday until 10pm, and from time to time also have special "Late Nite" events that go until the wee hours. Meanwhile, the Gardner is open every Thursday until 9pm, and my old stomping grounds at the BPL are open Monday-Wednesday until 9pm as well. Check 'em out!