What links Tippett to Shaw - via Elgar and Leighton?

Martin Cullingford15th Apr 2011

The National Portrait Gallery weaves a musical web

In 1953 Michael Tippett put on a St Ives Festival
St Ives resident Barbara Hepworth designed Tippett's Midsummer Marriage
Tippett's 4th Quartet directly alludes to Beethoven's Grosse Fuge
Yehudi Menhuhin gave ground-breaking performances of Tippett's Corelli Fantasia
Benjamin Britten and Menuhin played together at Belsen in 1945
Britten and Imogen Holst collaborated frequently at the Aldeburgh festival
Edward Elgar conducted the 16-year-old Menuhin in his Violin Concerto
Elgar was just one of the British composers to be entranced by Jelly d’Aranyi
D'Aranyi was Joseph Joachim's great niece
Joachim regularly played Bach and Beethoven in Lord Leighton's studio
In 1890, GB Shaw ridiculed Joseph Joachim's performance of J S Bach
Harriet Cohen was a friend of Shaw, and also recorded Elgar's Piano Quintet

A new exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery draws together a number of significant figures whose lives are connected in some way through music. Most are musicians, though artists and writers also feature as parts of the web through which the lives interconnected. Connections range from the profound to the personal, embracing both the accidental and the incidental. The exhibition’s title – Only Connect – comes from E M Forster’s Howard’s End, a novel deeply concerned with the complexities of social and emotional relationships.

Violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved has devised the display, in collaboration with Paul Moorhouse, NPG 20th-century curator, who said: "People rarely exist in isolation but are connected with each other. Only Connect offers a new way of looking at portraits by focusing on the connections – in this case musical connections – that link all the individuals featured in the display. It may look unusual at first, but we hope our visitors will enjoy this alternative way of thinking about portraiture".

This gallery presents 12 of the portraits from the exhibition, along with details of how the subjects' lives are linked. Click any image below to launch the Gallery - you can also open a list of full captions and credits in a new window.

The exhibition is in Room 33 of the National Portrait Gallery, London, from April 16 until November 27. Admission is free.

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