Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running to Rachmaninoff

After leaving Russia in 1917, as fraught a moment as any in the country’s history, Sergei Rachmaninoff became one of many Russian Romantics who shouldered a deep ambivalence toward their native land. Living in the United States, he was frequently homesick, and put off becoming an American citizen until 1941. Even after the Communist party officially banned his work, the virtuoso musician continued to donate proceeds from his concerts to the Russian army. He longed to be buried at Villa Senar, the estate he built in Switzerland to resemble his childhood home in northwestern Russia, the outbreak of World War II made that impossible. Instead, when he died of melanoma in Beverly Hills in 1943 he was buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, an arbitrary plot of land about 30 miles north of Manhattan that was chosen only because it was near the home of a distant relative.

This past Saturday, as part of Performa 11, the Dutch artist Guido van der Werve led a group on a run from Luhring Augustine Gallery in Chelsea to Rachmaninoff's gravesite. A sprightly red-haired man in his mid-30s, Guido could play Rachmaninoff's “Piano Concerto No. 3” as a preteen and was trained at a conservatory as a young man before deciding to study art instead (while learning Russian on the side). An experienced athlete — and a veteran of demanding endurance-art feats, such as standing stock-still at the geographic North Pole for 24 hours — he approached the group pilgrimage with characteristic seriousness. He stretched carefully, wore knee-high socks to prevent shin splints, and took frequent breaks for water and Gatorade that was carried by a crew of gallery staff who followed the runners' path upstate in a cozy SUV.

Read the full story on ArtInfo

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