The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres

The Adelaide Town hall. 12 Mar 2012

This is a classical music concert like no other that I have seen.  As its name suggests, it is a homage to the great Italian astronomer and natural philosopher Galileo Galilei, who was particularly famous for getting into trouble with the Inquisition for having the temerity to claim that the Earth (and other planets) revolved around the Sun, rather than vice versa.  The ‘event’ marks the 400th anniversary of the invention of Galileo’s telescope.

Canadian ensemble Tafelmusik combine music of the1600–1700s, roughly, with no fewer than 74 projections of magnificently and richly coloured images of deep space taken by the Hubble telescope, as well as portraits of Galileo, Kepler and Newton.  Woven through this is a spoken narrative that tells the story of key events in Galileo’s life, such as his trial for heresy by the Inquisition, and the role of Kepler and Newton in establishing what we now accept as the ‘standard’ theory of the solar system.

A large zodiac disk was placed on the floor of the stage of the Adelaide Town Hall, and a large circular projection screen hung at the rear.  The lighting was superb and quite beautiful in parts, and always evocative.  Tafelmusik’s 17 musicians stood in and around the zodiac and performed music from memory (!) and with great passion by Vivaldi, Lully, Monteverdi, Purcell, Rameau, Telemann, Bach and others of lesser fame.  Being freed from music and music stands allowed them to move about the stage and to allow the focus to fall on different instruments and musicians.  Their movements were precise and choreographed, and as they moved around the stage they resembled the orbiting planets and they were the ‘music of the spheres’.

Actor Shaun Smyth delivered excerpts from letters written by Galileo as well as excerpts from Shakespeare and a comical astronomical drinking song for good measure.

This was a most unusual multi-form concert, but very satisfying and graceful.

Kym Clayton

When: 13 to 18 Mar
Where: Maxim’s Wine Bar
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au