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"I know of no other artist who can catch the essential movement and meaning of an artist’s playing motion and gestures, no one who can capture them as well as Norman Perryman.  This collection is a tribute to his life-long dedication to translate music into colour and line.  In this way he translates not only the playing of the artist but even the music that is being played. "



In the early sixties Norman Perryman spent many hours at the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, Switzerland sketching great musicians such as cellist Paul Tortelier, pianist Wilhelm Kempff, the legendary sitar-player Ravi Shankar, and of course Yehudi Menuhin himself and his pianist sisters Hephzibah and Yaltah Menuhin.  Later, the list came to include the youthful violinist Nigel Kennedy, pianist Melvyn Tan and cellist Colin Carr, then all students at the Menuhin School.  In 1975 he painted the great French cellist Pierre Fournier.

When the splendid new Symphony Hall was built in 1991 in Birmingham, England, Perryman was commissioned by the Director (Andrew Jowett) to create a collection of large watercolours (unframed 32 x 22 inches or 84 x 56cm) of the great personalities booked to perform there.  This unique collection has grown to 29 paintings and now includes conductors Riccardo Chailly, Valery Gergiev, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Yakov Kreizberg, Alexander Lazarev, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo, Simon Rattle, Leonard Slatkin, Georg Solti and Klaus Tennstedt; violinists Sarah Chang, Kyung-Wha Chung, Julia Fischer, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman; cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich and Paul Tortelier; pianists Vladimir Ashkenazy and Alfred Brendel; Thomas Allen (baritone), Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano), José Carreras (tenor), Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano), Jessye Norman (soprano), Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) and Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone); and Evelyn Glennie (percussion).


Newest additions to the Symphony Hall Collection
  performance photos     Newest addition to the Symphony Hall Collection:
conductor Andris Nelsons

On November 6th a portrait of conductor Andris Nelsons was added to the Birmingham Symphony Hall Collection. This unique collection has since grown to 29 paintings – the largest in the world – and includes world-famous musicians such as Bryn Terfel, Sir Simon Rattle, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Yehudi Menuhin and Valery Gergiev.
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Bryn Terfel
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Cecilia Bartoli
José Carreras
Valery Gergiev
Kiri Te Kanawa
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Yo-Yo Ma
Kurt Masur
Yehudi Menuhin
Jessye Norman
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Luciano Pavarotti
Georg Solti
Plácido Domingo
conducting Carmen
Mstislav Rostropovich
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Julia Fischer
Yakov Kreizberg
Sakari Oramo
Alfred Brendel

Perryman writes:

“In this series, my aim is to combine my experience in portraiture with my passion for music, to create paintings which are not merely celebrity portraits, but which make you feel you can hear the music.  The background colors and forms, the abstract calligraphic rhythms in the paint and the gestures of movement and performance in these works, are therefore all just as important as the portrait.

Music, movement and watercolor have something in common. The floating transparent qualities of watercolor can suggest the transient, elusive nature of music and the illusion of movement, with a range of expression from the most delicate tones to tremendous energy and power.  The inspired spontaneity with which one paints a good watercolor is very much like the way you perform music, with all the inherent risks.  My essential source of inspiration in each of these pictures is the music, but other influences are Zen watercolor painting and some of the great American watercolorists.

The great performers portrayed were very happy with my paintings of them in action.  Yehudi Menuhin, who knew my work very well and owned several paintings, once said at the opening of one of my exhibitions: "Perryman is a musician, who makes music with his paintbrush".  That summarizes what I’m about pretty well.  It was Maestro Kurt Masur who suggested that I take this work on tour.   Jessye Norman sat for an hour signing prints of her painting for admirers, and word has it that Kiri Te Kanawa had a dress made like the one I invented for her painting. As he viewed the painting after the photo shoot, Andris Nelsons exclaimed: "That's exactly how I feel when I'm conducting".

I’ve somehow developed an ability to empathize intensely with all of my subjects and to identify with their musical interpretations.  I would like to thank each of the great musicians who have, sometimes unwittingly, inspired and moved me to paint from the heart and to give form to these wonderful musical experiences”.


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