A large crowd came to hear the American String Quartet at Mandel Hall Friday night in an unusual premiere of a work as much literature as music. Performing, as a reader, with the quartet was joined the award-winning novelist Salman Rushdie, one of the literary giants of our day. The work was The Suite for “The Enchantress of Florence” by Paul Cantelon. This six movement work intersperses long sections of the Rushdie novel with music evocative of the “The Enchantress of Florence.” It was not your ordinary chamber work, and it was all the more fascinating for that.
Cantelon, who has composed classical music as well as music for films, clearly took on the project as a labor of love. His affinity for Rushdie’s novel is clear, and his ability to evoke mood and feeling was evident from the start.
The piece began with a very brief musical introduction. From there it went from a reading of an excerpt from the novel followed by music inspired from the text. The back and forth was hypnotic and beautiful.
Not all writers make effective spoken readers of their own work, but Rushdie does not fit into that category. He was able to take his own carefully crafted words off the page and give them life and vim as he spoke. He’s not an actor, but a reader’s reader, with an ability to keep the rhythm and magic of the written word fully in place as he voiced his own art.