The artwork of Dussek: Messe Solemnelle | Emma Safe, AAM Hogwood Fellow 2019-20

The artwork of Dussek: Messe Solemnelle | Emma Safe, AAM Hogwood Fellow 2019-20

AAM’s 2019-20 Hogwood Fellow and Artist-in-Residence Emma Safe remarks on her Dussek project with AAM, combining the aural with the visual in setting down her response to our performance of Dussek’s long-forgotten Messe Solemnelle in October 2019. The culmination of this project was ‘My Mad Czech’, a striking work that graced the cover of our landmark album release:

‘There are few things more exciting to me than responding visually to music in live concert performance. All the more special in the context of J L Dussek’s Messe Solemnelle last October – a world premiere of an unjustly neglected work, unheard for some 200 years until that night.

Amidst the glorious pre-concert buzz of artists, musicians, technicians and gathering audience, I was shown to a sound-booth at the rear of Barbican Concert Hall, a space usually designated for the purposes of ‘instantaneous translation’ – my impromptu painting studio for the night.

There is nothing naturally ‘instantaneous’ about oil of course, it is a slow medium at the best of times. Nor is translation exactly my art; in transposing music to visual form, I seek not only equivalencies of meaning but also far less tangible elements of emotion and spirit. This is a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory, organic process and one in which, at some point, the visual must ultimately become its own master, taking impetus from the music, but also forging its own unique and new identity.

Fugue and Flight, my first alla-prima responses to the music made on that night, were only the beginning of my journey with Dussek. The more I listened, the more I loved Dussek’s – to me – rather mad, free, style. He is full of purposeful contradictions and surprises. The solemnity of the Messe Solemnelle at times seems at odds with sudden changes and interjections of lighter tempo and mood – as if the gravitas of the piece were being constantly challenged or reminded of itself – pulled back always toward the listener. Transcendent – but with its feet on the ground.

Gradually, through repeated listening and visual experiment, more by osmosis than by design, the larger piece My Mad Czech was born. It stands first and foremost as a tribute to Dussek’s Messe Solemnelle and to Richard Egarr for rescuing it for us, but also I hope in its own right as a symbol of renewal and hope.’

– Emma Safe, 2020. Find out more about Emma’s work at


My Mad Czech | oil on canvas, 250 X 160cm, 2019-2020


Live concert painting, after Dussek, 18 movements described across 3 panels.
​Each piece: 70 x 100cm, oil on panel, 2019



AAM and Richard Egarr rehearsing Dussek at Barbican Hall, October 2019.                            Emma in action; Barbican Hall 2019.