If you’ve ever seen a Gustav Klimt painting, you already know Mizzi. She was Klimt’s muse for most of his career. In the words of Lacy, “Mizzi represents so many of the women in the paintings whose names and lives are lost to time but whose images are immortalized by the painters - often male painters whose names we still remember. For me, I felt it my duty to help Mizzi reclaim her personhood.”
This is the story of Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann. The first movement shows Mizzi as an old lady after the passing of Gustav Klimt and rediscovering the painting she helped inspire. The second movement is written from her perspective inside the painting as Mizzi describes what she sees. And the third movement is Mizzi seeing spectator and asking the viewer to take her out of the painting.
These beautiful recordings were produced by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio (John Zorn), and accompanied by piano (John Albert Harris) and string quartet (Theresa Salomon & Maureen Murchie, violin; Ron Lawrence, viola; Stephen Moran, cello) with string arrangements by John K. Stone. The EP was recorded in one day with completely live takes. As Lacy says, “Creating Mizzi was the most organic and natural writing experience I’ve ever had. I really felt like I was just transcribing what already existed.” And the results are recordings that sound just as natural and organic. “We recorded the voice, piano and strings altogether because I wanted it to sound like a Billie Holiday record or an old Alfred Deller recording.”
Lacy seemed to have been pulled by the spirit of Mizzi during the writing and recording process. “I truly feel I was just the vehicle in which to tell her story,” Rose says. “There was one painting in particular called Hope 1 that completely seized me. I remember looking directly into the eyes of the naked pregnant redheaded model (which I later discovered was Mizzi) in the painting and felt this intense pull in my gut.” Even after Rose had committed to the project, Mizzi kept appearing in subtle ways. “When I recorded my first demos, the studio I recorded in had Klimt coasters in the mixing room. And when I first started working with John K. Stone on the string arrangements he had an outdated Klimt calendar hanging above his piano. Most recently after visiting bookstore at the Neue Museum, I picked up a book called Gustav Klimt: Life and Work and immediately flipped to a chapter entitled Mizzi. There are many strange coincidences like that!”
To many, Mizzi may be seen (like the painting) as a symbol of Hope. “I wrote the second movement when I was going through an emotionally dark time - maybe some of the most intense times of my life,” says Lacy. “I think the image of Mizzi became almost saintlike to me - the patron saint of perseverance. I kept seeing the image of her in Hope 1 in my mind and would meditate on how incredibly still and calm she looked despite all that was going on around her. I composed with Mizzi as my guide and found her strength so that I could survive such a difficult time in my life. Ultimately I think it came to be an empowering incantation about transcending the darkness with your own light.”