Tribute to Claude Debussy

Tribute to Claude Debussy

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4 in F minor | Daníel Bjarnason: Violin Concerto | George Antheil: Over the Plains – Pekka Kuusisto, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, John Storgårds – Saturday, November 17, 2018, 08:00 PM EST (GMT-5) – Livestream

Pekka Kuusisto (Photo by Kaapo Kamu)

Tchaikovsky poured his soul into symphonies that would express his anguish and passions as no music had ever dared to. John Storgårds conducts Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and Pekka Kuusisto plays Daníel Bjarnason's new Violin Concerto. "Defining music's brave new world", says Time Out NY of Bjarnason. "The David Bowie of the fiddle", raves The Times of London of Kuusisto.

Saturday, November 17
Los Angeles: 05:00 PM
Detroit, New York, Toronto, Lima08:00 PM
Brasília: 11:00 PM

Sunday, November 18
London: 01:00 AM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, Stockholm, Oslo: 02:00 AM
Athens, Kiev, Jerusalem, Beirut, Cape Town03:00 AM
Moscow, Ankara: 04:00 AM
Abu Dhabi: 05:00 AM
New Delhi: 06:30 AM
Beijing, Manila, Hong Kong: 09:00 AM
Tokyo, Seoul: 10:00 AM

Live on Livestream

George Antheil (1900-1959)

♪ Over the Plains (1945)

Daníel Bjarnason (b. 1979)

♪ Violin Concerto (2017) *

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

♪ Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 (1877-1878)

i. Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima – Moderato assai, quasi Andante – Allegro vivo
ii. Andantino in modo di canzone
iii. Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato – Allegro
iv. Finale. Allegro con fuoco

Pekka Kuusisto, violin *

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: John Storgårds

(HD 720p)

Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit

Saturday, November 17, 2018, 08:00 PM EST (GMT-5) / 
Sunday, November 18, 2018, 03:00 AM EET (GMT+02:00)

Live on Livestream

Pekka Kuusisto (Photo by Mohai Balázs)

Described as "one-of-a-kind" by Toronto's The Globe and Mail, Pekka Kuusisto (b. 1976, Espoo, Finland) is renowned for his fresh approach to repertoire. Widely recognised for his flair in directing ensembles from the violin, Kuusisto is Artistic Partner with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Director of ACO Collective – a string ensemble of Australia's most talented young professional musicians delivering innovative projects across the country. In 2017 he became Artistic Best Friend of Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and in 2018 became an Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Other directing engagements include the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and the Scottish and Swedish chamber orchestras.

Concerto highlights of the 2018-2019 season include debuts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Aurora Orchestra, with whom he will be embark on tour playing Adès Violin Concerto under the baton of Nicholas Collon in the UK and on tour to Singapore. He returns to Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, and tours throughout Europe with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Kuusisto also takes up a season-long residency at Wigmore Hall.

The Finnish violinist is an enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music and has recently premiered new works by Sauli Zinovjev, Philip Venables and Andrea Tarrodi. Following last season's Hollywood Bowl premiere of Daníel Bjarnason's Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, this season Kuusisto performs the work with the Iceland and Detroit symphony orchestras, as well as its Finnish premiere with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He also performs the Austrian premiere of Anders Hillborg's Bach Materia with the Camerata Salzburg. As a composer, together with Samuli Kosminen, Kuusisto is composing, performing and recording the music for a new animated television series of Tove Jansson's Moomin stories.

Kuusisto is a gifted improviser and regularly engages with people across the artistic spectrum. Uninhibited by conventional genre boundaries and noted for his innovative programming, recent projects have included collaborations with Hauschka and Kosminen, Dutch neurologist Erik Scherder, pioneer of electronic music Brian Crabtree, eminent jazz-trumpeter Arve Henriksen, juggler Jay Gilligan, accordionist Dermot Dunne and folk artist Sam Amidon.

Other recent highlights have included appearances with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris, and a European tour with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He has play-directed the Karajan-Akademie der Berliner Philharmoniker with tenor Mark Padmore and completed a mini-residency at Pierre Boulez Saal with REDDRESS; a collaborative project with South-Korean artist Aamu Song that blurs the boundaries between performance and visual art.

Kuusisto has released several recordings, notably for Ondine and BIS. Recent releases include Erkki-Sven Tüür's Noesis, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra for Ondine, and Sebastian Fagerlund's violin concerto Darkness in Light for BIS both recorded with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu. This season he records Hillborg's Bach Materia and Bach's Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard for BIS.

Pekka Kuusisto plays a fine 18th century Italian instrument generously loaned to him by the Beares International Violin Society.


John Storgårds (Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa)

Chief Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa and Artistic Partner of the Münchener Kammerorchester, John Storgårds (b. 1963, Helsinki) has a dual career as a conductor and violin virtuoso and is widely recognised for his creative flair for programming. He additionally holds the title of Artistic Director of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland.

Storgårds appears with such orchestras as WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Bamberger Symphoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, BBC Symphony Orchestra as well as all the major Nordic orchestras including Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra where he was Chief Conductor 2008-2015. Further afield, he appears with the Sydney, Melbourne and NHK Symphonies as well as the Boston, St Louis, Toronto and Vancouver symphony orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Soloists with whom he collaborates include Yefim Bronfman, Sol Gabetta, Håkan Hardenberger, Kari Kriikku, Gil Shaham, Baiba Skride, Christian Tetzlaff, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Frank Peter Zimmermann.

Storgårds's vast repertoire includes all symphonies by Sibelius, Nielsen, Bruckner, Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. He gave a historical cycle of all 54 symphonies by Mozart (including the unnumbered works) and conducted Finnish premieres of Schumann's only opera "Genoveva", his early "Zwickau" symphony, plus world premieres of Sibelius' Suite Op.117 for violin and strings and the Late Fragments. As a violinist, Storgårds gave the Finnish premiere of Schumann's own violin version of the Cello Concerto and his Violin Sonata No.3. Storgårds regularly performs world premieres of works by contemporary composers such as Kaija Saariaho, Brett Dean, Per Nørgård and Pēteris Vasks. Many of these composers have dedicated their works to him. In opera he conducted the Finnish premiere of Haydn's Orlando Paladino at the Finnish National Opera, a production which remains one of the most successful in Finland. He conducted major titles by Strauss, Verdi and most Mozart operas. Recently he led a new production by Paul-Emile Fourny of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.

Highlights of his 2017-2018 season include Storgårds' return to the BBC Proms with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He will give debut appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien at Vienna's prestigious Musikverein and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall. Following their recent touring success, Storgårds is taking the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland on tour to Ottawa. In opera Storgårds will give the world premiere of Sebastian Fagerlund's new opera Höstsonaten / Autumn Sonata at the Finnish National Opera with Anne Sofie von Otter in the leading role of Charlotte.

Storgårds' award winning discography includes recordings of works by Schumann, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn but also rarities by Holmboe and Vasks' featuring him as soloist. Two cycles of symphonies by Sibelius (2014) and Nielsen (2015) with the BBC Philharmonic were released to critical acclaim by Chandos. Their latest recording, released earlier this year, includes works by American avant-garde composer George Antheil. Other successes include discs of works by Nørgård, Korngold and Rautavaara, the latter receiving a Grammy nomination and a Gramophone Award in 2012. Storgårds's recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland of Concertos for theremin and horn by Kalevi Aho received the distinguished ECHO Klassik award in 2015.

Storgårds studied violin with Chaim Taub and subsequently became concert master of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, before studying conducting with Jorma Panula and Eri Klas. He received the Finnish State Prize for Music in 2002 and the Pro Finlandia Prize 2012.


Pekka Kuusisto (Photo by Mohai Balázs)

George Antheil: Over the Plains

Over the Plains (1945), inspired by the composer's visit to Texas. It's pure Antheil in its unabashed weirdness, veering between rollicking cowboy music, Impressionist tone-painting and (near the end) what appears to be a homage to Mahler's Seventh.


Daníel Bjarnason: Violin Concerto

In the realm of innovative popular music, Iceland – a country of some 330,000 citizens – has gained international note for such rock groups as The Sugarcubes (after it disbanded, its star singer, Björk, went on to individual fame) and Sigur Rós. In the past decade or so, a new generation of young Icelandic "classical" composers has also taken the world by storm.

Daníel Bjarnason has emerged as an important figure among them. Born in Copenhagen to Icelandic parents, he was raised in Denmark and Iceland. After studying piano, composition, and conducting in Reykjavik, he headed for the University of Music Freiburg to pursue advanced work in conducting. His career has been international since then, but he also remains deeply involved in the Icelandic music scene. He is associated with Bedroom Community, a music collective and recording label founded there in 2006; it includes in its circle not only Icelandic composers but also musicians from abroad, including the Americans Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota (who has been named Creative Partner for the New York Philharmonic's 2018-2019 season).

As a conductor, Bjarnason has led many esteemed ensembles, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic (he was co-curator, with Esa-Pekka Salonen, of that organization's Reykjavik Festival in 2017), Iceland Symphony Orchestra (where he served for three years as artist-in-residence), BBC Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, and Tokyo and Toronto symphony orchestras, as well as The Icelandic Opera. In the 2016-2017 season he was named composer-in-residence at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

His compositions range widely in character, sometimes employing tonally based themes, often following a freer approach to tonality, sometimes using electronicacoustic combinations. Formal clarity would seem to be the watchword in his scores, which are filled with specificity of momentary gestures and long-term trajectory; while they employ an advanced musical vocabulary, their narratives are within reach of engaged listeners.

Bjarnason has contributed compositions in many genres, including chamber music, choral works,film scores, and music for dance (such as his Frames, choreographed by Alexander Whitley for the contemporary dance company Rambert). He has written collaborative works with the Australian composer Ben Frost and has made arrangements for albums by Sigur Rós and Ólöf Arnalds, and Olivia Pedroli. His first opera, Brothers (based on a film by Susanne Bier), was premiered by the Danish National Opera in Aarhus, Denmark, last August; it will receive its Icelandic premiere tomorrow night, June 9, performed by the Icelandic Opera in Reykjavik.

Daníel Bjarnason (Photo by Börkur Sigthorsson)
Bjarnason has received Icelandic Music Awards twice – as Best Composer / Best Composition in 2010 for Processions (for piano and orchestra), and Composer of the Year in 2013 for his works The Isle is Full of Noises (for chorus and orchestra) and Over Light Earth (for chamber orchestra). His expertise as a conductor has added to his sensitivity as a symphonic composer. In addition to pieces for orchestra, he has written several for soloist with orchestra, including SleepVariations (featuring viola) and Bow to String (with cello). Both of these pieces exist in multiple scorings in which the soloist is joined by ensembles of differing makeup.

Prior to his performance of the Violin Concerto last fall with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, soloist Pekka Kuusisto stated: "I was... really excited by the language and by the handling of really massive elements – tectonic plates of music – but also the level of detail in the orchestrations; and the music having a really heavy natural flow, but its being super-detailed at the same time.

In a video interview made for the Philharmonia Orchestra in London last fall, soloist Pekka Kuusisto explained how he showed Daníel Bjarnason some special techniques he has used in his playing: "One of them was a thing I do quite often when I improvise, which is doubling my own playing either with my voice or with whistling. So when it's a pizzicato note, in general it's quite a short sound. But if you [play the note and whistle it simultaneously], you can create a sustain".

Bjarnason embraced the idea and ended up using it selectively in both the solo line and the orchestral string parts, as he noted in an interview leading up to the New York Philharmonic premiere: "This piece is in many ways very lighthearted and not too serious, even though it may have a serious undercurrent. But it is playful and theatrical and that is also true of the opening. It is the violinist who is leading the orchestra and us on a journey with his first magic trick".

Kuusisto also pointed out the change of tuning – an adjustment known as scordatura: "It always takes a little while for the string to get used to it, so you get this kind of raunchy [sound] that you don't normally get on a violin... It changes the whole resonance of the violin... And it's lovely".

Bjarnason was himself surprised by how scordatura tuning took over the concerto, saying, "I wasn't planning on using it for the whole piece, but then I got completely fascinated by it".


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his Fourth Symphony between 1877 and 1878, dedicated to his patroness and "best friend" Nadezhda von Meck.

Following his catastrophic marriage to former student Antonina Miliukova, lasting a mere two months, Tchaikovsky made a start on his fourth symphony. After emerging from a profound period of writer's block, struggling with his sexuality and battling with a heavy bout of depression, it's perhaps unsurprising that the music is urgent, supercharged and violent at points. Even the opening bars of the first movement are intended to represent a metaphor for Fate, or, as poor old Tchaikovsky put it: "the fatal power which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness".

Between the moments of anguish and melancholy, Tchaikovsky proves he knows how to write a great tune – even the plaintive oboe melody at the beginning of the second movement, the Andantino in modo di canzone, swells with a poignancy and optimism, helped along by lush strings and booming brass.

The Finale, complete with frenzied plucking from the strings and rushing scales bursting through the texture, is certainly a highlight. The doom-laden Fate theme comes back once more – a cyclical feature Tchaikovsky went on to use in the two symphonies that followed, Manfred, and Symphony No.5, completed in 1885 and 1888 respectively.


John Storgårds (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

More photos

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“What happens to forests, happens to us all” – New Greenpeace campaign featuring violinist Pekka Kuusisto

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“What happens to forests, happens to us all” – New Greenpeace campaign featuring violinist Pekka Kuusisto

New Greenpeace campaign featuring violinist Pekka Kuusisto

Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto is featured in Greenpeace's latest film as part of its campaign to protect the Great Northern Forest.

"Forests have always been a source of inspiration in art, but nowadays they are becoming more and more a source of worry and sadness too, as we see that they are not treated with the respect and safeguarding they deserve", Kuusisto said.

"I hope that this film can help the ongoing preservation of our forests around the globe."

The film, titled The Elegy of the Forest, was filmed in Orivesi, Finland, where "heavy clearcuts have destroyed large areas of previously intact boreal forest", according to Greenpeace Nordic's forest campaigner Ethan Gilbert.

The director, Juho Kuosmanen, best known for his award winning feature film The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki said: "I've witnessed firsthand the destruction left behind by clearcuts and the lack of sustainable forestry in my home country of Finland. To work with Greenpeace and Pekka Kuusisto is a great opportunity to talk about the beauty and importance of boreal forests everywhere. These unique forests need our help now".


Elegy for the Forest

Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585)

♪ Third Tune for Archbishop Parker's Psalter (1567)

Pekka Kuusisto, violin

In this short film, directed by Cannes award winning director Juho Kuosmanen, world class musician Pekka Kuusisto plays a piece on a clearcut for the lost forests of his home country, Finland. We need these forests if we are to combat climate change. What happens to forests, happens to us all.

Filmed in Orivesi, Finland, 2018

(HD 1080p)

Defend the Great Northern Forest
Learn more

More photos

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4 in F minor | Daníel Bjarnason: Violin Concerto | George Antheil: Over the Plains – Pekka Kuusisto, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, John Storgårds – Saturday, November 17, 2018, 08:00 PM EST (GMT-5) – Livestream

Monday, November 12, 2018

Claude Debussy: Les Trois Sonates (The Late Works) – Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Javier Perianes, Xavier de Maistre, Antoine Tamestit, Magali Mosnier, Tanguy de Williencourt (Audio video)

Isabelle Faust (violin), Alexander Melnikov (piano), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Javier Perianes (piano), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Magali Mosnier (flute), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano) interpret Claude Debussy's the Three Sonatas (Sonata for violin and piano in G minor, Sonata for flute, viola and harp in F major, and Sonata for cello and piano in D minor), and four piano pieces (Berceuse héroïque, Page d'album, Élégie, and Les Soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon). Recorded in 2016 (December), 2017 (June) and 2018 (January-February) at Médiapôle Saint-Césaire, Impasse de Mourgues, Arles, France.

Described as "testamentary" on its back cover, the latest release in Harmonia Mundi's Debussy anniversary series is perhaps more an act of commemorative reflection than an overt celebration of his genius. It gathers together, by no means for the first time on disc, the Three Sonatas, written between 1915 and 1917 as the First World War destroyed Debussy's world and cancer slowly ravaged his body. They're framed and separated here, however, by his four last, rarely heard piano pieces, all of them ostensibly pièces d'occasion, though they're linked by a deep, sometimes despairing sadness that reveals much about the anguish of his final years.

Three of them formed his contribution to the war effort. The sombre Berceuse héroïque was commissioned, along with pieces by Saint-Saëns, Mascagni and Elgar, by the Daily Telegraph for inclusion in a volume entitled King Albert's Book, published in support of the beleaguered monarchy of occupied Belgium. The manuscript of Élégie pour piano was intended to be sold to raise money for war relief, while Page d'album was written for performance at a charity concert for "Vêtement du blessé" ("Clothes for the wounded"), for which his wife worked as a volunteer. The saddest of the four is Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon, Debussy's last work for piano, written during the bitter winter of 1916-1917 as a gift to his coal supplier, one M. Tronquin, in the hope that the latter would furnish him with enough fuel to keep warm.

Juxtaposed with the sonatas, they throw into relief the ambiguities of the latter, with their mixture of retrospection, fantasy and innovation. The Sonata for flute, viola and harp sounds more than ever like a final, nostalgic evocation of the worlds of Faune and Bilitis here: the performance is relaxed, fractionally too much so in the first movement, perhaps, but it tingles with sensuousness and the shifts in colour are all beautifully realised. Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov's account of the Violin Sonata, Debussy's last completed score, embraces exquisite fragility and strength in equal measure, the finale gathering itself for one last moment of assertion at the end. Jean-Guihen Queyras and Javier Perianes's performance of the Cello Sonata, noble in manner and grand in scale, balances the austere grief of the opening movement with understated wit in the Sérénade and nervous energy in the finale. Tanguy de Williencourt, meanwhile, binds the disc together with the four piano pieces, played with admirable restraint and quiet, if unsparing intensity. Listen to it in a single sitting, and in the right playing order: it's extraordinarily moving.

Source: Tim Ashley (

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Les Trois Sonates
(The Late Works)

1. [Troisième] Sonate pour violon et piano (1917)
Sol mineur / G minor / G-Moll

i. Allegro vivo
ii. Intermède. Fantasque et léger
iii. Finale. Très animé

2. Berceuse héroïque (November 1914)
"Pour rendre hommage à S. M. le roi Albert 1er de Belgique et à ses soldats"

Pour piano. Modéré sans lenteur

3. Page d'album - Pour l'Œuvre du "Vêtement du blessé" (1915)

Pour piano. Modéré

4. [Deuxième] Sonate pour flûte, alto et harpe (1915)
Fa majeur / F major / F-Dur

i. Pastorale. Lento, dolce rubato
ii. Interlude. Tempo di minuetto
iii. Finale. Allegro moderato ma risoluto

5. Élégie (1915)

Pour piano. Lent et douloureux

6. [Première] Sonate pour violoncelle et piano (July-August 1915)
Ré mineur / D minor / D-Moll

i. Prologue. Lent. Sostenuto e molto risoluto
ii. Sérénade. Modérément animé. Fantasque et léger
iii. Finale. Animé. Léger et nerveux

7. Les Soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon (February-March 1917)

Pour piano. Lent et rêveur

Isabelle Faust, violon Stradivarius "Belle au bois dormant"
Alexander Melnikov, piano (1)
Jean-Guihen Queyras, violoncelle
Javier Perianes, piano (6)
Xavier de Maistre, harpe Érard style Louis XVI de la fin du xixe siècle (prêtée par Les Siècles)
Antoine Tamestit, alto Stradivarius "Mahler", 1672 (prêté par la Fondation Habisreutinger), archet Nicolas Maire, 1835
Magali Mosnier, flûte Louis Lot no 2862, 1880 (prêtée par Bernard Duplaix)
Tanguy de Williencourt, piano (2, 3, 5, 7)

Recorded in 2016 (December), 2017 (June) and 2018 (January-February) at Médiapôle Saint-Césaire, Impasse de Mourgues, Arles, France

harmonia mundi 2018

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

The outbreak of the First World War at the end of July 1914 plunged Debussy into deep distress. Tormented by the cancer that was eventually to kill him and the disasters of the conflict, he had the greatest difficulty in continuing his work, as he wrote to his publisher, Jacques Durand, on 21 September 1914: "I won't talk about two months during which I haven't written a note, nor touched a piano: that is of no importance compared to current events, I'm well aware of the fact, but I can't help thinking about it with sadness... at my age, time lost is lost for ever". Fortunately, the year 1915 brought him a new lease of life, as he wrote in September to his friend the conductor Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht. He justified his delay in replying to a previous letter by explaining that he was "learning music all over again": "It's a fine thing, you must admit! It's even finer than people think it is in all those different Societies: National, International, and other low dens... The sum total of emotions that one can derive from well-disposed harmony is impossible to find in any other art! Forgive me! Forgive me! I give the impression I'm discovering music, but, very humbly, that is rather my situation". For, during a summer spent in Pourville in Normandy, Debussy regained his creativity and composed in the space of four months En blanc et noir for two pianos and the twelve Études for piano solo. In addition to this, there were two chamber works: a sonata for cello and piano and another for flute, viola and harp. This choice is all the more unexpected in that Debussy had steered clear of chamber music for more than twenty years.

The last work he had written in the genre was none other than his only String Quartet (1893). But this decision owed nothing to chance, and indicated his desire to revive a French tradition of the eighteenth century. Debussy planned to write "Six Sonates pour divers instruments", scored for forces as varied as oboe, horn and harpsichord or trumpet, clarinet, bassoon and piano. The diversity of the instruments chosen, the introduction of a harpsichord and the notion of a collection of six works were symbolic of the tribute he wished to pay to the music of Couperin and Rameau. Moreover, he was to ask his publisher not only to imitate the title pages of the French harpsichord books of the eighteenth century, but also to print on them the words "Claude Debussy, musicien français". Unfortunately, only the first three sonatas were to be completed. Although we do not know exactly when Debussy began composing the Sonata for cello and piano, we do know that he finished it on 3 August 1915. Its style reflects the composer's contrasting feelings: the war and its trail of horrors, the profound joy of composing again. The sombre gravity of the first movement is followed by a "Sérénade" marked "Fantasque et léger" (whimsical and light), with mercurial changes of character, mingling humour and tenderness. This leads directly into the passionate Finale, with the marking "léger, nerveux" (light, vigorous).

It was with a certain feeling of pride – rare in Debussy – that he wrote about this sonata to his  publisher on 15 August: "It is not for me to judge its excellence, but I like its proportions and form, almost classical in the good sense of the word". Immediately after completing the Cello Sonata, Debussy began composing the Sonata for flute, viola and harp, which he completed in Pourville on September 14. The three movements of this triptych with its unusual scoring exude a perfume of nostalgia, as he confided to his friend Robert Godet in 1916: "Within a few days, you will receive the Sonata for flute, viola and harp. It belongs to that time when I still knew how to write music. It even recalls a Claude Debussy of many years ago, the Debussy of the Nocturnes, it seems to me". Yet the atmosphere of this sonata is reminiscent not so much of the Nocturnes, but rather of the incidental music to the Chansons de Bilitis, which dates from that same period (1900) and whose musical material he had reused in the Épigraphes antiques of July 1914. Working from thematic cells intermingled in the latter work, Debussy constantly varies and renews the musical discourse, which contributes to achieving the desired goal, the clarity and elegance of French music, as he asserted in a letter of October 1915: "Where are our old clavecinistes, in whom there is so much real music? They possessed the secret of that profound grace, that emotion without epilepsy, which we renounce like ungrateful children..." Despite his creative block, Debussy had contributed to the "war effort" since the beginning of hostilities by composing, in November 1914, a Berceuse héroïque (Heroic lullaby) for piano at the request of the English novelist Hall Caine. This was intended for a volume in tribute to the King of the Belgians Albert I, King Albert's Book, published by the Daily Telegraph, which assembled occasional works by writers such as Henri Bergson, Anatole France, John Galsworthy and Maurice Maeterlinck and composers such as Camille Saint-Saëns, André Messager, Ignaz Paderewski, Pietro Mascagni and Edward Elgar. As Debussy underlined in one of his letters, "This Berceuse is melancholic, discreet; the Brabançonne [the Belgian national anthem] is not bellowed out in the piece. It is a simple calling card, with no other pretensions than to pay tribute to so much patient suffering".

He repeated the experience in December 1915 with the Élégie, a sombre piece that testifies to the composer's despair. Its autograph, probably sold at auction for charity, is lost, but was reproduced in facsimile in 1915 in Pages inédites sur la femme et la guerre (Unpublished pages on women and the war), a sumptuous presentation volume (livre d'or) dedicated to Queen Alexandra, the British Queen Mother. The piece entitled Pour l'Œuvre du "Vêtement du blessé" was conceived in June of the same year for a charity concert organised by the "Vêtement du blessé" (Clothes for the wounded) association in which his wife Emma was active. He offered her the manuscript with the following dedication: "Pour le ‘vêtement’ de ma petite Mienne son Claude" (For the "garment" of my little wife, her Claude). As for the manuscript of Les Soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon (the title, "Evenings lit by the glow of coals", is a quotation from Le Balcon, one of the Baudelaire poems that Debussy had set to music in January 1888), his final piano work, which dates from February-March 1917, it served as a bargaining chip to obtain bags of coal from M. Tronquin, a connoisseur of music and autographs!

Aside from these occasional pieces, in 1916 and 1917 Debussy also set about composing his third and last sonata, for violin and piano. He found its conception, especially that of the third movement, particularly difficult, as is shown by his correspondence with his publisher. After months of hesitation over the finale, Debussy informed Robert Godet of the completion of the work in May 1917: "I have – at last! – finished the Sonata for violin and piano... By a very human contradiction, it is full of joyous tumult. In future, beware of works that seem to hover in the open sky; often they have rotted in the darkness of a morose brain... An example is the end of this same sonata, which went through the oddest distortions to end up with the simple working of an idea that turns back on itself". This, Debussy's last completed work, marks the quintessence of his language in the rapid succession of thematic cells that follow one another with innovative effects of sonority between the piano and the violin, but also passages of a very inward, griefstricken lyricism. Although very ill, the composer gave the first performance with the violinist Gaston Poulet at the Salle Gaveau on 5 May 1917. In September 1917, he noted with bitterness and sadness that since the blissful summer of 1915 when he thought he had "overcome the curse", he had composed little: "What has happened since? I almost dare not think of it! But I am still sick and the catalogue of my works has not increased much! On the other hand: I'm a year older... That's not exactly promising for my future, is it? I absolutely must find a way to get out of this, to shake out the kind of soot that seems to be clogging my brain, otherwise I will go for a walk in the other world". Debussy was bedridden from 1 November 1917, and died on 25 March 1918.

Source: Denis Herlin (CD Booklet)

More photos

See also

Claude Debussy: La Mer – Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune – National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy and the Poetic Image

Nikolai Lugansky plays Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Deux Arabesques, and οther works for solo piano (Audio video)

100 Years After Debussy's Death, He Remains the First ‘Modern’ Composer – An essay on Claude Debussy by Stephen Hough in the New York Times

Terrified and delighted: Works by Claude Debussy and André Caplet inspired by Edgar Allan Poe – Musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Pour le piano, Estampes, Images (oubliées) – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)

Claude Debussy: Images, D'un cahier d'esquisses, L'Isle joyeuse, Deux arabesques, etc. – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Claude Debussy: La Mer – Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

The distinguished Polish conductor Jacek Kaspszyk conducts Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Claude Debussy's "La Mer". Recorded at Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw, Poland, on January 27, 2018.

Claude Debussy's rich and evocative depiction of the underwater realm remains an impressionistic milestone, a classic of its type. But what makes La Mer so good?

Ever-resistant to the confines of normal practice, impressionist composer Claude Debussy insisted that his La Mer was not a symphony. No, even though it contains three symphonic movements that could quite happily be classified as a symphony. Debussy preferred to call it a set of "symphonic sketches" – something of a milestone in itself.

La Mer (literally "The Sea") was a confusing prospect to audiences of 1905, as it was neither a normal symphony nor a complete departure. Parisian audiences initially didn't really warm to it either, perhaps partly because of the scandal of Debussy having left his wife for the singer Emma Barduc.

Debussy took inspiration not from the rolling waves of the Pacific or the Atlantic, but from the rather more unlikely locale of Eastbourne on the south coast of England. He finished composing the work's three movements there in 1905, saying that he found more inspiration in paintings of the sea than being near the sea itself.


Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

♪ La Mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestre / The Sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra (1903-1905, rev. 1908)

i. De l'aube à midi sur la mer / From dawn to midday on the sea
ii. Jeux de vagues / Play of the waves
iii. Dialogue du vent et de la mer / Dialogue between wind and waves

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Jacek Kaspszyk

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland, February 3, 2017

(HD 1080p)

Jacek Kaspszyk born on August 10, 1952 in Biała Podlaska, Poland. He studied conducting, music theory and composition at the Warsaw Academy of Music, graduating in 1975, that same year making his conducting debut at Warsaw's Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera in a premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni. In 1976 he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. The following year he won III Prize at the prestigious Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin as one of the "explosive new talents" identified by Richard Osborne in his biography of Karajan where he writes "it was not until Jansons in 1971 and Gergiev and Kaspszyk in 1977 that genuinely explosive talent blazed through".  In 1978 he made his debut with the Berlin and New York Philharmonics and was appointed Principal Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra – two years later becoming their Music Director.

In 1982 he moved to London where he made his debut at the Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra after which he appeared regularly with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the Halle, Capital Radio's Wren Orchestra (as Principal Conductor), Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish and BBC National Orchestra of Wales with whom he made his BBC Proms debut in 1984. Since then he has conducted many international orchestras including the Bayerische Rundfunk, RSO Berlin, Orchestre Nationale de France, Wiener Symphoniker, the Oslo, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Prague Philharmonics and has toured Australia with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Between 1991-1995 he was Principal Conductor and Music Advisor of the Nord Nederlands Orkest. Throughout this period he also appeared in the USA (Cincinnati SO, San Diego SO), Canada (Calgary Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony), Japan (Yomiuri Nippon SO, Tokyo Philharmonic) and performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and New Zealand Symphony orchestras.

In 1998 Jacek Kaspszyk was appointed Artistic and Music Director of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera and two years later also Managing Director. Under his tenure the company enjoyed not only great success at home but also garnered international recognition for acclaimed performances at such venues as the Beijing Festival (2001), the Bolshoi in Moscow, Sadler's Wells Theatre in London (2004), Hong Kong Arts Festival (2005) and Peralada Festival in Spain (2006) as well as during three highly successful tours of Japan (2001, 2003, 2005), prompting the British monthly magazine "Opera Now" to write in 2004 that "Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera had filled the gap between Berlin and Moscow on the map of Europe".

Kaspszyk's opera career has also included productions for many renowned opera houses among others: Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, Opéra Comique in Paris, Opera de Lyon, Opera de Bordeaux, Stockholm Opera, English National Opera, Opera North Leeds, Scottish Opera, Zurich Opera, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville. Between 2006-2008 he worked regularly with the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet in Vilnius whose acclaimed productions of Richard Strauss' Salome and Wagner's Die Walküre he also conducted at festivals in Ljubljana and Ravenna (2007) and during a well received residency at the Israeli Opera Tel Aviv – Yafo (2008).

In 2006 he became Artistic Director of the W. Lutoslawski Wroclaw Philharmonic and in 2009 was again appointed Music Director of the Polish National Radio SO with whom he toured the UK that same year. This period also saw the start of his highly successful association with the China Philharmonic, Guangzhou Symphony and Shanghai Symphony orchestras as well as his annual appearances at the Lugano Festival in the Progetto Martha Argerich, a CD of which is released each year by EMI Classics (now Warner Classics).

The recipient of many awards and honours, in 2011 he received the prestigious Elgar Society Medal for his interpretations of the composer's music, joining distinguished colleagues like Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Litton and Leonard Slatkin.

Jacek Kaspszyk's extensive discography includes his award-winning recording of Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino with the Polish Chamber Opera, the Edison Prize-awarded recording of Baird's Concerto lugubre and several critically acclaimed CDs for Collins Classics with all four London orchestras among them a recording of works by Johann Strauss II with the LPO which the Gramophone critic compared with Carlos Kleiber stating "and you can get no higher praise than that". His recording of Lutoslawski's Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 with the Wroclaw Philharmonic received the Polish music industry's Fryderyk Award while his recordings with the Polish National Opera of Moniuszko's The Haunted Manor for EMI was awarded a Platinum Disc and that of Szymanowski's King Roger for CD Accord was nominated in 2006 by the BBC Music Magazine as "Record of the Year" and acclaimed by Gramophone Magazine whose critic wrote: "on every count, including pennies, this sweeps the board [...] under Kaspszyk it makes a mesmerizing impression".

On 1st September 2013 Jacek Kaspszyk was appointed Music and Artistic Director of the Warsaw Philharmonic – The National Orchestra of Poland. He opened his tenure by conducting the Philharmonic's ensembles in the final concert of the Chopin and his Europe Festival followed on 22nd September by an historic Warsaw Autumn Festival concert with the pianist Krystian Zimerman; the latter being one of the highlights of the Lutoslawski Year (programme: Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto and Symphony No.3). Jacek Kaspszyk also conducted the first three concerts in the history of the Philharmonic to be transmitted through the Internet.


More photos

See also

Claude Debussy: Les Trois Sonates (The Late Works) – Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Javier Perianes, Xavier de Maistre, Antoine Tamestit, Magali Mosnier, Tanguy de Williencourt (Audio video)

Claude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune – National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy and the Poetic Image

Nikolai Lugansky plays Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Deux Arabesques, and οther works for solo piano (Audio video)

100 Years After Debussy's Death, He Remains the First ‘Modern’ Composer – An essay on Claude Debussy by Stephen Hough in the New York Times

Terrified and delighted: Works by Claude Debussy and André Caplet inspired by Edgar Allan Poe – Musicians from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque, Pour le piano, Estampes, Images (oubliées) – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)

Claude Debussy: Images, D'un cahier d'esquisses, L'Isle joyeuse, Deux arabesques, etc. – Zoltán Kocsis (Audio video)


Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.9 in D Major – Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major – Marc-André Hamelin, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

Gustav Mahler: Kindertotenlieder – Ewa Podleś, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk (HD 1080p)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Antonín Dvořák: Carnival Overture | Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 in C major | Andrew Norman: Play – Emanuel Ax, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Cristian Măcelaru – Friday, November 9, 2018, 08:00 PM EDT (GMT-4) – Livestream

The Washington Post describes the artistry of Emanuel Ax as "thoughtful, lyrical, lustrous..." Ax performs Ludwig van Beethoven's youthful First Piano Concerto, while Cristian Măcelaru conducts "Play" by Andrew Norman. Norman is one of today's most brilliant – and popular – composers. His work reflects our time and has been hailed by The New York Times for its "daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors".

Friday, November 9
Los Angeles: 05:00 PM
Detroit, New York, Toronto, Lima08:00 PM
Brasília: 11:00 PM

Saturday, November 10
London: 01:00 AM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, Stockholm, Oslo: 02:00 AM
Athens, Kiev, Jerusalem, Beirut, Cape Town03:00 AM
Moscow, Ankara: 04:00 AM
Abu Dhabi: 05:00 AM
New Delhi: 06:30 AM
Beijing, Manila, Hong Kong: 09:00 AM
Tokyo, Seoul: 10:00 AM

Live on Livestream

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

♪ Carnival Overture, Op.92 (1891)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

 Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15 (1795, rev. 1800) *

i. Allegro con brio

ii. Largo
iii. Rondo. Allegro scherzando

Andrew Norman (b. 1979)

♪ Play (2013, rev. 2016)

i. Level 1
ii. Level 2
iii. Level 3

Emanuel Ax, piano *

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Cristian Măcelaru

(HD 720p)

Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit

Friday, November 9, 2018, 08:00 PM EDT (GMT-4) / 
Saturday, November 10, 2018, 03:00 AM EET (GMT+02:00)

Live on Livestream

Photo by Jessa Anderson
Andrew Norman (b. 1979) is a Los Angeles-based composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music.

Andrew's work draws on an eclectic mix of sounds and notational practices from both the avant-garde and classical traditions. He is increasingly interested in story-telling in music, and specifically in the ways non-linear, narrative-scrambling techniques from other time-based media like movies and video games might intersect with traditional symphonic forms. His distinctive, often fragmented and highly energetic voice has been cited in the New York Times for its "daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors", in the Boston Globe for its "staggering imagination", and in the L.A. Times for its "audacious" spirit and "Chaplinesque" wit.

Andrew's symphonic works have been performed by leading ensembles worldwide, including the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, the BBC, Saint Louis, Seattle, and Melbourne Symphonies, the Orpheus, Saint Paul, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestras, the Tonhalle Orchester, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, and many others.  Andrew's music has been championed by some of the classical music's eminent conductors, including John Adams, Marin Alsop, Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, and David Robertson.

In recent seasons, Andrew's chamber music has been featured at the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Wordless Music Series, the CONTACT! series, the Ojai Festival, the MATA Festival, the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the Green Umbrella series, the Monday Evening Concerts, and the Aspen Music Festival. In May of 2010, the Berlin Philharmonic's Scharoun Ensemble presented a portrait concert of Andrew's music entitled "Melting Architecture".

Andrew was recently named Musical America's 2017 Composer of the Year. He is the recipient of the 2004 Jacob Druckman Prize, the 2005 ASCAP Nissim and Leo Kaplan Prizes, the 2006 Rome Prize, the 2009 Berlin Prize and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship. He joined the roster of Young Concert Artists as Composer in Residence in 2008 and held the title "Komponist für Heidelberg" for the 2010-2011 season. Andrew has served as Composer in Residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Opera Philadelphia, and he currently holds that post with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Andrew's 30-minute string trio The Companion Guide to Rome was named a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and his large-scale orchestral work Play was named one of NPR's top 50 albums of 2015, nominated for a 2016 Grammy in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category, and recently won the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Andrew is a committed educator who enjoys helping people of all ages explore and create music. He has written pieces to be performed by and for the young, and has held educational residencies with various institutions across the country. Andrew joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music in 2013, and he is thrilled to serve as the new director of the L.A. Phil's Composer Fellowship Program for high school composers.

Andrew recently finished two piano concertos, Suspend, for Emanual Ax, and Split, for Jeffrey Kahane, as well as a percussion concerto, Switch, for Colin Currie. Upcoming projects include a symphony for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and collaborations with Jeremy Denk, Jennifer Koh, Johannes Moser, yMusic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony.

Andrew's works are published by Schott Music.


Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Born in modern day Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. His studies at the Juilliard School were supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. Additionally, he attended Columbia University where he majored in French. Mr. Ax made his New York debut in the Young Concert Artists Series, and captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975 he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.

In partnership with colleagues Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma, he begins the current season with concerts in Vienna, Paris and London with the trios of Brahms recently released by Sony Classical. In the US he returns to the orchestras in Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Nashville and Portland, OR, and to Carnegie Hall for a recital to conclude the season. In Europe he can be heard in Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, London, and on tour with the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Italy.

Always a committed exponent of contemporary composers, with works written for him by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner already in his repertoire, most recently he has added HK Gruber's Piano Concerto and Samuel Adams' "Impromptus".

A Sony Classical exclusive recording artist since 1987, recent releases include Mendelssohn Trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss' Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninov with Yefim Bronfman. In 2015 Deutche Grammophon released a duo recording with Mr. Perlman of Sonatas by Fauré and Strauss, which the two artists presented on tour during the 2015-2016 season. Mr. Ax has received Grammy® Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn's piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. His other recordings include the concertos of Liszt and Schoenberg, three solo Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the premiere recording of John Adams' Century Rolls with the Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch. In the 2004-2005 season Mr. Ax also contributed to an International Emmy® Award-Winning BBC documentary commemorating the Holocaust that aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, Mr. Ax's recording Variations received the Echo Klassik Award for Solo Recording of the Year (19th century music/Piano).

A frequent and committed partner for chamber music, he has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Peter Serkin, Jaime Laredo, and the late Isaac Stern.

Mr. Ax resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children together, Joseph and Sarah. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary doctorates of music from Skidmore College, Yale University, and Columbia University.


Newly appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Cristian Măcelaru (b. 1980, Timișoara, Romania) has established himself as one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. With every concert he displays an exciting and highly regarded presence, thoughtful interpretations and energetic conviction on the podium. He launches his inaugural season at Cabrillo in August 2017 with premiere-filled programs of new works and fresh re-orchestrations by an esteemed group of composers. Among the 2017 season's highlights are seven world premieres, 11 composers-in-residence, a stunning roster of international guest artists, and two special tributes – one to commemorate Lou Harrison's centenary and another honoring John Adams' 70th birthday.

He recently completed his tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra as Conductor-in-Residence, a title he held for three seasons until August 2017. Prior to that, he was their Associate Conductor for two seasons and previously Assistant Conductor for one season from September 2011. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra subscription debut in April 2013 and continues a close relationship with the orchestra in leading them on annual subscription programs and other special concerts.

Măcelaru regularly conducts top orchestras in North America including the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, St Louis Symphony, Toronto Symphony and Detroit Symphony, in addition to the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the 2016-2017 season, he led the Bayerischen Rundfunk Symphonieorchester in two separate programs and made debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Weimar Staatskapelle, Royal Flemish Philharmonic and New Japan Philharmonic with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist. In recent seasons, further international appearances have brought him to Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The 2017-2018 season sees Măcelaru opening the National Symphony Orchestra's season in Washington D.C. and returning to the Philadelphia Orchestra on three subscription programs plus Messiah concerts. He guest-conducts the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, San Diego and Vancouver. Internationally he leads the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Swedish Radio Symphony, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In Summer 2017, Măcelaru makes his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival and returns to the Grand Teton and Interlochen Festivals. Additionally he leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in two programs at the Mann Center.

Cristian Măcelaru made his Carnegie Hall debut in February 2015 on a program with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter. A keen opera conductor, in June 2015 he led the Cincinnati Opera in highly acclaimed performances of Il Trovatore. In 2010, he made his operatic debut with the Houston Grand Opera in Madama Butterfly and led the U.S. premiere of Colin Matthews's Turning Point with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as part of the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival. In 2019, he returns to the Houston Grand Opera on a Kasper Holten production of Don Giovanni.

Măcelaru came to public attention in February 2012 when he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a replacement for Pierre Boulez in performances met with critical acclaim. Winner of the 2014 Solti Conducting Award, Măcelaru previously received the Sir Georg Solti Emerging Conductor Award in 2012, a prestigious honor only awarded once before in the Foundation's history. He has participated in the conducting programs of the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival, studying under David Zinman, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Oliver Knussen and Stefan Asbury. His main studies were with Larry Rachleff at Rice University, where he received master's degrees in conducting and violin performance. He completed undergraduate studies in violin performance at the University of Miami. An accomplished violinist from an early age, Măcelaru was the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and made his Carnegie Hall debut with that orchestra at the age of nineteen. He also played in the first violin section of the Houston Symphony for two seasons.

Măcelaru formerly held the position of Resident Conductor at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, where he was Music Director of the Campanile Orchestra, Assistant Conductor to Larry Rachleff and Conductor for the Opera Department. A proponent of music education, he has served as a conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony, where he also conceptualized and created a successful chamber music program. As Founder and Artistic Director of the Crisalis Music Project, Mr. Măcelaru spearheaded a program in which young musicians perform in a variety of settings, side-by-side with established artists. Their groundbreaking inaugural season produced and presented concerts featuring chamber ensembles, a chamber orchestra, a tango operetta, and collaborations with dancer Susana Collins, which resulted in a choreographed performance of Vivaldi/Piazzolla's Eight Seasons.

Cristian Măcelaru resides in Philadelphia with his wife Cheryl and children Beniamin and Maria.


Cristian Măcelaru (Photo by Sorin Popa)

Antonín Dvořák: Carnival Overture, Op.92

In many ways, the 1890s represented for Dvořák a time of creative and personal renaissance. It was during this decade that he made his first forays into the New World, the direct result of which included the production of a wealth of American-inflected chamber music as well as the composer's best-known work, the Symphony No.9 (1893). The latter proved to be Dvořák's final essay in that form, signaling, perhaps, his increasing interest in other genres. In addition to the operatic stops and starts that occupied much of the composer's attention in the 1890s, Dvořák produced a substantial body of self-contained orchestral works in the guise of overtures and tone poems.

The Carnival Overture, Op.92 (1891), was the second of a group of three works by the composer collectively titled "Nature, Life, and Love". An operatic spirit  one is struck by certain Carmen-esque flashes, for example  informs the overture throughout, as does a prevailing ebullience and stomping, folk dance-like energy. A brief central Andantino con moto episode of sedate, almost nocturnal character is distinguished by more expansive melodies and the use of the English horn, one of Dvořák's favorite instruments, in an unusual role: sounding an ostinato accompaniment rather than the melody proper. The overture ends in a spirit similar to that in which it begins, aptly embodying the festal atmosphere suggested by its title.

Source: Michael Rodman (

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15

Confusingly, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.1 (1795-1800) actually follows the Concerto No. 2 in order of composition. The confusion is explained by the fact that the composer withhheld what is now known as the Second Concerto from publication in order to make substantial revisions (including an all-new rondo), in the meantime proceeding to complete and publish the present work. There are distinct Mozartean moments in the First Concerto, particularly in the quiet, strings-only introduction to the opening Allegro con brio. With the entrance of the orchestra (complete with brass and timpani), however, the music takes on a more martial character and a distinctive vigor peculiar to Beethoven's style. The second subject, played by violins and woodwinds over a restless bass accompaniment, unfolds in longer, more lyrical phrases. When the piano finally enters, it's with material that can be heard as a variant of either of the themes already presented; a recurring rhythmic figure, though, clearly links it to the music that opens the work. Throughout the remainder of the movement, Beethoven employs light, rapid passagework no doubt intended to display the composer's own virtuosity. Further opportunity for pianistic display arises at the cadenza, which is followed by a brief coda. The Largo second movement begins with a vocally expressive, lyrical melody, an almost prayerful moment that forecasts the profound slow movements of Beethoven's final period. The orchestra answers with a more forthright theme, then eases into a variant of the piano's melody. The soloist returns with further comments in this vein, highly ornamented and subtly supported and commented upon by the strings and woodwinds. After a poignant episode in which the keyboard adopts for the first time a thin, unassuming texture, the piano reintroduces the opening theme, soon joined by the orchestra. The movement closes in a hushed atmosphere. The Allegro scherzando rondo is typical of much of Beethoven's music of the period: full of high spirits, rhythmic syncopations, and irregular phrasings. The piano presents a comically sputtering theme, soon echoed by the full ensemble. Several of the succeeding episodes have a quirky urgency and comic almost melodrama of the sort that inspired silent film scores more than a century later. The work draws to a conclusion in a spirit of both boldness and mischief.

Source: James Reel (

Andrew Norman: Play

Andrew Norman wrote about Play: "It is difficult for me to write about Play. Play is a cycle of pieces, a body of work that I have been writing and rewriting for almost five years. Play explores many different ideas – ideas about choice, chance, free will, and control, about how technology has rewired our brains and changed the ways we express ourselves, about the blurring boundaries of reality in the internet age, the murky grounds where video games and drone warfare meet, for instance, or where cyber-bullying and real world violence converge. Play touches on the corrupting influence of power and the collapse and rebirth of social systems, but it is also explores the physicality and joy of instrumental playing, as well as the many potential meanings of coordinated human activity – how the display of massed human synchronicity can represent both the communal best and coercive worst of our race".


Emanuel Ax

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See also

Robert Schumann: Symphony No.4 in D minor – Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Cristian Măcelaru

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