The DSO's French Festival opens with a program dedicated to the music of Maurice Ravel. Influenced by jazz, traditional French composers along with his contemporaries, and greats from Mozart to Chopin, Ravel was a master orchestrator. He meticulously crafted color and movement in his music, which often seems to float out of a storybook, such as the tale of Daphnis seeking help from the god Pan to rescue his beloved Chloe from the hands of pirates.
One of the most engaging live performers of his generation, the multi award-winning pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet joins the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major and Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.
Los Angeles: 07:45 AM
Detroit, New York, Toronto: 10:45 AM
Brasília: 01:45 PM
London: 03:45 PM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw: 04:45 PM
Kiev, Jerusalem, Athens: 05:45 PM
Moscow: 06:45 PM
Beijing: 11:45 PM
Saturday, February 10
Tokyo, Seoul: 00:45 AM
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DSO's FRENCH FESTIVAL – CONCERT ONE
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
♪ Menuet antique (1895/1929)
♪ Pavane pour une infante défunte, M.19 (1899/1910)
♪ Piano Concerto in G major (1931)
ii. Adagio assai
♪ Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1929-1930)
Lento – Più lento – Allegro
♪ Daphnis et Chloé Suite No.2, M.57b (1913)
i. Lever du jour
iii. Danse générale
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano
Jeffrey Walker, organ
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit
Friday, February 9, 2018, 10:45 AM EST (UTC-5) / 05:45 PM EET (UTC+2)
Live on Livestream
|Photo by Ben Ealovega|
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has achieved acclaim for a variety of disparate repertory, but particularly for his complete cycles of music by Haydn, Debussy, Ravel, Bartók, and Prokofiev. He has recorded the complete solo piano outputs of Ravel and Debussy, the three concertos of Bartók, and from 2010 he launched a cycle of the complete Haydn sonatas. He has also played the five Prokofiev piano concertos in live concerts over a two-day period. Bavouzet's repertory extends to individual works by Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Pierné, and contemporary composer Bruno Mantovani. Bavouzet has concertized throughout Europe, the U.K., U.S., and Asia, and has appeared with many of the leading conductors, including Gergiev, Ashkenazy, Boulez, and Gianandrea Noseda. Bavouzet has recorded for Chandos, Naïve, and MD&G.
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was born in Lannion, France, in 1962. He studied music at the Paris Conservatory where his most important teacher was Pierre Sancan. In 1986 Bavouzet won the Beethoven International Competition in Cologne. Three years later he was given the Steven de Groote Memorial Award for best chamber music performance at the Van Cliburn Competition.
While Bavouzet enjoyed reasonable success in the wake of these triumphs, including his appearance on a 1993 Accord CD of works by Stockhausen, his major breakthrough came in 1995 when he debuted with the Orchestre de Paris at the invitation of Georg Solti. In a 1998 concert with the Orchestre de Paris, Bavouzet collaborated with Pierre Boulez, a conductor with whom he would make many subsequent appearances, both in France and abroad.
In the new century Bavouzet's career has continued on the ascent, not least because of his considerable activity in the recording studio. He recorded the complete piano works of Ravel to acclaim for MD&G in 2003. Bavouzet began recording for Chandos in 2006, and his initial project for the label, the complete piano works of Debussy, was issued on five discs from 2007-2009, the critics broadly approving each release. Bavouzet distinguished himself further when in March 2009 he played the challenging five Prokofiev concertos over two concerts with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Antoni Wit.
In September 2009 Bavouzet premiered a work dedicated to him, the Bruno Mantovani piano concerto, The Book of Jeb, at the Piano aux Jacobins International Festival in Toulouse. Bavouzet's 2011 schedule included a tour of the U.S. with the National Orchestra of France and Daniele Gatti. Vol.2 of Bavouzet's acclaimed Haydn piano sonata cycle was issued by Chandos in 2011.
Source: Robert Cummings (allmusic.com)
|Photo by Ben Ealovega|
Menuet antique is a piece for solo piano composed by Maurice Ravel. The original piano version was written in 1895 and orchestrated by the composer in 1929. Ravel wrote the piece to pay tribute to Emmanuel Chabrier, who had welcomed his early works and helped to establish his musical reputation.
The piano version was first performed on April 18, 1898 by Ricardo Viñes, a long-time friend to whom the composer dedicated the composition. Viñes also gave the premieres of many of Ravel's other works. The orchestral version was first heard in public on January 11, 1930.
The menuet form reappears in some of Ravel's later compositions, such as the central movement of the Sonatine and the fifth movement of Le tombeau de Couperin.
The orchestral version is scored for an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, and strings.
Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Infanta) is a well-known piece written for solo piano by the French composer Maurice Ravel in 1899 when he was studying composition at the Conservatoire de Paris under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel also published an orchestrated version of the Pavane in 1910; it is scored for two flutes, oboe, two clarinets (in B flat), two bassoons, two horns, harp, and strings. A typical performance of the piece lasts between six and seven minutes. It is widely considered a masterpiece.
Ravel described the piece as "an evocation of a pavane that a little princess [infanta] might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court". The pavane was a slow processional dance that enjoyed great popularity in the courts of Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
This antique miniature is not meant to pay tribute to any particular princess from history, but rather expresses a nostalgic enthusiasm for Spanish customs and sensibilities, which Ravel shared with many of his contemporaries (most notably Debussy and Albéniz) and which is evident in some of his other works such as the Rapsodie espagnole and the Boléro.
Ravel dedicated the Pavane to his patron, the Princesse de Polignac, and he probably performed the work at the princess's home on at least several occasions. It was first published by E. Demets in 1900, but it attracted little attention until the Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes gave the first performance on 5 April 1902. The work soon became very popular, although Ravel came to think of it as "poor in form" and unduly influenced by the music of Chabrier.
Ravel intended the piece to be played extremely slowly – more slowly than almost any modern interpretation, according to his biographer Benjamin Ivry. The critic Émile Vuillermoz complained that Ravel's playing of the work was "unutterably slow". However, the composer was not impressed by interpretations that plodded. After a performance by Charles Oulmont, Ravel mentioned to him that the piece was called "Pavane for a dead princess", not "dead pavane for a princess". When asked by the composer-conductor Manoah Leide-Tedesco how he arrived at the title Pavane pour une infante défunte, Ravel smiled coyly and replied, "Do not be surprised, that title has nothing to do with the composition. I simply liked the sound of those words and I put them there, c'est tout". But Ravel also stated that the piece depicted a pavane as it would be danced by an infanta found in a painting by Diego Velazquez.
When Ravel published his orchestrated version of the Pavane in 1910, he gave the lead melody to the horn, and specified a non-generic instrument: the score calls for "2 Cors simples en sol" (two hand-horns in G). The teaching of the valveless hand-horn had persisted longer in the Paris Conservatory than in other European centers; only in 1903 had the valve horn replaced it as the official horn of primary instruction. The orchestral score was published in 1910. The premiere was given on 27 February 1911 in Manchester, England, conducted by Sir Henry Wood. Reviewing the concert, the critic Samuel Langford called the work "most beautiful" and added, "The piece is hardly representative of the composer, with whom elusive harmonies woven in rapid figuration are the usual medium of expression. In the Pavane we get normal, almost archaic harmonies, subdued expression, and a somewhat remote beauty of melody".
The first gramophone recording of the Pavane was made in 1921 in Paris. A later recording, made in Paris in 1932 is sometimes thought to have been conducted by the composer, but was actually conducted by Pedro de Freitas-Branco, under the supervision of Ravel, who was present at rehearsal and the recording session.
Ravel himself made a piano roll recording of the piece in 1922. (His performance is approximately five minutes and forty seconds in length.)
The Piano Concerto in G major was a long time in the making. Ravel started thinking about it in 1928 (cf. his visit to Oxford) after his return from America; he took it up again in 1929, but then broke off to write the Concerto for the left hand, then continued with in 1930, and completed it in 1931.
For a long time Ravel declared his intention to perform the work himself and to undertake a world tour with it. But in recognition of his diminishing health and his technical limitations as a pianist, he handed over the role of soloist to Marguerite Long (November 13, 1874 - February 13, 1966), the French pianist and teacher, to whom the work is dedicated. Together they gave the first performance at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on January 14, 1932.
The Concerto observes traditional 3-movement form, albeit with great contrasts of style between movements and indeed within them.
Allegramente: The first movement opens with a single whip-crack, and what follows can be described as a blend of the Basque and Spanish sounds of Ravel's youth and the newer jazz styles he had become so fond of. Like many other concerti, the opening movement is written in the standard sonata-allegro form, but with considerably more emphasis placed on the exposition.
Adagio assai: In stark contrast to the preceding movement, the second movement is a tranquil subject of Mozartian serenity written in ternary form (sometimes called song form, it is a three-part musical form where the first section (A) is repeated after the second section (B) ends. It is usually schematized as A-B-A.
Presto: The third movement recalls the intensity of the first with its quick melodies and difficult passage-work. Possibly due to its short length, the third movement is often repeated by the orchestra and soloist as an "encore" after the concerto.
Between 1929 and 1931, Ravel, despite his failing health, worked feverishly, his imagination as powerful as ever. Among the works completed during this period are the two piano concertos: the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major and the scintillating Piano Concerto in G major.
The Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major was commissioned by the prominent Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, brother of the celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm due to a wound sustained in World War I. It is indeed a tragic irony that Ravel, who also served his country in World War I, and Wittgenstein were enemies in this terrible conflict. Nevertheless, Ravel, fascinated by the technical challenge of composing a concerto for the left hand, approached the project with immense interest and enthusiasm. In addition, Ravel admired Wittgenstein's determination to continue his career as a concert pianist.
Piano works for the left hand were certainly not a novelty, as compositions by Scriabin, Alkan, and Liapunov attest, but Ravel wanted to create a unique work which would not merely demonstrate how a pianist can compensate for a physical handicap. He wished to compose a work which would stand out as a unique piano concerto. The outcome of Ravel's efforts is one of the great piano concertos of the twentieth century. However, the Concerto, completed in October or November of 1931, failed to please Wittgenstein, who only gradually developed an appreciation for Ravel's work. Furthermore, when the Austrian pianist premiered the work in Vienna, in 1932, he took certain liberties with the score, to the composer's extreme consternation. Despite Ravel's frustration, he conducted the orchestra in Wittgenstein's Paris premiere of the Concerto in 1933. Because Wittgenstein had sole rights on the work for six years, Ravel had to wait until 1937 to hear a performance (by Jacques Février), which satisfied him.
The work, which is really in one movement, begins deep in the bass register, with the contrabassoon, along with the basses, presenting a subdued theme, which elicits a mournful response from the horns. The initial mournful mood is gradually, almost imperceptibly, transformed into an insistent, somewhat manic, musical idea. The piano enters with a simple statement, creating pentatonic resonances, which disappear, but remain in the background. As the initial somber atmosphere lifts, the piano gradually establishes a mood of exquisite lyricism, which pervades the middle section. Ravel's writing is so subtle and technically ingenious that the listener hears a gentle melody with a hypnotically diaphanous, but seemingly elaborate, accompaniment; it is easy to forget that one hand does all the playing. The energy behind the third section, in which the piano engages the orchestra, often mimicking particular instrumental sonorities, profoundly differs from the wave-like, fluid, ascending motion of the Concerto in G major; here, the energy is discontinuous, manifesting itself in obstinate, repetitive figurations and phrases which, if only for brief moments, conjure up the spirit of Boléro. At the same time, Ravel devotes truly marvelous pages to the piano, particularly in the cadenza-like part of the final section, in which the left hand leads an engaging and richly developed melody into a glowing orchestral finale.
Source: Zoran Minderovic (allmusic.com)
Daphnis and Chloé was the largest work Ravel was ever to compose, occupying him from early 1909 until April 5, 1912. It is also widely regarded as his most impressive achievement, and among the greatest ballet scores of the twentieth century. The work calls for an enormous orchestra, with approximately fifteen distinct percussion instruments and a wordless chorus, heard both offstage and onstage. Given its sheer size, the ballet score is much better known by excerpts, and when heard in concert, is usually represented by one of two suites that Ravel extracted from it. The first suite, of 1911, draws material from the "Nocturne," "Interlude" and "Danse guerriere", while Ravel designated the final three numbers: "Lever du jour", "Pantomime", and "Danse générale" as Suite No.2, following the score's completion in 1912.
Based on the pastoral drama by the Greek poet Longus, the ballet's scenario was devised by Mikhail Fokine, a classically trained dancer and choreographer for Sergie Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. In his autobiographical sketch, the composer described its conception: "In writing it I sought to compose a broad musical fresco, less concerned with archaic fidelity than with loyalty to the Greece of my dreams, which in many ways resembled that imagined and depicted by French artists at the latter part of the eighteenth century. The work is constructed symphonically on a very strict tonal plan, by means of a few themes, the development of which assures the work's homogeneity".
The first two scenes, which comprise Suite No.1, portray the courtship of Daphnis and Chloé, and the latter's abduction by, and miraculous escape from, a band of pirates. The third scene, comprising the three numbers of Suite No.2, takes place in a grove sacred to the god Pan and begins with daybreak following the pirate's night of terror.
Eventually the muted sounds of dawn give way to a stronger, more dynamic melodic thread in the strings, rising to an impassioned lyrical theme. Throughout this extended passage, Daphnis awakes, anxiously looks for Chloé, and sees her among a group of shepherdesses. The two lovers embrace as the melody reaches an impassioned climax.
In gratitude to Pan, whose intervention saved Chloé from the pirates, Daphnis and Chloé mime the adventures of the god and his beloved nymph, Syrinx, to a sultry flute accompaniment. Marked "expressive and supple", the solo is actually shared by the four members of the flute section – piccolo, two flutes, and alto flute – but played as if written for a single instrument. Chloé dances to this flute music, which becomes increasingly energetic, and she in turn, more animated. The motion suddenly breaks at a woodwind descent, and with a last whirl, she falls languorously into the arms of Daphnis. In a brief but passionate epilogue, a group of young women enter, dressed as bacchantes and shaking tambourines, followed by a group of young men. Against a dizzying 5/4 meter, Ravel deploys the full resources of the orchestra to create an exhilarating Dionysian celebration of physical love.
Source: Brian Wise (allmusic.com)
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major – Hélène Grimaud, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Lionel Bringuier (HD 1080p)
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major – Alexandre Tharaud, BBC Philharmonic, Juanjo Mena
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