Joshua Weilerstein to Conduct the New York Phil in Program Spotlighting Ravel
Joshua Weilerstein will conduct the New York Philharmonic in a French program spotlighting Ravel. The program he will lead, in which he is replacing Charles Dutoit (who withdrew from the performances), remains unchanged: the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist; Le Tombeau de Couperin; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Boléro; and Ravel's orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse, Wednesday, January 17, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, January 19 at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, January 20 at 8:00 p.m.
The program honors the 90th anniversary of Ravel's only North American tour, in 1928, during which he conducted the New York Symphony - a forebear of today's New York Philharmonic - in his Le Tombeau de Couperin and orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse (both of which will be heard in this program), in addition to his Rapsodie espagnole, Tzigane,and La Valse. He wrote Boléro (also on this program) while resting at home after this four-month tour. The Philharmonic gave the U.S. Premieres of Ravel's Boléro and Valses nobles et sentimentales, and the New York Premiere of his orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse.
Joshua Weilerstein - who served as an Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 2011 to 2014 and is now artistic director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne - has been described by The Washington Post as "a thinking musician, constantly seeking the most effective means of realizing the music."
The Saturday Matinee Concert on January 20 at 2:00 p.m. continues the French theme, opening with Franck's Piano Quintet performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, Assistant Concertmaster Michelle Kim, Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, and Associate Principal Cello Eileen Moon-Myers. The rest of the program features Ravel'sValses nobles et sentimentales and Boléro, and Ravel's orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse.
Joshua Weilerstein is the artistic director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. Noted for his clarity of musical expression, exuberance, and deep, natural musicianship, he has conducted extensively in Europe and North America. He combines enthusiasm for a wide range of repertoire with an ambition to bring new audiences to the concert hall. In the 2017-18 season, Mr. Weilerstein makes debuts with the Bamberg Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and West Australian Symphony Orchestra. This season also features return engagements with the Milwaukee, Vancouver, and Melbourne symphony orchestras; the Oslo, Royal Liverpool, and Netherlands philharmonic orchestras; and Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Joshua Weilerstein's career was launched after he won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the 2009 Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen. He then completed a three-year appointment as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Since then, he has steadily gained a national and international profile. Recent guest conducting engagements have included the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, San Diego, Calgary, and Vancouver, as well as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Aspen Music Festival, among others. In Europe, he has established strong relationships with the BBC and Danish National Symphony Orchestras; the Royal Liverpool, NDR Hannover, Oslo, Royal Stockholm philharmonic orchestras; and Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Elsewhere in Europe, he has conducted Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, SWR Stuttgart, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre national de Lyon, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Weilerstein believes strongly that the best programming combines traditional and contemporary repertoire: whenever possible, he endeavors to include at least one piece by a living composer in each of his programs. Committed to music education both on and off the podium, he was actively involved in Young People's Concerts during his time as Assistant Conductor with the New York Philharmonic and served as concertmaster of Discovery Ensemble, a Boston-based chamber orchestra dedicated to presenting classical music to inner-city schools. He is the creator and host of Sticky Notes, a highly successful podcast aimed at music lovers and casual listeners alike. Joshua Weilerstein made his Philharmonic debut leading an October 2011 Young People's Concert, and his Philharmonic subscription debut leading works by Osvaldo Golijov, Mendelssohn, and Dvo?ák in October 2013; his most recent appearance with the Orchestra was at the Bravo! Vail festival, on July 25, 2015, leading works by Verdi and Tchaikovsky.
For more than three decades Jean-Yves Thibaudet has performed worldwide and recorded more than 50 albums. He plays a range of solo, chamber, and orchestral repertoire, from Beethoven to contemporary composers, as well as jazz and opera, which he transcribes himself for the piano. His professional friendships across the globe have led to collaborations in film, fashion, and visual art. This season takes Mr. Thibaudet to 14 countries, including concerts in Asia with the Singapore, NHK, and Guangzhou symphony orchestras and the Malaysian, Hong Kong, and China philharmonic orchestras. As artist-in-residence at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he plays J.S. Bach's Concerto for Three Pianos with Thomas Adès and Kirill Gerstein, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, chamber music with symphony musicians, and Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, in Boston and at Carnegie Hall. He also performs The Age of Anxiety throughout Bernstein's centennial season with the China Philharmonic; Atlanta, National, San Francisco, and Houston symphony orchestras; and The Philadelphia Orchestra, both at home and on tour in Germany, Austria, and Israel. In addition to extending his artist residency, the Colburn School has announced the Jean-Yves Thibaudet Scholarships, providing merit-based aid for students selected by Mr. Thibaudet, regardless of instrument. Mr. Thibaudet's recording catalogue has received two Grammy nominations, the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Diapason d'Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, Edison Prize, and Gramophone and Echo Awards. He was the soloist on the sound track to the Oscar-winning film Atonement as well asPride and Prejudice, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close , and Wakefield. His concert wardrobe is designed by Vivienne Westwood. In 2010 the Hollywood Bowl inducted him into its Hall of Fame. Previously a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, he was awarded the title Officier by the French Ministry of Culture in 2012. Mr. Thibaudet made his Philharmonic debut performing works by Szymanowski and Liszt, led by Charles Dutoit, in November 1990. He most recently joined the Orchestra in February 2015 for the New York Premiere of James MacMillan's Piano Concerto No. 3, The Mysteries of Light, conducted by Stéphane Denève.
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) began sketching Le Tombeau de Couperin in 1914, when the rumblings of World War I were encroaching on his homeland, as a tribute to Baroque music in the style of François Couperin (1668-1733), the French composer and harpsichordist. The war, and his subsequent service as an army driver, interrupted Ravel's composing, but after a medical discharge he set to work on it again. Originally written as a suite in six movements for solo piano, Le Tombeau de Couperin was completed in 1917, with each movement dedicated to the memory of a friend lost in the war. Ravel orchestrated four of the movements (Prélude, Forlane, Menuet, and Rigaudon) in 1919, a version
premiered in 1920 in Paris. The first New York Philharmonic presentation of the work was in November 1921, when Walter Damrosch led the New York Symphony (which merged with the New York Philharmonic in 1928 to form today's New York Philharmonic). The Philharmonic last performed the work in February 2007, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand for Paul Wittgenstein, a pianist who had lost his right hand in World War I and subsequently commissioned major composers to compose left-hand works for his own use. Ravel worked on the commission in 1929 and 1930, the same period in which he was composing his only other piano concerto, the Piano Concerto in G. Both works are influenced by jazz and display Ravel's craftsmanship, but the Concerto for the Left Hand is darker than the lighthearted Concerto in G. Ravel wrote that "the writing is not so light. In a work of this kind, it is essential to give the impression of a texture no thinner than that of a part written for both hands. For the same reason, I resorted to a style that is much nearer to that of the more solemn kind of traditional concerto." The New York Philharmonic first performed the Concerto for the Left Hand in March 1938, with Robert Casadesus as soloist and John Barbirolli conducting. Most recently it was performed in February 2010 with soloist Nicolas Hodges and led by David Robertson.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Ravel were part of the informal group of artists called Les Apaches ("The Hooligans"). Twelve years Debussy's junior, Ravel was a vocal supporter of Debussy's music. While their styles vary greatly, the two composers began to be labeled impressionists. (Ravel believed his own music was not impressionist, while he thought Debussy's music was; Debussy disliked the term altogether.) Their friendship unraveled in the first decade of the 20th century, for musical and possibly personal reasons; in 1904 Debussy had left his wife, Lilly, for the singer Emma Bardac, and Ravel contributed money to ensure Debussy's deserted wife had an income. In 1921, three years after Debussy's death, the publisher Jean Jobert asked Ravel to orchestrate two of Debussy's piano works: Sarabande, published in 1901 as the second of the three pieces comprisingPour le piano, and Danse, originally published in 1891 as Tarentelle styrienne. Ravel's orchestration skills were renowned - especially for his speed, precision, and mastery of orchestral color. In Ravel's hands the Sarabande ultimately echoes the feel of Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande, while the Danse is transformed by colorful new sounds and textures. The Philharmonic gave the New York Premiere of Ravel's orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse in December 1923, led by Willem van Hoogstraten. Ravel conducted the New York Symphony (a forebear of today's New York Philharmonic) in the work in March 1928. Willem van Hoogstraten led the most recent performance, in the July 1938 Stadium Concert.
In 1911 the Société Indépendante - the more radical of the two associations for living French composers - produced concerts of new music in which the composers' names were omitted from the programs, and the audience was invited to guess who wrote what: that was the forum for the premiere of the piano version of Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales. The title, the composer wrote, "sufficiently indicates my intention of writing a cycle of waltzes after the example of Schubert." Indeed, Ravel took inspiration from two groups of Schubert piano pieces written 80 years earlier: the Valses nobles (from 1827) and theValses sentimentales (1823-24). Ravel orchestrated Valses nobles et sentimentales at the request of ballerina Natalia Trouhanova, who was organizing an evening of four short ballets set to music by four contemporary composers, and that version was premiered on April 22,1912. Walter Damrosch led the New York Symphony (one of the Philharmonic's forebears) in the orchestral version's U.S. Premiere in October 1916 at Aeolian Hall; the most recent performances were led by then Music Director Alan Gilbert in May 2015.
In 1928 Ravel withdrew to his seaside home in France's Basque Country after his four-month North American tour, during which he had made the rounds of major musical capitals, marveled at the Grand Canyon, and hobnobbed in New York with George Gershwin and others. The dancer Ida Rubinstein had commissioned Ravel to compose a new piece for her ballet company, so he used his vacation to produce what is essentially an experiment in orchestration. Boléro, he wrote, is "a piece lasting seventeen minutes and consisting wholly of orchestral tissue without music - of one very long, very gradual crescendo. The themes are impersonal - folk tunes of the usual Spanish-Arabian kind." Ironically, although Boléro is one of the composer's most arcane experiments, it was an instant hit and became one of his most popular successes. The Philharmonic gave the U.S. Premiere of the work in November 1929, led by Arturo Toscanini; the Orchestra most recently performed it in January 2017, led by Long Yu.