Charles Dutoit To Conduct Ravel With Jean-Yves Thibaudet As Soloist, 1/17–20
Charles Dutoit will conduct the New York Philharmonic in a French program spotlighting Ravel, featuring 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.
Charles Dutoit and Jean-Yves Thibaudet are performing Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland - the first destinations of Ravel's 1928 tour. Mr. Thibaudet studied piano with Ravel's friend and collaborator Lucette Descaves, and Mr. Dutoit was mentored by conductor Ernest Ansermet, who was friendly with Ravel and Debussy and championed their music. The Los Angeles Times wrote in November 2017 that "Dutoit has long been and continues to be one of the best Ravel conductors on the planet."
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's Valses nobles et sentimentales and Boléro, and Ravel's orchestration of Debussy's Sarabande et Danse.
Charles Dutoit is artistic director and principal conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; conductor laureate of The Philadelphia Orchestra, a title honoring an artistic collaboration spanning 32 years; and music director emeritus of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, where he was previously principal conductor and later music director. He recently received the 103rd Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal, one of classical music's highest honors, founded in 1870 to celebrate the centenary of Beethoven's birth. Mr. Dutoit served as artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, and was music director of the Orchestre national de France from 1991 to 2001. He performs each season with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras and the Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, and is a regular guest on stages in London, Berlin, Paris, Munich, Moscow, Sydney, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. When still in his early 20s, Charles Dutoit was invited by Herbert von Karajan to conduct the Vienna Staatsoper. He has since conducted at The Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Rome Opera, Buenos Aires's Teatro Colón, and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Mr. Dutoit's interest in supporting the younger generation has always held an important place in his career; he has been music director of the Sapporo Pacific Music Festival and Miyazaki International Music Festival in Japan; the Canton International Summer Music Academy in Guangzhou, China; the Lindenbaum Festival in Seoul, South Korea; and the Verbier Festival Orchestra, where he is now conductor emeritus. His more than 200 recordings have garnered multiple awards and distinctions including two Grammys. In 2014 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Classical Music Awards. A globetrotter motivated by his passion for history and archaeology, political science, art, and architecture, he has traveled in all 196 nations of the world. Charles Dutoit made his New York Philharmonic debut conducting works by Haydn, Franck, and Stravinsky in February 1982. He most recently led a program of Respighi and Mozart, with pianist Yuja Wang as soloist, in February 2016.
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 as Pride 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 comprising Pour 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 the Valses 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.