Utah Symphony Performs Spanish Influenced BOLERO and CARMEN Program

Utah Symphony Performs Spanish Influenced BOLERO and CARMEN Program

From Bizet's "Carmen" to Ravel's hypnotic one-movement orchestral showpiece, "Boléro," on December 14 and 15, the Utah Symphony performs music inspired by the infectious flamenco rhythms and passionate spirit of Spain. Guest conductor Jun Märkl returns to the Abravanel Hall stage leading the orchestra and guest pianist Ingrid Fliter performing Falla's "Nights in the Gardens of Spain." Tickets are priced from $15-$86 and can be purchased at utahsymphony.org or by calling (801) 533-6683.

Like so many French composers of his day, Chabrier was captivated by the sun and sensuality of Spain. "España" is filled with light, warmth, and the allure of Spanish dance, which seemed to come as a revelation to Chabrier.

In "España," Chabrier unifies dance rhythms including the fiery jota and the slow, sultry malagueña by means of traditional sonata allegro structure. But if the form is familiar, the rhythms are not, combining triple and double beats in a spicy mix. The result has been popular since its premiere and has helped form many a listener's impressions of Spain sight unseen. In the 1950s, the American pop singer and television host Perry Como scored a hit with the single "Hot Diggity" based on a theme from España. You'll recognize the melody even if you've never heard the song; it's the one that fits the lyric "hot diggity, dog ziggity, boom! what you do to me..."

In works such as "The Three-Cornered Hat" and "Love and the Magician," Falla makes the heat of the Spanish sun seem palpable. But "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" evokes long, drowsy, sensual nights in a setting where everyone stays up late and the pace slows after dark.

A superficial description of this suite-three movements, about 25 minutes or so in duration, virtuosic solo piano part performed by Ingrid Fliter with full orchestra-could fit a concerto. But it is far from that. The piano works its way in and out of the music, and the movements are pictorial rather than formally structured. The effect is of the piano representing our point of view as observers, rather than a primary voice.

Falla called the three movements "nocturnes," and originally conceived the suite as a group of four nocturnes for solo piano. The three-part form for piano and orchestra emerged as the music developed, a process that took eight years.

Despite their familiarity, the melodies of "Carmen" still have the power to grip us and even to shock. Opera experts refer to the "ABC operas" as the ones we know best: "Aida," "Bohème," and "Carmen." Hoffman's arrangement gives us four of the dances from "Carmen": the scene-setting "Aragonaise;" the "Séguedille", in which Carmen tempts the weak-willed Don José to join her at Lillas Pastia's tavern; the sultry "Habanera," in which she compares the elusiveness of love to a bird; and the whirling "Danse bohème."

The preoccupation with free will versus destiny was a recurrent theme in music of the Late Romantic period. In 1888, when Tchaikovsky was writing his Fifth Symphony," Carmen's" five-note "fate theme" was one of two that inspired the Russian composer in developing his own work on this subject. The other was the famous four-note theme of "fate knocking on the door" in Beethoven's Symphony No. 5

"Capriccio espagnol" is comprised of five brief sections that form two larger divisions: an Alborada (the Spanish term for a morning love song), and a two-part finale.

Beginning with a theme in the horns, the "Alborada" is a set of five variations during which the sections of the orchestra exchange sparkling solo lines; for example, a clarinet solo from the first variation is taken over by solo violin, while the clarinet co-opts a violin cadenza. By the end of the "Alborada," just about every section of the orchestra has been showcased in exacting, highly exposed play.

It's not necessary to follow this complex architecture to hear the unity it provides. Most of all, the "Capriccio" is a bloodstirring suite full of color, texture, and drama that confirmed Rimsky's strengths to his contemporary audiences, as it does to us today. Upon reviewing the score, Tchaikovsky wrote to Rimsky that "your [Capriccio espagnol] is a colossal masterpiece of instrumentation, and you may regard yourself as the greatest master of the present day."

Since its inception, "Boléro" has remained in the standard orchestral repertoire, always attended by controversy over its tempo and dynamics. Ravel's own comments and his role in the musical preparations for the premiere performance make it clear that he wanted the tempo to remain rigid and unvarying throughout "Boléro's" performance, with only a steady, closely controlled crescendo and a tempo that would clock in at a performance time of about 17 minutes.

Today, our ears are more attuned to the sound of "Boléro," and rigidly controlled elements of pace and volume make us all the more sensitive to the subtlety of its melodic detail. Most especially, its predictability makes its surprises all the more potent: the astonishing mastery of orchestral color revealed in Ravel's instrumentation. In "Boléro," virtually every member of the extended orchestral family is revealed in a solo passage of unexpected glory.

Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter has won the admiration and hearts of audiences around the world for her passionate yet thoughtful and sensitive music-making played with an effortless technique. She made her debut with the Utah Symphony in 2012 playing Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2.

Winner of the 2006 Gilmore Artist Award, one of only a handful of pianists and the only woman to have received this honor, Ms. Fliter divides her time between North America and Europe.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1973, Ingrid Fliter began her piano studies in Argentina with Elizabeth Westerkamp. In 1992 she moved to Europe where she continued her studies in Freiburg with Vitaly Margulis, in Rome with Carlos Bruno, and with Franco Scala and Boris Petrushansky at the Academy "Incontri col Maestro" in Imola, Italy. Ms. Fliter began playing public recitals at the age of 11 and made her professional orchestra debut at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires at the age of 16. Already the winner of several competitions in Argentina, she went on to win prizes at the Cantu International Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni Competition in Italy, and in 2000 was awarded the silver medal at the Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw. She has been teaching at the Imola International Academy "Incontri col Maestro" since the fall of 2015.

Conductor Jun Märkl is recognized as a devoted advocate of both symphonic and operatic Germanic repertoire, and as a rare specialist for his idiomatic explorations of the French impressionist composers. His long-standing relationships with the Vienna State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera Munich, and the Semperoper Dresden led to his being offered the Music Director posts of the Orchestre National de Lyon, the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, and the Basque National Orchestra. He appears as a regular guest with the world's leading orchestras, having conducted the Czech Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, and many others.

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