Stéphane Denève Conducts Ravel’s La Valse, Works by Franck and Rachmaninoff in BSO Debut January 15-17
World-renowned pianist Frank Braley join the Baltimore Symphony for a program of music inspired by dance
Baltimore, Md. (December 18, 2008)—Two of classical music’s rising stars will be guests of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to present Ravel’s La Valse, Franck’s Symphonic Variations and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on January 15-16, 2009 and at the Music Center at Strathmore on January 17. Stéphane Denève, music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, brings mastery and native affinity to Ravel’s powerful tribute to a lost era in the complex work, La Valse. Pianist Frank Braley offers up his acclaimed poetic sensibility for the piano solo in César Franck’s Symphonic Variations. Please see below for complete program information.
La Valse was originally conceived by Ravel as a nostalgic tribute to the Viennese Waltz, but by the time he began to compose it in 1919-1920, World War I had brought Europe into a darker age, propelling Ravel from his typical Impressionist refinement to ominous, vivid Expressionism. Ravel’s patriotic struggle to do his part in the war, his physical failure and the death of his mother permanently changed him. Romanticism was no longer an option, so he turned instead to a darker, wilder depiction of a mid-19th Century dance. Ravel explained how he blended a lighter past with the dark present: "Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees … an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd … The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the [first] fortissimo … An imperial court, about 1855."
The second piece on the program, César Franck’s Symphonic Variations, features Frank Braley on piano. A work from the late Romantic Period, it is rarely performed despite acclaim for its subtle beauty. Franck’s remarkable teaching career at the Paris Conservatoire did not ameliorate his meager reputation among the French musical establishment during his lifetime, which was only corrected after disciples campaigned for his posthumous recognition. Symphonic Variations, a late work, was composed in 1885 for the pianist Louis Diémer, and has been described by music theorist Donald Francis Tovey as less a variation and more, “a finely and freely organized fantasia, with an important episode in variation-form.”
When Rachmaninoff completed Symphonic Dances in 1941, just in time for its performance by The Philadelphia Orchestra, he had been struggling with self-expression for years since his devastating exile from Russia in 1917. The orchestral suite in three movements is a balanced composition, but it bursts with vitality, including an expressive solo part for alto saxophone. Written near the end of Rachmaninoff’s life, the piece glances back to many of the composer’s earlier musical ideas, quoting several of his own works while weaving new threads with creative force.
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Stéphane Denève, now recognized internationally as a conductor of the highest caliber, is currently in his fourth season as music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He has conducted the RSNO at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Présences in Paris and at the Vienna Konzerthaus and together they were awarded the prestigious Diapason d'Or de l'année in 2007 for the first in their series of recordings of the works of Albert Roussel for Naxos. The second disc in the series was released in 2008 to widespread critical acclaim.
Very much at home in a broad range of repertoire and a champion of new music, Mr. Denève has a particular affinity with the music of his native France, and has conducted works by Grétry, Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Roussel, Fauré and Poulenc. In recent years he has also given world première performances of works by the contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson.
A graduate of the Paris Conservatoire where he was awarded a unanimous first prize in 1995, Mr. Denève began his career as Sir Georg Solti's assistant for Bluebeard's Castle with the Orchestre de Paris (1995) and Don Giovanni at the Paris National Opera (1996). He also assisted Georges Prêtre for Turandot at the Paris National Opera (1997) and Seiji Ozawa for Dialogues des Carmélites at the Saito Kinen Festival (1998).
As a guest conductor, he has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony and St. Louis Symphony. In Europe and Asia, he has worked with the Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Philharmonia Orchestra, Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Czech Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, New Japan Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Verdi Orchestra Milan.
Frank Braley, piano
Public and press unanimously recognize Frank Braley as a pianist with exceptional musical and poetic qualities. Mr. Braley began his piano studies at the age of four. Six years later he gave his first concert with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris. In 1986 he devoted himself entirely to music, abandoning his studies in science. He entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris and three years later he was awarded first prizes for piano and chamber music. In 1991, at the age of 22, he took part for the first time in an international competition, the Queen Elizabeth Competition of Belgium, winning the grand prize.
Mr. Braley is regularly invited to Japan, Canada, the United States and Europe to play with such orchestras as the London Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, Orchestra della Swizzera Italiana, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Toulouse Orchestras, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Liège Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Residentie Den Haag Orchestra, Göteborg Symphony, Copenhagen Royal Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, BBC Wales Orchestra, the Royal Scottish Orchestra, the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester and the Boston Symphony.
COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION
Classical Concert Series: Ravel’s La Valse
Thursday, January 15, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. — Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (JMSH)
Friday, January 16, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. — JMSH
Saturday, January 17, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. — The Music Center at Strathmore
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Frank Braley, piano
Ravel: La Valse
Franck: Symphonic Variations
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances
Tickets for these concerts range from $25 to $80, and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 877.BSO.1444 or 410.783.8000 or www.BSOmusic.org.