reviews of opera, ballet, performances, classical music, design, arts, books.

Fauré, Saint-Säens, Debussy, Ravel –  and Bizet with Orcestre National de France, conducted by Daniele Gatti. Cellosolist Antonio Meneses

Review by Henning Høholt

Daniele Gatti, music chief of Orchestre National de France.

Gabriel Fauré Pelléas and Mélisande. It´s interesting that with a few weeks interval to experience how different two famous French impressionistic composer Debussy and Fauré  in Paris are describing their impression of teh romantic love affair between Pelléas and Mélisande. Where Claude Debussy, in his operaversion, that we revieved lately at Opera Bastille, is composing impressionistic music in his way, and where I find that Gabriel Fauré is like a more romantic, less impressionistc composer, who with another melodic language is describing the history. The pianissimo ending of 1st part were beautiful played. 3rd part with the flute and harp soloists were good.

Historically about Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80 is a suite derived from incidental music by Gabriel Fauré (in 1898)  for Maurice Maeterlinck´s play of the same name. He was the first of four leading composers to write music inspired by Maeterlinck’s drama. Debussy opera (1902), Schoenberg early tone poem (1903) and Sibelius  incidental music (1905) followed in the first decade of the 20th century.

Fauré’s music was written for the London production of Maeterlinck’s play in 1898. To meet the tight deadline of the production, Fauré reused some earlier music from incomplete works, and enlisted the help of his pupil Charles Koechlin, who orchestrated the music. Fauré later constructed a four-movement suite from the original theatre music, orchestrating the concert version himself. This is the suite the orchestra perfromed to night consisting of the four parts Prelude, Fileuse, Sicilienne, which is probably the most wellknovn and La Mort de Mélisande (The Dead of Mélisande).

Camille Saint-Säens Celloconcert no 1 in A minor, Op. 33 in 1872, when the composer was age 37.  Saint-Saëns broke with convention in writing the concerto. Instead of using the normal three-movement concertto form, he structured the piece in one continuous movement. This single movement contains three distinct sections. Those sections, tightly-structured, share interrelated ideas. It is a briljant masterpiece which makes a good  dialogue between the soloinstrument and, when played with such a maestro as Antonio Meneses it is wonderful. How he form and take the leadership and when the coordination with the orchestra function so well as in this case it is a pleasure. Saint-Saëns very often uses the solo cello here as a declamatory instrument. This keeps the soloist in the dramatic and musical foreground, the orchestra offering a shimmering backdrop.  In the second part  the solocadenza also gave it a little dramatized feeling, where the strings are answering with a sitat like theme. And from that part the opening theme is being developed and dramaticed. This leads over to the virtuose final part. The music is tremendously demanding for soloists, especially in the fast third section. This difficulty has not stopped the concerto from becoming a favourite of the great virtuoso cellists. It reminds me of a floating river, with its swingings and stops by small quiet beaches. Beautiful. As an encore Antonio Menese played Courante by Johann Sebastian Bach.

After the break Claude Debussy Jeux, one of  Debussys playfull things in his usual “swinging rubato mood”. Jeux (Games) is the last work for orchestra written by Claude Debussy. Described as a “poème dansé” (literally a “danced poem”), it was originally intended to accompany a ballet, and was written for the Ballets Russe of serge Dhiaghilev to be choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. Debussy initially objected to the scenario, but reconsidered the commission when Diaghilev doubled the fee. Debussy wrote the score quickly, from mid-August to mid-September 1912. That the piece gives the audience (and musicians) the feeling like they are enjoying a kind of a game is based in that the number of tempo markings in Jeux is around 60, sufficient that is being described the score as changing “speed and nuance every two measures”. The thematic motifs of Jeux are likewise very short, often two measures long or constructed from two single-measure building blocks. This gives the playfull feeling, but is also extemely demanding for the condutor and the musicians to get to be successful, but it seemes like the orchestra enjoyed it, and the were well prepared. Delicius clarinet, and remarkable english horn soli.

Maurice Ravel, master of instrumentation extraordinare, his Daphne and Chloe, second suite for orchestra, Lever de jour (Sunrise Day), Pantomime, Danse générale. Compiled in 1913, based on Nos.10, 11 and 12 from the original ballet. Starts elegant  with a beautiful “forest” atmosphaere in the wood instrument group in combination wit the harps and with a “carpet” of strings laying under, elegantly performed. Daniele Gatti is building up the most wonderful climaxes in this. In the second part (if there are any parts), opens with a brillinat first flute solo which continues through all the 4 flutes in the group, topped by the piccolo flute, and ending deep down by the deppest flute. Very well worked. It tells about excellent preparation and cooperation work.

Historically about Daphne and Chloe:

Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel. Ravel described it himself, as a “symphonie choréographique” (choreographic symphony). The scenario was adapted by Michael Fokine from an eponymous romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD. The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. The ballet is in one act and three scenes.

Ravel began work on the score in 1909 after a commission from Sergei Diaghilev. It was premiered at the Théâtre du châtelet in Paris by his Ballets Russes on June 8, 1912. The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, the choreography by Michael Fokine. Vaslav Nijinsky ad Tamara Karsavina danced the titelparts of Daphnis and Chloe. Léon Bakst designed the original sets.

Extra number: George Bizet Carmen ouverture, – spite in that he is not an impressionist, a wonderful evening with only French compositions on the program.

Please enjoy our review from Pélléas and Mélisande at Opera Bastille at:

%d bloggers like this: