Fri, Apr 30, 2010 - Page 14 News List

MUSIC : Unrivaled Ravel

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

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The Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France is devoting its two Taipei concerts next weekend exclusively to music by Maurice Ravel. The main work on May 7 is his version of Pictures at an Exhibition, and on May 8 his Piano Concerto in G Major.

At the beginning of the 20th century many composers were trying to liven up the sound of the traditional symphony orchestra. Richard Strauss led the way in the German musical world, creating sounds you still feel you’ve never encountered before. Stravinsky followed suit, and in the sphere of French music the leader in this exercise was Ravel.

Ravel is normally considered an impressionist. Following in the footsteps of the introspective and somewhat more “feminine” Claude Debussy, he continued the push to make music conjure up atmosphere rather than follow a set structural pattern in the tradition of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. But his works are more vigorous and dazzling than Debussy’s often dreamy, albeit exquisite, productions.

Pictures at an Exhibition was originally a series of piano pieces by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, each item intended to evoke a different painting at a particular gallery. But in adapting this for orchestra Ravel produced something far more extraordinary. He managed to create an instrumental sound that was more astringent and “modern” than anything heard from the sonorous 19th-century heavyweights. Anyone wanting to hear an outstanding recent performance should acquire the DVD Live From Salzburg by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (DGM 073-4515). There have been several other arrangements of this music — incidentally, one for small orchestra by the Taiwanese composer Chao Ching-wen (趙菁文).

PERFORMANCE NOTES:

WHAT: Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (法國印象之美-法國廣播愛樂管絃樂團)

WHERE: National Concert Hall, Taipei City

WHEN: May 7 (Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole, La Valse and Mussorgsky/Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition) and May 8 (Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole, Piano Concert in G Major and Daphnis and Chloe Suites No. 1 and No. 2) at 7:30pm

ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$1,200, NT$1,800, NT$2,400, NT$3,000 and NT$3,600, available through NTCH ticketing, online at www.artsticket.com.tw or by calling (02) 3393-9888


Ravel’s only piano concerto (other than one for the left hand only, written for a pianist who had lost his right hand in World War I) is characterized by its liveliness and eagerness to incorporate jazz rhythms. The soloist next Saturday will be Roger Muraro, winner of the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, and frequent performer of the original piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition.

Next Saturday’s concert also includes the two suites Ravel made from his music for Daphnis et Chloe, a ballet premiered in 1912 by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, with Nijinsky dancing the part of the goatherd Daphnis. Stravinsky considered the score “one of the most beautiful products of all French music.

Both concerts will be conducted by Myung-whun Chung, the orchestra’s musical director since 2000. Born in South Korea, he’s nowadays a very prominent figure in the Parisian musical world and is probably the most distinguished Korean in the classical music sphere. The great French modernist Olivier Messiaen, who based his musical style on birdsong, dedicated his last work to him — an honor that, for musicians of this kind, can’t have many equals.

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