A major highlight of the LSO’s 2009/10 season will see the Orchestra and Principal Conductor Valery Gergiev explore twentieth century music as witnessed in person by the 93-year-old French composer, Henri Dutilleux.
"I came across Dutilleux by happy coincidence, when I was conducting at the Paris Opera four years ago, and friends said – ‘you must meet Dutilleux’. I was thrilled and honoured, and very curious. At 93 he is one of the few men alive who actually witnessed developments in 20th century music, from the 1930s until today. You can talk to him about Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev or Debussy and he remembers! He is a living legend who can link us to the history of music in the 20th century. His experience and his advice, and especially his guidance on how the face of classical music was changing in the 20th century, has been invaluable in forming these programmes with the LSO. Dutilleux's writing is very meticulous, very detailed. But what I respect, even if the sonorities are very complex, is that you still cannot let it become disorganised or chaotic. That is the sign of a really good, a really important composer – every note counts. People may think it is a risky idea to make Dutilleux the centre of this programme, but it is an absolutely incredible opportunity to hear music that not only has its own importance in his life, but also in the development of the musical scene in France and Europe." - Valery Gergiev
20th Century Remembered
20 September 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre Dutilleux’s L’Arbre des Songes with violinist Leonidas Kavakos Debussy’s La Mer , Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé
Debussy spent the summers of his childhood at Cannes, and drew on his vivid memories of his ‘old friend the sea, always innumerable and beautiful’ when he began writing his shimmering La mer in 1903. Dutilleux’s sparkling 1985 Violin Concerto is inspired by ideas of growth and renewal – the piece, he said, ‘grows somewhat like a tree.’ Ravel considered Daphniset Chloé (1912) his most important score. Written for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, he described it as a ‘choreographic symphony in three parts.’
24 September 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre
Debussy’s La Mer, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé & Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
Debussy admired Turner’s seascapes, and La Mer (1903) shares their suggestive mystery. Even so, original rehearsals were difficult: protesting violinists tied handkerchiefs to the tips of their bows. The premiere of Ravel’s sumptuous Daphnis et Chloé (1912) by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was also stormy, but the result is a subtle dream of Greek legend. Ravel wrote his remarkable Piano Concerto for Left Hand for Paul Wittgenstein (brother of philosopher Ludwig) who lost his arm in World War One. Part of UBS Soundscapes.
13 December 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre
Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte & Boléro, Debussy’s Jeux, Stravinsky’s Jeu de cartes, Strauss’ Oboe Concerto with Principal Oboist Emanuel Abbühl
A dance programme matches Ravel’s Pavane for an imaginary Spanish princess with his overwhelming ballet score, Boléro. Debussy’s enigmatic Jeux is another ballet score, as is Stravinksy’s Jeu de cartes, which came upon the composer during a taxi ride: ‘I was so delighted that I stopped the driver and invited him to have a drink with me.’ Strauss wrote his romantic Oboe Concerto (1946), at the suggestion of an American GI.
18 December 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre
Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte & Boléro, Debussy’s Jeux, Stravinsky’s Jeu des cartes, Dutilleux’s Symphony No 2
The 13 December programme is repeated with the Strauss substituted for Dutilleux’s innovative Symphony No 2 (1959) which divides the orchestra into two, the small ensemble mirroring the larger.
11 February 2010, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre
Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben & Horn Concerto No 2 with LSO Principal Horn David Pyatt
Bartók’s imaginative piece (1937) is often described as his ‘night music.’ The percussion is showcased amid a double string orchestra. Strauss, whose father was a noted horn virtuoso, wrote his First Concerto for the instrument aged 18. 60 years later he wrote his second, a richly elaborate outpouring. Ein Heldenleben (‘a hero’s life’) is a bold self portrait, including an ambiguous, ‘nagging’ evocation of his wife, scorn for his critics and his own sublime transcendence.
13 February 2010, 7.30pm, Barbican Centre
Dutilleux’s Mystère D'Instant, Ravel’s La Valse, Ligeti’s Atmosphères, Stravinsky’s Petrushka
Rejected by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, La Valse (1920) can be seen as an elegy for a vanished world after the First World War. Kubrick used Ligeti’s Atmosphères on the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, drawn to their elemental daring. Dutilleux plays with time in a piece designed as a series of 10 ‘snapshots’. Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka (1911) recalls the winter fairs of St Petersburg in a tragic story of love among the puppets.
For more information on the rest of the concerts in this series visit Barbican Concerts at lso.co.uk