The CPO’s J’aime Paris Festival kicks off tonight with Grand et Fort: Fauré’s Requiem and Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony and then continues on Saturday with Boléro! French Impressions With Jean Louis Steuerman on Saturday, November 22. The Boléro! concert celebrates themes of Parisian Impressionistic Art – a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it.
Here are some neat facts about the music you’ll hear, courtesy of CPO Assistant Principal Bassoon, Michael Hope.
La mer: Debussy
I love this piece,” Michael explains. “It’s everything you want to experience from a symphony orchestra – evocative, powerful and transporting. For me the best part is the third movement, “The Dialogue between the Wind and The Seas,” not just because it may have inspired John Williams iconic music to the film Jaws (according to rumour), but also because it features one of the most brilliant examples of orchestral scoring that I know.
“Midway through the movement Debussy gradually changes the mood of the piece and then has the oboe and flute play a mesmerizing melody in a perfect unison. It’s remarkable because if the oboist and flutist are together and perfectly in sync, the two instruments sound virtually indistinguishable from each other – forming a single homogenous sound.
“My music teachers in the Philadelphia Orchestra would refer to the resulting effect as completely new timbre called the ‘flo-boe’ (a cross between a flute and an oboe).”
(listen to what Michael is talking about shortly after 20:15 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlR9rDJMEiQ)
Debussy’s Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra
“Neat! On this concert we’ll have the rare experience of hearing a piece that the composer never heard himself. Debussy spent over 20 years writing his Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra. After several revisions, he still wasn’t satisfied, and gave up on the piece, eventually refusing permission for it to be performed in his lifetime (whoa – severe). It was finally premiered a year after Debussy died. Pity he never heard it, cause it’s pretty cool.”
Michael’s random thoughts on Ravel’s Boléro
Tip: “Watch the snare drum player: Anybody can play a snare drum loudly, but it takes a true virtuoso percussionist/snare drummer to muster the control and finesse required to execute the pianissimo beginning of Boléro properly. Ask any percussionist – it’s a terrifying moment. On top of that – it’s a test of stamina as well. The snare drummer plays throughout the whole piece without stopping! For extra power though, Ravel adds another drummer near the end of the piece. Hearing double snare drums hammer away at the famous Boléro rhythm is pretty exciting.”
Some more “insider stuff” on Boléro:
“This piece falls into the category of orchestral masterpieces that many purists may call ‘overrated’ or ‘overplayed.’ Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz also fall into this category. As a result – many conductors become disengaged with this piece and regard it as something of a chore. Not so with (CPO Music Director) Roberto Minczuk. He loves this piece and really gets into it. Watch him near the end as he carefully builds the climax of the work. His gestures become more and more abandoned, and sometimes his eyes will even seem like they are on fire as the high point of the piece explodes out of the score. The resulting response from the Orchestra is nothing short of erotic.”