Debussy, Stravinsky and Dutilleux – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Ljubljana

Before I forget, just a brief mention of last night’s performance by Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, often regarded as one of the finest in the world, at Cankarjev Dom here in Ljubljana, part of the 2016 Ljubljana Festival.

The program:

The first Debussy I’d heard before, as with bits of Petrouchka, but never in full. Dutilleux, who composed mainly in the latter half of the 20th century, was entirely new to me. Maybe that simple act of exploration and discovery made it my favorite of the four. I felt like technicolor butterflies were chasing me while I playfully hopped through the set of an offbeat short animation.

The orchestra was also comprised of musicians from the Ljubljana International Orchestra.

Notes lifted from the local program:

Its string section has been called “velvety”, the sound of the brass “golden”, the timbre of the woodwinds “distinctly personal” and the percussion have an international reputation – these are the attributes of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the world’s finest orchestras. In the opinion of many connoisseurs, the acoustics of its home venue, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, are the best in the world.

As well as 80 concerts performed here, the RCO gives 40 concerts at leading concert halls throughout the world each year. Since its foundation in 1888, the orchestra has been led by a succession of outstanding conductors, among them famous composers such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.

With effect from the 2016/17 season, the chief conductor of the RCO is Daniele Gatti, who until this year was the music director of the Orchestre National de France. Before that he served as principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, chief conductor of the Zurich Opera, music director of the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale in Bologna and principal conductor of the Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, among other appointments.

Together with the RCO he will present a programme of remarkable colour, frequent changes of tempo and unconventional musical forms and harmonies.The programme includes two works originally written to accompany ballets (Jeux and Petrushka) that were premiered in the early twentieth century by Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes, featuring the legendary dancer and choreographer Nijinsky.

And from the RCO website’s program which also includes audio of the pieces:

RCO meets Europe, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s tour of all the EU member states, continues in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, with chief conductor Daniele Gatti. The orchestra is performing Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, as dreamy as it was groundbreaking when it was written, side by side with young musicians from the Ljubljana International Orchestra.

Following the orchestral work Métaboles by Henri Dutilleux, who passed away in 2013, Maestro Gatti leads the RCO in two exciting, colourful ballets which were premiered in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century: Stravinsky’s Petrushka, about the adventures of a rag doll at a fair, and Debussy’s ‘musical joke’ Jeux, about a tennis ball, a man and two women playing a tennis match on a sultry summer night.

And the pieces:

Claude Debussy – Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune / Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun:  The Orchestra Dell’accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Leonard Bernstein conducting, 1989

Henri Dutilleux – Métaboles: The Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell conducting, 1965

Claude  Debussy – Jeux: Radio Filharmonisch Orkest o.l.v., Mark Elder conducting, 2012
Igor Stravinsky – Petrouchka (version 1947): Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons conducting, 2004



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