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Open Rehearsal

This concert is now past.
Charles Dutoit
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $18.00
Thu, Nov, 1, 2012
9:45 AM
All Open Rehearsals are “working” rehearsals and therefore the program may not be played in its entirety. Additionally, we cannot guarantee the appearance of any soloist at an Open Rehearsal.
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian: Symphonic Fragments

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Le Martyre de Saint Sébastian: Fragments symphoniques (The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian: Symphonic Fragments) (1911)

Claude Debussy viewed the invitation to provide incidental music for The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by the Italian playwright Gabriele D'Annunzio as a great opportunity to again compose for the stage; the author saw it as a chance to hook up with a renowned composer. D'Annunzio was still at work on the drama in 1910 when he extended his invitation to Debussy. In a savvy move, the composer demanded that the play would never be performed without his music. The result of their collaboration — a mix of religion, eroticism, masochism, the occult, and other forbidden subject matter — was a 5-hour event. (Debussy had only two months to complete his work and required the helping hand of another composer, André Caplet, with the orchestration.) D'Annunzio created the title role upon the request of his lover, the celebrated Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein. St. Sebastian, the 3rd century Roman archer and martyr, is traditionally pictured as a beautiful androgynous youth — naked, bound to a tree, body pierced by arrows, ecstatic in his pain. Even before the Paris premiere of The Martyrdom in 1911, D'Annunzio's works were on the Catholic Index of Prohibited Books, and the archbishop forbade Catholics from attending the play at the peril of their immortal souls. After all, the saint was being portrayed not only by a woman but by a Jewish woman. Debussy's music came in for its own criticism — perhaps by association with the author. Though the full play saw only one performance, it has lived on through Debussy's music. The full score for the incidental music (about an hour total) includes choral and solo vocal parts, but a lush orchestral suite, subtitled "Symphonic Fragments," was extracted for concert performance. Its four sections are entitled: "The Court of Lilies"; "Ecstatic Dance and Finale of Act 1"; "The Passion"; and "The Good Shepherd." The music is some of Debussy's most striking, with sumptuous, exotic melodies and echoes of ecclesiastic harmonies.

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934)

Niccolò Paganini was the flamboyant violin superstar of the 19th century, and he knew how to wow his audience; his talents were so incredible that he was said to be in league with the devil. Among the works he composed to show off his technical wizardry were his notoriously difficult 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (1805). So it seems entirely appropriate that a wizard of the piano — Sergei Rachmaninoff — should take the 24th of these caprices and write his own notoriously difficult 24 variations for piano and orchestra. The Rhapsody became his signature piece, which he performed often and to great acclaim. The work was perfect for him, known for his long, slender fingers and formidable hand span (reaching an interval of 13 notes, equal to about 12 inches!), though even he admitted, "The composition is very difficult, and I should start practicing it." He premiered it with The Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski shortly after completing it. The 24 variations fall into roughly three movement-like groups: Variations 1–11, 12–18, and the final 19-24. Highlights include the 7th, with its echoes of the terrifying medieval chant Dies irae (Day of Wrath) and the ultra-romantic 18th, which is Paganini's theme turned upside down. We swoon over this "biggest hit" of Rachmaninoff, and the last section never fails to leave listeners enthralled. Yet, when all seems to be approaching a bombastic end with a pounding reprise of the Dies irae and a series of knuckle-busting runs, the composer ends with a sly, soft little "curlicue." (Pop culture fun fact: on the sound track of the movie Groundhog Day Bill Murray’s character plays a little of the 18th variation on electric keyboard, followed by his own jazz variation.)


Enigma Variations

EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)
Enigma Variations (1899)

It was Joseph Cooper, who, according to the November 3, 1991 London Sunday Telegraph, cracked the code of Sir Edward Elgar's mystery: the "Enigma" theme of his famed Variations. The composer launched the guesswork with words that have kept inquiring minds wondering for more than a century: "The enigma I will not explain — its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme 'goes,' but is not played.... So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some late dramas ... the chief character is never on stage." Guesses have included everything from "Auld Lang Syne" to the slow movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 38 to "Rule Britannia" — but none of them wholly satisfies. Elgar introduces his Theme, and then follows it with 14 Variations, each bearing the initials or disguised names of the "friends pictured within." The musical portraits reflect not only the personality of the subject, but also an unmistakable characteristic or event associated with each of them. By now all the characters have been identified, except perhaps XIII. ***, but even that mystery may have been solved. But the true enigma may never be known. Some of the highlights of this marvelous work include: I. (C.A.E.), passionate music for Elgar's wife Caroline; VIII. (W.N.) includes a suggestion of Winifred Norbury's laugh; IX. (Nimrod) Nimrod is an Old Testament hunter and reference is to August Jaeger, Elgar's dear friend, whose name means "hunter" in German; X. (Dorabella) Dora Penny and her slight stammer; XI. (G.R.S) George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan's jolly bark; and finally XIV. (E.D.U.) Elgar himself, whom Lady Elgar called by his pet name Edoo. Whether or not we will ever puzzle out the enigma, one thing is certain: this composition is Elgar's crowning achievement.


Charles Dutoit by CAMI

Chief conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 2008, Charles Dutoit has been named conductor laureate beginning in the 2012-13 season in recognition of his 30-year artistic collaboration with the orchestra. Also artistic director and principal conductor of the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr. Dutoit regularly collaborates with the world's leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Israel Philharmonic orchestras. His more than 170 recordings on the Decca, Deutsche Grammophone, EMI, Philips and Erato labels have garnered more than 40 awards and distinctions.

For 25 years (1977–2002) Mr. Dutoit was artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. From 1991 to 2001 he was music director of the Orchestre National de France, with whom he toured extensively on the five continents. In 1996 he was appointed music director of Tokyo's NHK Symphony Orchestra, with which he toured in Europe, the United States, China, and Southeast Asia, and of which he is now music director emeritus. Mr. Dutoit has also been artistic director of both the Sapporo Pacific and the Miyazaki International Music Festivals in Japan as well as the Canton International Summer Music Academy, in Guangzhou, China, which he founded in 2005. He became the music director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra in 2009.

When still in his early 20s, Mr. Dutoit was invited by Herbert von Karajan to conduct the Vienna Staatsoper. He has since conducted at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, The Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper, and Teatro Colón.

Charles Dutoit was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and received extensive musical training in violin, viola, piano, percussion, history of music, and composition at the Conservatoires and Music Academies of Geneva, Siena, Venice, and Boston. He has been named honorary citizen of the City of Philadelphia, Grand Officier de l'Ordre national du Québec, Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the government of France, and Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada, the country's highest award of merit whose other honorary recipients include John Kenneth Galbraith, James Hillier, Nelson Mandela, The Queen Mother, Vaclav Havel, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Learn more about Charles Dutoit



Nikolai Lugansky by Caroline Doutre Naive

Nikolai Lugansky is a pianist of extraordinary depth and versatility, noted for refinement and sensitivity in works by Mozart, Schumann, and Schubert, and virtuosity in music by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. He won the Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1994 and has embarked on a career of the highest level, with regular appearances at eminent concert halls such as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Vienna's Musikverein, Zurich's Tonhalle, and Tokyo's Suntory Hall. Working regularly with the top international orchestras — including the Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Russian National Orchestra — he has collaborated with distinguished and diverse conductors such as Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Kent Nagano, Sakari Oramo, Kurt Masur, Vladimir Jurowski, and Emmanuel Krivine.

Mr. Lugansky's upcoming engagements include concerto projects with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko, Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and NHK Symphony Orchestra all with Charles Dutoit. He is also schedule to give recitals at the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Moscow State Conservatory, London's Wigmore Hall, Prague's Rudolfinum, and Vienna's Konzerthaus, and he will participate in chamber music collaborations with violinists Vadim Repin and Leonidas Kavakos.

An acclaimed recording artist, Nikolai Lugansky has recently signed an exclusive agreement with the Naïve-Ambroisie label; the first release, featuring solo works by Liszt, is available. Previously he released an all-Chopin recital on the Onyx label, which The Guardian of London described as "unquestionably thrilling," and in October 2010 Deutsche Grammophon released a disc of chamber music recorded with Mr. Repin, which won the 2011 Edison Klassiek Award and the Chamber Music category award of the 2011 BBC Music Magazine Awards.

Learn more about Nikolai Lugansky


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