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Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7

This concert is now past.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $41.00 - $123.00

Concert Duration

2 hours 15 minutes
Thu, Jan, 3, 2013
7:30 PM
Fri, Jan, 4, 2013
8:00 PM
Sat, Jan, 5, 2013
8:00 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Suite from Fantastic Apparitions on a Theme by Berlioz

Suite from Fantastic Apparitions on a Theme by Berlioz (1914-17)

Walter Braunfels was having fun when he named the present work, punning on a work by the French composer Hector Berlioz. One might understandably expect the fantastically appearing theme to be from the Symphonie fantastique; it is instead derived from "The Song of the Flea," a sardonic tune sung by Mephistopheles in The Damnation of Faust. The full 50-minute work consists of 12 "apparitions" of the flea song theme, plus an introduction and a finale; the present Suite excerpts several sections from the score. Maestro Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, previously toured this suite to Europe in 2010 with his orchestra. The composer relates how he came to write the Fantastic Apparitions: "During my young years [German playwright] Frank Wedekind had spoken to me about his flea ballet. Nothing came of the composition at the time. But when I later heard La damnation de Faust by Berlioz, I could not stop thinking of Mephisto's flea song, and I began to compose a piece: life, deeds, and opinions of a flea. The Fantastic Apparitions later developed from this." Known as an educator, pianist, composer, and head of the Cologne (Germany) Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Walter Braunfels is having somewhat of a renaissance, and Honeck is one of his champions. David Hurwitz of Classics Today writes of the Fantastic Apparitions: "The orchestral technique [is] recognizably German school, with luscious writing for violins and horns, occasional outbursts of extreme virtuosity all around, and a discerning but minimal use of additional percussion."

Piano Concerto

EDVARD GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto (1869)

"Go on! I tell you that you have the ability, and don't let anyone frighten you." Those were words of praise and encouragement from Franz Liszt after he sight-read the score of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto. Norway's most famous composer had studied in Leizpig (where he heard Clara Schumann play her husband's A Minor Piano Concerto) and with Niels Gade in Copenhagen. After absorbing the music of the continent, he returned to Norway to study and promote the music of his native country. In Denmark in the summer of 1868 he began to work on the concerto during a family vacation in Søllerød, near Copenhagen. It was a happy time for Grieg: he had gotten married the previous year, and a daughter was born to the couple in April 1868. By the time he returned home, the 25 year-old composer had essentially completed the concerto, and its premiere took place the following April. Even though it was well-received, Grieg continued to revise it until his death. A marvelous combination of lyricism and bravura, the concerto opens with a dramatic drum roll from the timpani and a huge tutti chord, followed by a cascade of descending octaves and rising arpeggios from the soloist. The gentle Adagio features soft string playing and equally lovely sounds from the piano. Trills and an arpeggio transition take the concerto to the final Allegro moderato molto e marcato. In this movement there are themes based on the rhythms of two Norwegian folk dances, the halling and the springdans. But, like Bartók, Grieg didn't quote native materials verbatim; rather the rhythmic patterns and melodies of Norway's folk tunes became his inspiration. A dramatic cadenza brings this popular romantic concerto to a majestic conclusion.

Symphony No. 7

Symphony No. 7 (1811–12)

Beethoven’s Seventh is quite possibly the symphony that listeners think is his most “fun” to hear.  It dances with vibrant drive and energy, pulsing with life and joy. It relies heavily on rhythm, rather than melody, with the same notes being repeated over and over again in various patterns. Composer and music theorist Jonathan Kramer writes that “the main motive of the opening movement is a telegraphic repeat of one pitch, the second movement is pervaded by a simple rhythm on one note, and the finale starts with a reiterated rhythm…. It is this emphasis on rhythms … that gives this composition impetuous, exuberant vitality that has reminded many commentators of carnivals.” The symphony opens slowly and then bursts into a thrilling Vivace; the wild abandon of the final movement is nearly manic in character. Fellow-composers wondered about Beethoven’s state of mind when he wrote the piece. Was he drunk? Had he gone mad? But silly speculations aside, Wagner said it perfectly, calling the symphony “the apotheosis of the dance itself.”



Manfred Honeck

Manfred Honeck has served as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) since the 2008–09 season; after two extensions, his contract now runs through the end of the 2019–20 season. Since 2010, annual tours have led Mr. Honeck and the PSO to numerous European music capitals and major music festivals, including the Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn, Musikfest Berlin, Grafenegg Festival, Lucerne Festival, and the BBC Proms. The 2012 tour focused on a week-long residency at Vienna’s Musikverein, and they undertook a European Festival Tour in the summer of 2013. Mr. Honeck and the PSO’s recordings of Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben have been released to critical acclaim on Japan’s Exton label; the recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony won a 2012 International Classical Music Award. Manfred Honeck’s work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is now captured by Reference Recordings, and began in fall 2013 with a super-audio CD of Richard Strauss tone poems; several additional recordings are completed, with plans to release two recordings per year. Born in Austria, Manfred Honeck began his career as conductor of Vienna’s Jeunesse Orchestra, which he co-founded, and as assistant to Claudio Abbado at the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Vienna. He was subsequently engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was awarded the prestigious European Conductor’s Award in 1993. In 1996 he began a three-year stint as one of three main conductors of Leipzig’s MDR Symphony Orchestra and, in 1997, he served as music director at the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo. A successful European tour with the Oslo Philharmonic marked the beginning of a close collaboration with that orchestra, which consequently appointed him principal guest conductor. He was music director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra Stockholm from 2000 to 2006, and principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 2008 to 2011, a position he resumed at the beginning of the 2013–14 season. As music director of the Stuttgart Staatsoper from 2007 to 2011, he conducted Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Verdi’s Aida, Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, and Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal. As a guest conductor, he has appeared with the Bavarian Radio and London Symphony Orchestras; Leipzig’s Gewandhaus and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras; Israel and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras; Dresden Staatskapelle; and Orchestre de Paris. U.S. appearances have included the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago, National, and Boston symphony orchestras.

Learn more about Manfred Honeck



Jean Yves Thibaudet by Decca Kasskara

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s 2013–14 season includes orchestral appearances, chamber music, and recitals, beginning in Asia with Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F with the Seoul Philharmonic, and as soloist in Bernstein’s Second Symphony, The Age of Anxiety, with the Guangzhou and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras and the China Philharmonic in Beijing. At the start of 2014 he plays Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with NDR Hamburg, appears with mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager in Spain and at London’s Wigmore Hall, and makes a seven-city tour with the Bahia Orchestra in the United States. Other highlights include appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel; Detroit and Toronto Symphony Orchestras in James MacMillan’s Third Piano Concerto (which he premiered in 2011); appearances with the Orchestre National de Lyon and San Francisco Symphony; a spring tour with WDR Cologne; and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe at London’s Barbican Centre, in celebration of Bernard Haitink’s 85th birthday. He will also give two all-Debussy recitals in his native France.

A distinguished recording artist with more than 50 albums to his credit, Mr. Thibaudet has won the Schallplattenpreis, the Diapason d’Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, a Gramophone Award, two Echo awards and the Edison Prize. In 2010 he released Gershwin, featuring big jazz-band orchestrations of Rhapsody in Blue, Variations on I Got Rhythm, and the Concerto in F live with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop. He also performed on the sound tracks of Bride of the Wind, Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet was born in Lyon, France, where he began his piano studies at age five. At 12 he entered the Paris Conservatory to study with Aldo Ciccolini and Lucette Descaves, and at 15 won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire. Among his honors are the title of Officier of L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Victoire d’Honneur, a lifetime career achievement award. 

Learn more about Jean-Yves Thibaudet

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Special Thanks

Manfred Honeck's debut with the New York Philharmonic is made possible by the Kurt Masur Fund for the Philharmonic, an endowment fund created to honor the accomplishments of the Philharmonic’s Music Director Emeritus, Kurt Masur.


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