The New York Philharmonic

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Copland, Rouse, and Boléro

Recorded October 30, 2014

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Conductor

Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin is music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL). He also appears as a guest conductor throughout the world and is active as a composer, author, and educator. His 2015–16 season highlights included a three-week Brahms festival in Detroit; engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and NHK symphony orchestras; and debuts with Beijing’s China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. His summer schedule included a tour of Japan with the ONL and performances of Barber’s Vanessa in Santa Fe.

In addition to his regular duties in Detroit and Lyon, in 2016–17 he returns to St. Louis; tours the U.S. and Europe with the ONL; conducts Cologne’s WDR Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, and Orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo; and serves as chairman of the jury and conductor of the 2017 Cliburn Competition.

Mr. Slatkin’s more than 100 recordings have earned 7 Grammy awards and 64 nominations. His recent Naxos recordings include works by Saint-Saëns, Ravel, and Berlioz (with the ONL) and music by Copland, Rachmaninoff, Alla Borzova, Cindy McTee, and John Williams (with the DSO). He has also recorded the complete Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky symphonies with the DSO (available online as digital downloads).

A National Medal of Arts recipient, Leonard Slatkin’s honors include being named Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor and receiving Austria’s Decoration of Honor in Silver, the League of American Orchestras’ Gold Baton Award, and the 2013 ASCAP Deems Taylor Special Recognition Award for his book, Conducting Business.

Mr. Slatkin has been music director of the New Orleans, St. Louis, and National symphony orchestras; chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra; and principal guest conductor of London’s Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and Minnesota Orchestra. He has conducted leading orchestras including the New York, London, Berlin, Israel, Los Angeles, Oslo, and Royal Stockholm philharmonic orchestras; BBC, London, Bavarian Radio, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco symphony orchestras; as well as The Philadelphia Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Orchestre de Paris. His opera appearances have included The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, and Paris’s Opéra Bastille.

Born in Los Angeles to a distinguished musical family, Leonard Slatkin began his musical training on the violin and first studied conducting with his father, followed by Walter Susskind at Aspen and Jean Morel at The Juilliard School.

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Flute

Robert Langevin

With the start of the 2000–01 season, Robert Langevin joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Flute, in The Lila Acheson Wallace Chair. In May 2001, he made his solo debut with the Orchestra in the North American premiere of Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute and Harp with Philharmonic Principal Harp Nancy Allen and Music Director Kurt Masur. His October 2012 solo performance in Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert, was recorded for inclusion in The Nielsen Project, the Orchestra’s multi-season traversal of all of the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, to be released by Dacapo Records.

Prior to the Philharmonic, Mr. Langevin held the Jackman Pfouts Principal Flute Chair of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and was an adjunct professor at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. Mr. Langevin served as associate principal of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for 13 years, playing on more than 30 recordings. As a member of Musica Camerata Montreal and l’Ensemble de la Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, he premiered many works, including the Canadian premiere of Pierre Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maître. In addition, Mr. Langevin has performed as soloist with Quebec’s most distinguished ensembles and has recorded many recitals and chamber music programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also served on the faculty of the University of Montreal for nine years.

Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Robert Langevin began studying flute at age 12 and joined the local orchestra three years later. While studying with Jean-Paul Major at the Montreal Conservatory of Music, he started working in recording studios, where he accompanied a variety of artists of different styles. He graduated in 1976 with two first prizes, one in flute, the other, in chamber music. Not long after, he won the prestigious Prix d’Europe, a national competition open to all instruments with a first prize of a two-year scholarship to study in Europe. This enabled him to work with Aurèle Nicolet at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, where he graduated in 1979. He then went on to study with Maxence Larrieu, in Geneva, winning second prize at the Budapest International Competition in 1980.

Mr. Langevin is a member of the Philharmonic Quintet of New York with which he has performed concerts on many continents. In addition, he has given recitals and master classes throughout the United States and in countries such as Canada, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. He is currently on the faculties of The Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, and the Orford International Summer Festival. 

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El Salón México

AARON COPLAND (1900–90)
El Salón México (1936)

In this sonic souvenir of his first trip to Mexico, Aaron Copland captured the colors, sounds, and spirit of the land. El Salón México refers to a popular dance hall in Mexico City that the composer visited, and its rhythms inspired this spicy, effervescent piece. “All I could hope to do was to reflect the Mexico of the tourists, because in that hot spot one felt, in a very natural and unaffected way, a close contact with the Mexican people. It wasn’t the music that I heard, but the spirit I felt there which attracted me and what I hope I have put into my music.” After an introduction, four sections follow: a languid and lyrical beginning, featuring trumpet solo; a fast section with ever-changing rhythms, ending in a loud crashing chord; another lyrical, sleepy section; and an intense and melodically and rhythmically complex finale, with “the folk tunes [presented] simultaneously in their original keys and rhythms,” according to Copland.

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Flute Concerto (New York Premiere)

CHRISTOPHER ROUSE (b. 1949)
Flute Concerto (1993)

In a program note about this work, The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse wrote: “I feel a deep ancestral tug of recognition whenever I am exposed to the arts and traditions of the British Isles, particularly those of Celtic origin…. The first and last movements bear the title ‘Amhrán’ (Gaelic for ‘song’) and are simple melodic elaborations for the solo flute over the accompaniment of orchestral strings. They were intended … to evoke the traditions of Celtic, especially Irish, folk music … perhaps not unlike some of the recordings of the Irish singer Enya. The second and fourth movements are both fast in tempo. The second is a rather sprightly march [and] the fourth a scherzo which refers more and more as it progresses to that most Irish of dances, the jig. However, by the time the jig is stated in its most obvious form, the tempo has increased to the point that the music seems almost frantic and breathless in nature.... The central movement of this work is an elegy dedicated to James Bulger’s memory, a small token of remembrance for a life senselessly and cruelly snuffed out.”

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Boléro

MAURICE RAVEL (1875–1937)
Boléro (1928)

Maurice Ravel composed and Nijinsky choreographed the ballet Boléro for the legendary dancer Ida Rubinstein, and its premiere in Paris caused a sensation. Ravel himself once described the piece as “an experiment … consisting wholly of orchestral tissue without music — one long, very gradual crescendo.” Two short measures repeat over and over to the hypnotic beat of the snare drum, which becomes the focal point of the entire work. starting softly, increasing in intensity and volume, and reaching a powerful climax some 17 minutes later. “The ideal is an absolutely steady beat that never wavers — that you lay down for all to follow — a seamless crescendo from the nearly inaudible beginning to the final explosion of sound,” says New York Philharmonic Principal Percussionist Christopher S. Lamb. Shifting combinations of instruments are layered over each other to create rich and ever richer sonorities. The result is nothing short of stunning.

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Gaspard de la nuit

MAURICE RAVEL/orch. Constant (1875–1937)
Gaspard de la Nuit (1908)

The evocative title of Ravel’s solo piano work, orchestrated by Marius Constant, was said to be a name for Satan, according to Aloysius Bertrand, author of the three poems that are the inspiration for this composition. The meaning is apt, as the resulting “piano poems” have an aura of the mysterious, dark, gothic. Constant said that when he set about orchestrating the pieces he was inspired by Ravel’s own mastery of orchestration but came up with “new instrumental combinations and attempted to enlarge the sound-spectrum.” “Ondine,” a water nymph, is rejected by a mortal and her lament is melancholy, with the music a rippling, liquid image of the waters she calls home. With macabre, desolate harmonies, punctuated by the incessant tolling of a bell, “Le Gibet (“The Gallows”) depicts a dead man’s carcass hanging in the setting sun. “Scarbo” is a gnome who haunts the narrator with wild shrieking, crazed leaping, eerie laughter, and other nightmarish mischief.

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