Fauré / Debussy / Ravel, Charles Dutoit
Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit leads the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice through a triple bill of late-19th and early-20th French composers – one of his musical specialties. Dutoit’s previous credits include the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Tokyo NHK Symphony and the Orchestre National de France. At Gran Teatro La Fenice, the conductor tackles signature works by Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
The evening starts with Fauré’s four-part concert suite Pelléas et Mélisande, op. 80. Originally composed in 1898 as incidental music to the theatre play of the same name by Maurice Maeterlinck, the rushed project gave Fauré enough of a thrill to revisit, expand, and orchestrate fully his initial musical ideas. The music was first performed as part of a London production of Maeterlinck’s play at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre on 21 June 1898, where it gathered smashing reviews, while the suite first premiered as a stand-alone work in early 1901 in Paris.
Next comes a set of three Nocturnes by Claude Debussy, an orchestral variety work he continued adapting on and off for about a decade until the final version debuted in 1901. Each movement has a theme and a mood the composer explained in short notes. ‘Nuages’ (‘Clouds’) recreates clouds’ glacial pace across the sky. ‘Fêtes’ (‘Celebrations’) moves along with the thumping rhythm of a street festival. ‘Sirènes’ (‘Sirens’) calls back to the Ancient Greek myth of the sea temptresses, as the beautifully onomatopoeic orchestration of the rolling sea waves gives way to a mysterious, enchanting theme that swells up and flows away.
Maurice Ravel closes the evening with two special pieces. First is his 1912 suite for orchestra and chorus Daphnis et Chloé, based on the Greek pastoral myth of the love between a goatherd and a shepherdess. Originally a ballet, its passionate, almost impressionist score allowed it to grow into a concert work in its own right. 1920’s La valse, choreographic poem for orchestra, Op. 72 shared a similar fate. A declaration of Ravel’s love for waltz as a musical form, it transcended its initial ballet form to become a favoured concert piece that stands out with depth, power, and musical allusion that are among the composer’s finest achievements. The choir and the orchestra of Gran Teatro la Fenice under the batton of Charles Dutoit will enchant you on this French soirée.