The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles.
At the Concert
At the Concert
At the Concert
At the Concert
At the Concert
At the Concert
The French conductor Louis Langrée has been Music Director of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York since 2002 and of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since the 2013/14 season. The Mostly Mozart Festival celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016, in a programme including Così fan tutte with the Freiburger Barockorchester, the latter following performances at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. With Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, recent and future highlights have included a performance in New York as part of their anniversary season of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, a tour to Asia and several world premieres, including three Concertos for Orchestra by Sebastian Currier, Thierry Escaich and Zhou Tian.
Guest conducting projects over the next two seasons include Louis Langrée’s debut with the Philhadelphia and Konzerthaus Berlin Orchestras and return engagements with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Wiener Symphoniker and Hallé. With the Orchestre National de France he will conduct Debussy’s opera and Schoenberg’s tone poem based on Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande. He will also return to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Wiener Staatsoper and Opéra Comique in Paris.
Louis Langrée has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker (in concert in both Vienna and Salzburg) and London Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with many other orchestras around the world including the London Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Santa Cecilia in Rome, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Budapest Festival, Sao Paulo and NHK Symphony Orchestras. Festival appearances have included Wiener Festwochen, Salzburg Mozartwoche and Whitsun, BBC Proms and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He has held positions as Music Director of the Orchestre de Picardie (1993-98) and Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège (2001-06) and was Chief Conductor of the Camerata Salzburg (2011-16).
Louis Langrée was Music Director of Opéra National de Lyon (1998-2000) and Glyndebourne Touring Opera (1998-2003). He has also conducted at La Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opéra-Bastille and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dresden Staatsoper, Grand Théâtre in Geneva and the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam.
Louis Langrée's first commercial recording with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra features Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait (narrated by Dr Maya Angelou) and world premieres by Nico Muhly and David Lang. Louis Langrée’s recordings have received several awards from Gramophone and Midem Classical. He was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2006 and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2014.
KATIA & MARIELLE LABÈQUE
“The Labèque sisters are tremendous. They are great performers, and great interpreters. And they are wonderful supporters of music- not only modern music, but just music. It is great to work with them”
“Whether Mozart or Stravinsky, their musical line always sounds as if it’s being woven for the very first time... But the illusion of improvisation is the genius of their performances. In all their recordings there is a deceptive sprezzatura that is born of throwing the preparation to the winds and hanging onto each others ears.”
Katia and Marielle Labèque are sibling pianists renowned for their ensemble of synchronicity and energy. Their musical ambitions started at an early age and they rose to international fame with their contemporary rendition of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (one of the first gold records in classical music) and have since developed a stunning career with performances worldwide.
They are regular guests with the most prestigious orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Filarmonia della Scala, Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Marin Alsop, Alain Altinoglu, Semyon Bychkov, Sir Colin Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Gustavo Gimeno, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Pietari Inkinen, Louis Langrée, Zubin Mehta, Juanjo Mena, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Pappano, Matthias Pintscher, Georges Pretre, Sir Simon Rattle, Santtu Matias Rouvali, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas and Jaap van Zweden.
They have appeared with Baroque music ensembles such as The English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Il Giardino Armonico with Giovanni Antonini, Musica Antica with Reinhard Goebel, and Venice Baroque with Andrea Marcon, il Pomo d’oro with Maxim Emelyanichev and also toured with The Age of Enlightenment and Sir Simon Rattle. They will be on stage once more with Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini in 2019.
Katia and Marielle have had the privilege of working with many composers including Thomas Adès, Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, György Ligeti, Nico Muhly and Olivier Messiaen. At Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles they presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s new Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel. Last spring also saw the world premiere of Bryce Dessner’s concerto at Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgards and in June 2020 a new concerto written by Nico Muhly will receive its world premiere at Lincoln Center with New York Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden.
The Labèques play in festivals and renowned venues worldwide including the Vienna Musikverein, Hamburg Musikhalle, Munich Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, La Scala, Berlin Philharmonie, Blossom, Hollywood Bowl, Lucerne, BBC Proms, Ravinia, Tanglewood, and Salzburg. An audience of more than 33,000 attended a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at Berlin’s Waldbühne, now available on DVD (EuroArts). A record audience of more than 100,000 attended the Vienna Summer Night Concert in Schonbrunn (now available on CD and DVD by SONY). More than 1.5 million viewers followed the event worldwide on television.
For their own label KML recordings, they have released a CD box Sisters (2014). Previous releases include a Gershwin-Bernstein album, and their project Minimalist Dream House (50 years of minimalist music). The DVD “The Labeque Way, a letter to Katia and Marielle by Alessandro Baricco” produced by El Deseo (Pedro and Augustin Almodovar) and filmed by Felix Cabez is released by EuroArts. Their biography, “Une vie a quatre mains” by Renaud Machart is published by Buchet-Chastel.
The Labèques’ label KML Recordings joined the historical label Deutsche Grammophon, their first collaboration being Stravinsky's “Rite of Spring” and Debussy's “Epigraphes Antiques”, followed by “Love Stories” with music by Leonard Bernstein and David Chalmin , “Amoria”, a journey to their Basque roots covering five centuries of music , “Moondog”, a tribute to Louis Thomas Hardin, one of the true geniuses of his time. They just released a new album « El Chan » dedicated entirely to American composer Bryce Dessner, including his Concerto for two pianos with Orchestre de Paris conducted by Matthias Pintscher. The album is dedicated to the film director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritú, who created the album cover artwork.
Most recent performances include concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg, Elb Philharmonie Hamburg and Thom Yorke, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov, Dresden Staatskapelle at Easter Festival Salzburg with Andres Orozco-Estrada , Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic, including return visits to the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl and Cincinnati Symphony.
At the invitation of the Philharmonie Hall in Paris for a special « Week End » , attention was focused on “Amoria”, “Invocations” and their new project for two guitars and two pianos with David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner including a piece written for them by Thom Yorke “Don’t fear the Light” with Thom Yorke as special guest.
CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles. With a determination for greatness and a rich tradition that dates back over 120 years, the internationally acclaimed CSO attracts the best musicians, artists and conductors from around the world to Cincinnati. With new commissions and groundbreaking initiatives like LUMENOCITY®, One City, One Symphony, and the MusicNOW Festival collaboration, the Orchestra is committed to being a place of experimentation.
Louis Langrée began his tenure as the CSO's 13th Music Director in the 2013-2014 season with a celebrated program The New York Times said “deftly combined nods to the orchestra's history, the city's musical life and new music.” Over the Orchestra's 120-year history, it has also been led by Leopold Stokowski, Eugène Ysaÿe, Fritz Reiner, Eugene Goossens, Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Jesús López-Cobos, and Paavo Järvi, among others.
A champion of new music, the Orchestra has given American premieres of works by such composers as Debussy, Ravel, Mahler and Bartók and has commissioned works that have since become mainstays of the classical repertoire, including Copland's Fanfare for theCommon Man. The CSO was the first orchestra to be broadcast to a national radio audience (1921) and the third to record (1917). The Orchestra continues to commission new works and to program an impressive array of music. In recent years, the CSO has performed the world premieres of Nico Muhly's Pleasure Ground, David Lang's mountain, Caroline Shaw's Lo and Daniel Bjarnason's Collider as part of the groundbreaking collaboration with the MusicNOW Festival, Cincinnati's premier new music festival, as well as the world premiere of André Previn's Double Concerto. More recent commissions include Gunther Schuller’s Symphonic Triptych, three works set to the poetry of Dr. Maya Angelou by T. J. Cole, Jonathan Bailey Holland and Kristin Kuster, as well three new concertos for orchestra by composers Sebastian Currier, Thierry Escaich and Zhou Tian, which will be released on a commercial recording in November of 2016.
The CSO was the first American orchestra to make a world tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and continues to tour domestically and internationally, most recently to Europe in 2008 and to Japan in 2009, including two concerts at Tokyo's Suntory Hall and the CSO's first-ever nationally televised concert in Japan. The CSO has performed at New York's Carnegie Hall 48 times since its debut there in 191, most recently to rave reviews in May of 2014. In January of 2016, the Orchestra performed at New York’s Lincoln Center as part of the invitational Great Performers series.
LOUIS LANGRÉE conductor | KATIA & MARIELLE LABÈQUE duo-pianists
R. STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan, Op. 20
BRYCE DESSNER (1976)
Concerto for Two Pianos
Ein Alpensinfonie (“An Alpine Symphony”), Op. 64
Entering the Forest
Wandering near the Stream
At the Waterfall
On Blooming Meadows
On the Alpine Pasture
Going Astray in Thicket and Underbrush
On the Glacier
At the Summit
The Sun Gradually Darkens
Calm Before the Storm
Thunder and Storm
from Music Director Louis Langrée
Welcome to the opening of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season! A primordial aspect of the Orchestra’s remarkable history is its dedication to the music of its time. Since its very beginning, the CSO has commissioned and played numerous world premieres and has performed many U.S. premieres, including pieces by Mahler, Debussy, Scriabin, Bartók, Ravel and Richard Strauss. In 1904, Strauss himself visited Cincinnati to conduct his very first orchestral masterpiece, Don Juan, and Strauss’s last tone poem, An Alpine Symphony, received its U.S. premiere with the CSO in 1916. More than 100 years later, Don Juan was one of the first pieces played during our acoustical tests in the newly renovated Music Hall. As we continue to develop and enrich the history of our Orchestra, we present on this special occasion another U.S. premiere, the Concerto for Two Pianos by Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner, which is dedicated to the formidable Katia and Marielle Labèque, whom we are thrilled to welcome back.
CSO notable performances: 34 previous subscription weekends | Premiere: April 1904, Richard Strauss conducting | Most recent: February 2008, Susanna Mälkki conducting | The CSO also performed this work in Istanbul, Hong Kong and Croatia (Max Rudolf conducting) and in Manila and Okinawa (Erich Kunzel conducting) on its 10-week world tour in 1966—the CSO was the first American orchestra to make a world tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Duration: approx. 18 minutes
A New Genre Nothing could have been more “modern” in the music of the 1880s and ‘90s than the tone poem, that bold attempt to create drama without words and to test music’s expressive powers to the fullest. Pioneered by Franz Liszt from the 1850s on, the new genre found a practitioner of genius in the young Richard Strauss. In a series of orchestral works that established him as one of the leading avant-gardists of his day, Strauss boldly tackled the most complex literary and philosophical topics. Don Juan is one of his earliest tone poems, written when Strauss was only 24.
A World-Weary Don Many Romantic writers had grappled with the character of Don Juan Tenorio, the legendary skirt-chaser first immortalized by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina in the 17th century, then by Molière and, of course, Mozart and Da Ponte. The Don Juan legend has been called “the greatest erotic subject of all time,” but it is more than that. Don Juan is not your typical sex addict; by conquering women, he becomes, in a way, the master of the universe (or so he feels, which almost amounts to the same thing). And most importantly, he doesn’t hesitate to give up his life rather than making any concessions in his life philosophy, however depraved that philosophy may be.
In the decadent Romantic version by Austrian poet Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850), left incomplete at the time of the poet’s death, Don Juan doesn’t need a stone guest to send him to Hell [in other tellings of the Don Juan legend, the statue from the tomb of the Commander, whom Don Juan killed in a duel, comes to life and ushers Don Juan to Hell]. He willingly lets the brother of one of his lovers defeat him in a duel, for victory “is as boring as the whole of life.” Strauss placed three lengthy excerpts from the poem at the front of his score. These excerpts reveal nothing of the plot, but they summarize the life philosophy Lenau had given his hero:
Fain would I run the magic circle, immeasurably wide, of beautiful women’s manifold charms, in full tempest of enjoyment, to die of a kiss at the mouth of the last one. O my friend, would that I could fly through every place where beauty blossoms, fall on my knees before each one, and, were it but for a moment, conquer…
I shun anxiety and the exhaustion of pleasure; I keep myself fresh in the service of beauty; and in offending the individual I rave for my devotion to her kind. The breath of a woman that is as the odor of spring today, may perhaps tomorrow oppress me like the air of a dungeon. When, in my changes, I travel with my love in the wide circle of beautiful women, my love is a different thing for each one; I build no temple out of ruins. Indeed, passion is always and only the new passion; it cannot be carried from this one to that; it must die here and spring anew there; and when it knows itself, then it knows nothing of repentance. As each beauty stands alone in the world, so stands the love which it prefers. Forth and away, then, to triumphs ever new, so long as youth’s fiery pulses race!
It was a beautiful storm that urged me on; it has spent its rage, and silence now remains.
A trance is upon every wish, every hope. Perhaps a thunderbolt from the heights which I despised, struck fatally at my power of love, and suddenly my world became a desert and darkened. And perhaps not; the fuel is all consumed and the hearth is cold and dark.*
The quest for ideal love, which pushes Don Juan from one woman to the next, is really a quest for the meaning of life. In Lenau’s treatment, the Don comes very close to being a cousin of Dr. Faust (about whom he also wrote a drama). The force that moves Don Juan is, of course, not learning but passion; yet the two heroes are similar in their eternal desire for totality and in the fact that both are ultimately denied fulfillment on earth.
What to Listen for: Don Juan’s passion is evident from the first bars of Strauss’s score, which is one of the great symphonic openings of all time, followed by a sensual violin solo representing the “Eternal Feminine” (not coincidentally, the phrase in quotation marks comes from Goethe’s Faust). In one episode, we can almost hear the Don seducing a timid young girl before our very ears. After an exuberant “carnival scene,” Don Juan falls into a deep depression, and as he surrenders to his opponent, the work ends on a bleak note, in the minor mode and pianissimo.
Concerto for Two Pianos
Work composed: 2017, co-commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Borusan Culture Arts Centre, Dresden Philharmonie, Orquesta Nacionales de Espanã and Orchestre de Paris for Katia and Marielle Labèque
Premiere: April 13, 2018, London’s Royal Festival Hall, John Storgårds conducting the London Philharmonic; Katia and Marielle Labèque, pianists
CSO notable performances: These performances are the work’s U.S. premiere
Duration: approx. 20 minutes
Bryce Dessner is a vital and rare force in new music. He won Grammy Awards as a classical composer and as a rock musician with his alternative band The National. Dessner also has an increasingly high-profile presence in the world of film score composition. Many of his works have been commissioned by the world’s leading ensembles, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which premiered Dessner’s Concerto for Two Pianos in 2018. This work, written for Katia and Marielle Labèque, receives its U.S. premiere with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Born in Cincinnati, Dessner earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Yale University and now lives in Paris.
In the Composer’s Words
I first met Katia and Marielle Labèque during rehearsals for a concert we shared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel several years ago. The orchestra was premiering a recent work of mine, paired with Katia and Marielle performing Philip Glass’s Concerto for Two Pianos. During that week in Los Angeles I became acquainted with their incredible playing and profoundly open and inspiring musical universe. I had also recently moved to Paris, and Katia and Marielle would quickly become a second family to me in France. Soon after that we started planning our future collaboration, which materialised with my Concerto for Two Pianos.
The piece was composed for Katia, Marielle and the London Philharmonic Orchestra throughout 2017, with a large portion of the development taking place in Katia and Marielle’s piano studio on Rue Quincampoix in Paris and their house on the Basque coast, where they spend most of the summer. I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the repertoire they have performed over the years, and doing research on the deeply personal and intertwined musical history and style that they share. I also shared the score with them several times as it developed, to get their feedback and to be sure the ideas were translating well to the piano. I had previously composed a 20-minute piano duo for them in 2015 called El Chan, which they have toured extensively and recorded. Working on this first duo piece together was a great learning experience for me, in shaping how to address the challenges of writing for two pianos.
My Concerto is a tribute to two great musicians who I am honored to work with and who I am even luckier to call my friends. —Bryce Dessner, April 2018
Eine Alpensinfonie (“An Alpine Symphony”), Op. 64
Work composed: 1911–1916
Premiere: October 28, 1915, Berlin, Strauss conducting the Dresden Royal Orchestra
CSO notable performances: 4 previous subscription weekends, plus “special” performances in 1928 and 1916 | Premiere: April 1916 (“special” concert), Ernst Kunwald conducting (U.S. Premiere) | Most recent: April 2013, Roberto Abbado conducting
Duration: approx. 51 minutes
Ravel’s spirit had been shattered by World War I. It was only with great difficulty that he returned to writing music. Painstakingly he completed his one compositional effort of the war years, Le Tombeau de Couperin, which had occupied him from 1914 to 1917. Then for two years he composed nothing substantial. He subsequently came out of his depression only long enough to write a cynical picture of pre-war Europe—La Valse (1919–20). After that it took him two full years to compose the wonderful Sonata for Violin and Cello, which is only 16 pages long.
Ravel was depressed not only because of memories of war horrors but also because his mother, to whom he had been deeply devoted, had died in 1916. The composer never fully accepted her death. Furthermore, Parisian society, which Ravel enjoyed immensely but which had been devastated by the war, returned to its former vitality only after a difficult period of adjustment. Ravel was still at the center of musical activities. He was vice president and then president of the Independent Musical Society, which presented concerts of contemporary music of all countries. But things had changed. He found that he no longer represented the avant garde, as he had before the war. He saw his position as a leader in new music taken over by a new generation—Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Prokofiev, and others. “The new sounds in the air,” explains Ravel’s biographer Arbie Orenstein, “were those of jazz, polytonality, and atonality, as the lush velvet of impressionism gave way to the hard steel which had been prophesied in The Rite of Spring.”
Ravel was an active member of a group of artists and intellectuals that spent countless hours in Parisian cafés, exchanging lively opinions. The composer had a lot to think about: the cultural ramifications of the war, the new music he heard in the concerts his Society put on, the aesthetic implications of the new avant garde style, and the heady ideas picked up in cafés. With great effort he managed to complete the Sonata for Violin and Cello, which had been “dragging on,” as he put it, for a year and a half. After that, he settled into a long period of creative inactivity. He was supposed to be working on an opera, L’Enfant et les sortilèges, but instead he composed nothing other than a few small pieces and orchestrations of other composers’ works (including Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition).
One evening in July 1922, Ravel attended a private concert where he heard the superb Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi perform his Violin and Cello Sonata. Later that evening Ravel asked d’Aranyi to play some authentic gypsy melodies. She obliged, and he kept asking to hear more. The “evening” continued until 5 a.m. Ravel, like such composers as Liszt, Brahms, and Dvořák before him, was fascinated by both gypsy folk music and the gypsy manner of violin playing. (Coincidentally, it was for d’Aranyi that Bartók was at this time writing his two folk inspired violin sonatas.) The idea for Tzigane was born that night. A few days later Ravel sent a telegram to another violinist, Hélène Jourdan Morhange, who had advised him while he was composing the sonata and who had recently premiered that work: “Come quickly and bring the Paganini Études with you.” He wanted to learn as much as he could about violin virtuosity.
Ravel’s mental block against composing did not disappear. It was two years before he actually completed his modest gypsy work for violin and piano, and then only two days before its first performance. Thus D’Aranyi had to learn the fiendishly difficult solo part in an amazingly short time, yet she succeeded in dazzling critics and listeners alike at the London premiere. A few months later Ravel orchestrated the work, and d’Aranyi again impressed the audience when she premiered the new version.
Ravel made a third version of Tzigane, for violin and an instrument called a luthéal. This now forgotten instrument was attached to a piano to make it sound like a cimbalom, a Hungarian folk instrument similar to a hammered dulcimer. The luthéal soon lost what small appeal it had had, and this version of Tzigane is no longer played.
Although Ravel never fully recovered from his compositional lethargy, he was finally, after the composition of Tzigane, able to undertake and complete a number of major works.
KEYNOTE. The title Tzigane means “gypsy.” It refers both to the work’s typically Hungarian rhythms and melodic figures and to its stylization of gypsy violin playing. The extraordinary demands on the soloist far exceed what a folk violinist could manage. Still, the flavor of folk music is always present. Ravel subtitled the piece Rapsodie en Concert, and he described it as “a virtuoso piece in the style of a Hungarian rhapsody.”
The piece owes its style equally to its two inspirations: folk music and the spectacular violin writing of Paganini. For example, the opening unaccompanied cadenza, which occupies more than a third of the piece, explores the typically Hungarian harmonic minor scale while it exposes the violinist to ever greater technical demands. The melodic line moves gradually upward, although Ravel directs the soloist to remain on the lowest string (the G string) for a considerable time. Thus the sound gets more and more intense as the melodic line rises. When the other strings are finally used, it is for spectacular multiple stopping (playing several notes at once). After the orchestra enters, the work becomes an incredibly virtuosic concerto, in which all manner of violin tricks—perpetual motion, rapid harmonics, left hand pizzicati in the midst of bowed arpeggios, quadruple stops, extremely high writing—are accompanied by Ravel’s typically imaginative orchestration.