Thibaudet plays Ravel with Bringuier & Nice Philharmonic

The Nice Philharmonic Orchestra presents an all-French concert on 18th and 19th June – with Lionel Bringuier leading the Orchestra in a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major – soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet – and Bizet’s Symphony in C.

Multi-award-winning artist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is acknowledged as one of the finest pianists of today. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has a wide-ranging repertoire of solo, chamber and orchestral music – from Beethoven through Liszt, Grieg and Saint-Saëns to Khachaturian and Gershwin, and to Olivier Messiaen, Qigang Chen, James MacMillan, Richard Dubugnon and Aaron Zigman. 

Thibaudet has always delighted in playing music away from the standard repertoire – from jazz to opera – including works which he himself has transcribed for the piano. He is known as one of the foremost interpreters of the music of George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel, and is the soloist in the forthcoming Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch. He can also be heard on the soundtracks of Pride and Prejudice, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Wakefield and the Oscar-winning film Atonement.

He is the first-ever Artist-in-Residence at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he is able to indulge his passion for education, fostering young musical talent through individual lessons, masterclasses and performances with students, as well as the Jean-Yves Thibaudet Scholarships.

In this concert, Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Ravel’s gorgeously jazzy Piano Concerto in G major – which rather underpins the composer’s own view of a concerto. “The music of a concerto,” he said, “should, in my opinion, be lighthearted and brilliant, and not aim at profundity or at dramatic effects.” This concerto was written between 1929 and 1931, following Ravel’s exposure to jazz during a visit to the United States, and at a time when the influence of jazz was prominent in Paris as well. The work was premiered on January 14th, 1932, at a concert of the Lamoreux Orchestra in Paris, with Marguerite Long as soloist.

The Symphony in C – George Bizet’s first – was written when the composer was just 17. It was thought to have been a student assignment whilst Bizet was studying at the Paris Conservatoire in 1855. It was neither published nor performed during Bizet’s lifetime and was only discovered in 1933 in the archives of the Conservatoire by musicologist Jean Chantavoine. Bizet’s biographer, Douglas Charles Parker, took the work to the conductor Felix Weingartner who led the premiere performance in Basel, Switzerland in 1933.  A hugely popular and melodic work, it has remained a firm favourite of the classical repertoire ever since.

Lovers of ballet will know this symphony for the ballet, Symphony in C, which George Balanchine choreographed in for the School of American Ballet – which he founded – and which premiered the work in 1947. Balanchine first learned of the existence of the score from his great friend, Igor Stravinsky, and created one of the most beautiful four-movement, plotless ballets, which has become a favourite in the repertoires of a number of ballet companies.

Lionel Bringuier, Artiste Associé of the Nice Philharmonic, is regarded as a Ravel specialist, so these performances of the Concerto in G, in the hands of Thibaudet and Bringuier, should be absolute magic. Add to that the fact that Bringuier is on home territory in Nice – the city of his birth – and he should be right in his element.

Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, between 2014 and 2018, Bringuier has held previous posts at the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in Valladolid, the Orchestre de Bretagne and Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. He is highly regarded on the international stage – both as a symphonic and operatic conductor – having appeared with ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Philharmonia, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Tokyo Symphony. According to The Washington Post, “…. in the subtlety of his musical imagery and the absolute mastery of his craft, Bringuier’s conducting brings to mind the great Pierre Monteux”.

Lionel Bringuier leads the Nice Philharmonic in performances of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G – soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet – and Bizet’s Symphony in C at Nice Opera on June 18th and 19th. Reservations may be made online.

Information sourced from Nice Opera programme notes
Artists’ websites
San Francisco Symphony programme notes:
Ravel Piano Concert in G major
Bizet Symphony in C
The George Balanchine Trust

A version of this article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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