May 3, 2017

Gabel and Athayde Play Debussy and Bartók

Parisian conductor Fabien Gabel first met RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde in 2002, when they
were both students at the Aspen Musical Festival and School. More than a decade later, Gabel came to Rochester to guest-conduct the orchestra for the first time, and was taken completely by surprise to see his old friend in the concertmaster’s chair (Athayde became concertmaster in 2005).

Since reconnecting with Athayde, Gabel has become a regular guest conductor at the RPO and a Rochester favorite. This May marks his fourth season in a row performing with the RPO, when he returns to conduct Debussy’s La mer on May 11 and 13. He will also collaborate with Athayde on Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

“I have a deep affection for both the ensemble as a whole and the individual musicians that make it up,” said Gabel, who is music director of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, as well as a regular guest conductor at orchestras across Europe, North America, and Asia.l

In conducting Debussy’s La mer, Gabel will lend his distinctive interpretative touch to the French composer’s orchestral masterwork. Translated as “the sea,” La mer evokes the movement and moods of the restless waves. While composing it, Debussy turned to his own experience as inspiration: his childhood memories of the sea at Cannes; a frightful storm he endured in a tiny fishing boat; paintings by Romanticist Joseph Turner; and Japanese seascapes.

Gabel connects strongly with the composition’s Gallic roots as well as its extraordinary instrumental textures. Audiences can expect Gabel to bring out the full color of the orchestra as he leads this shimmering work.

In Bartók’s second concerto, Athayde will star in a piece that has long been on what she calls her “personal bucket list.” She remembers first hearing the concerto at a concert given by the San Francisco Symphony. At the time Athayde was concertmaster of the Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, and recalls being “immediately entranced” by Bartók No. 2.

“From the simple yet mystical combination of harp and pizzicati strings opening the first movement juxtaposed with the vibrant folk style of the first solo violin melody, to the rhapsodic moments and rhythmic play between soloist and orchestra, this piece had me hooked," said Athayde. "Bartók alternates effortlessly between technically dazzling passage work and expressively lyrical writing.

"I'm thrilled to finally perform this concerto with the RPO, so many years after I first fell in love with it, and I hope our audience will feel the same excitement and intrigue I felt as a young musician hearing this music for the first time.”

The rest of the concert program is filled out by Bernard Herrmann’s Suite from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, as well as “Fanfare” and “poème dansé” from La Péri by Paul Dukas.

If you go
Debussy's La Mer
Thursday, May 11 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, May 13 at 8 PM
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $23

Written by Mary Rice, RPO marketing assistant

No comments: