This Sunday’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast on 90.1 brings us another first-ever Philadelphia Orchestra performance of a work by the contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson, the ever-popular 5th Piano Concerto of Camille Saint-Saëns, Ottorino Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, and, to begin the concert, the rousing Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz!
Stéphane Denève conducts this concert, an evocation of Italy and Egypt, albeit with a French accent.
Berlioz presents all the color and excitement of a Roman carnival, using themes from his failed opera Benvenuto Cellini, about the celebrated 16th-century Italian artist. Berlioz loved this work, and didn’t want to let its superb music go to waste, so he created a sparkling overture based on music from the carnival scene that closes the second act. For over one hundred fifty years this concert piece has remained a durable orchestral showpiece, one of the best examples of the composer’s brilliant and innovative orchestration.
Saint-Saëns composed his Piano Concerto No. 5 in Luxor -- hence the nickname “The Egyptian.” Musical exoticism like this took many forms during the 19th and early 20th centuries, from the modalities of Alexander Glazunov’s Oriental Rhapsody or Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherazade, to the settings of the obscure Eastern poetry of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Composers in France, especially around the year 1900, reveled in these sounds. And though not all of these composers actually visited these faraway places,Saint-Saëns was one who did. His frequent travels to the Middle East served as a direct inspiration for such works as the Suite algérienne, the Caprice Arabe for two pianos, the Souvenir d’Ismaïlia for piano, and Africa, for piano and orchestra.
The soloist for the performance we’ll hear on Sunday is the American pianist Nicholas Angelich, who studied in his youth in Paris, with Aldo Ciccolini, Yvonne Loriod, and Michel Beroff, among others. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2009 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Following intermission, another work by the contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson, a colleague and friend of Maestro Denève. The work, E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare, or “And the River Shimmers in the Valley,” functions as the "Italian"middle movement in an orchestral triptych that also includes homages to Germany and Russia.
We heard the German piece, Flammenschrift, on last week’s Philadelphia Orchestra broadcast, and the homage to Russia, Maslenitsa, this past October. So, if you’ve been listening to these WRTI broadcasts of the Philadelphia Orchestra, you will have heard the whole triptych after Sunday.
And, to close the concert, a re-creation of the first performance here in Philadelphia, in 1926, of The Pines of Rome, with Respighi himself conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and with the same recorded sounds of a nightingale, played through the 78 rpm gramophone that was used in that performance, ninety-two years ago, from the stage of the Academy of Music!
During intermission, we go backstage, where WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder talks with Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève and Susan Lewis speaks with soloist Nicholas Angelich.
You won’t want to miss this one! That’s Sunday, from 1 to 3 PM, on WRTI 90.1, the WRTI mobile app, and streaming at wrti.org.
Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No.5 (“The Egyptian”)
Nicholas Angelich, piano
Connesson: E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare
Respighi: The Pines of Rome
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Gregg Whiteside is producer and host of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at WRTI.org, and on our mobile app! Listen again on Mondays at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2.