The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 season continues its much-anticipated run in Exeter on Thursday this week, and from now until the end of the season, I’ll be bringing you previews and reviews of each performance. This Thursday, the award-winning orchestra, celebrating its 120th year, will perform two pieces by Debussy, and one by Chopin and D’Indy respectively.
Beginning with reluctant impressionist Claude Debussy’s Printemps (1908), the concert programme will weave its way through the landmarks of a century of Parnassian work; the great Romantic and Impressionist corpus. Debussy’s symphonic suite, the second incarnation of a missing original version that was coldly received by the French Academy in Rome, is regularly performed today and has a modest recording history. The meandering pentatonic melodies that came to be the hallmark of Debussy’s unique sonic palette, and earned him derision from his instructors and contemporaries, feature prominently here.
The strains of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (1830), arguably best known for the beautiful virtuosity of its second movement, will be the second piece of the evening. Written when Chopin was just 20 years old, his Opus 11 contains tantalising suggestions of melodies and motifs that appear in some of his best-known Nocturnes. D’Indy’s La Forêt Enchantée (1878) creates a narrative that follows a band of knights and their encounter with a group of elves during a ride through a forest. The story is conveyed through D’Indy’s masterful control of tone and atmosphere, manipulating first the fearful and foreboding themes that introduce the piece, then moving to accompany the magical notes of the elves, and concluding with a kind of maudlin quietude. Debussy’s La Mer (1905), widely considered a masterpiece today, again received a poor reception on its first performance. Inspired by the coast of the English Channel, the symphony took Debussy two years to write, and features some of his most well-remembered melodies.
The BSO will be performing under the baton of guest conductor Fabien Gabel, whose young career has earned him the status of a rising star, having conducted the London Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris.
Negotiating the exhaustively demanding scales of Chopin and the expressive vocabulary of Debussy and D’Indy will be another rising star, Louis Schwizgebel. The Swiss pianist has won the Geneva International Music Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York. The Juilliard School and Royal Academy of Music alumnus has performed with the Wiener Symphoniker, Oslo Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, and BBC Symphony Orchestras, among others. In 2014, Schwizgebel gave a recital of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the BBC Proms.
There are still tickets remaining for the performance, which promises to be a truly extraordinary display of international talent, ranging from £16 to £40. The concert begins at 7:30pm in the University Great Hall.
– by Thomas Gordon-Colebrooke