This month we shine our spotlight on the selection of symphony concerts taking place in Nice and Monte-Carlo in February.

The first of the two concerts by the Nice Philharmonic is an all-Russian affair, with music by Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, and featuring Russian pianist Olga Kern. of whom The Washington Post writes: “Call it star quality—music likes Kern the way the camera liked Garbo.” Born into a family with direct links to both Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, Olga Kern won First Prize at the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at the age of seventeen, and the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001 – the first woman to do so in over 30 years.

In her two appearances in Nice, she plays the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 1, with the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero – music director of the Nashville Symphony and principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra Miami Residency.

The concert also features the Shostakovich Symphony No 10 – said by some to be a depiction of the Stalin years. This is disputed by others, but in the opinion of violinist David Oistrakh, “Its strength lies in its enormous dramatic effect, its sharp conflicts, and the captivating beauty and propriety of its language.” (Michael Steinberg, former programme annotator for the San Francisco Symphony)

The performance takes place at the Nice Opera on 5th February at 20h00 and on 6th February at 16h00.

In its February Family Concert, the Nice Philharmonic – under music director Philippe Auguin – plays music by Nino Rota, Aaron Copland and Joaquin Rodrigo.

Rota – more famously known for his film scores – was both a composer and conductor, and wrote nine operas, the music for five ballets, including one for Maurice Béjart, and a number of orchestral works. This concert features his Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra, with Olivier Feral as soloist.

The Copland work is his Concerto for Clarinet featuring soloist Dominique Demersseman. Commissioned by clarinetist and bandleader, Benny Goodman, the Concerto reflects Copland’s interest in jazz and Latin jazz, and it was the piece to which Jerome Robbins set his ballet The Pied Piper which “helped it gain critical and public acclaim”.

This is followed by what is probably Rodrigo’s best known work – his Concierto de Aranjuez – inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez. Most often played on the guitar, the concerto is featured here in a transcription for harp, with Helvia Briggen – principal harpist of the Philharmonic – as soloist.

This performance, also at the Opéra de Nice, takes place on 14th February at 11h00. Reservations for all performances at the Opéra de Nice may be made online.

The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic has three concerts of note during February, the first conducted by Karl-Heinz Steffens and featuring young French pianist Lise de la Salle as guest soloist.

Ms de la Salle has performed on the stages of most the world’s major concert halls, under conductors such as Fabio Luisi, Sir Andrew Davis, Semyon Bychkov, Sir Neville Marriner and the late Sir Charles Mackerras, to name but a few. In this concert she plays the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No 2 – probably the most popular of all five of his concertos for piano.

This all-French programme (apart from the opening work – Ligeti’s Concert Românesc) also features the Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, derived from the incidental music which Gabriel Fauré wrote for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play of the same name. The concert closes with Debussy’s La mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestre (three symphonic sketches for orchestra) which was begun in 1903 in France and completed in 1905 when the composer was staying in the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne.

The performance takes place in the Auditorium Rainier III on Sunday 7th February at 18h00.

The following Saturday, British conductor Jeffrey Tate leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic in a concert in which American soprano Emily Magee is the guest artist. Ms Magee – best known for her roles in the operas of Richard Strauss – sings his gorgeous Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), regarded as his epitaph, in which “he contemplates eternity with perfect equanimity” (Classic FM).

The concert opens with contemporary British composer George Benjamin’s Ringed by the flat horizon – written for the Cambridge University Musical Society – and closes with Brahms’ Symphony No 1 – a lyrical work widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonies of the Austro-German tradition.

It takes place at the Auditorium Rainier III on Saturday 13th February, at 20h30.

The last concert by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic in February is directed by Aziz Shokhakimov who hails from Tashkent in Uzbekistan. He leads the Orchestra in a performance which features Russian pianist Andrei Korobeinikov as guest soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 2 – less often performed than his glorious First Piano Concerto, but nevertheless full of the beautiful melodies which we associate with the Russian master composer.

Between 1994 and 2006, Mr Korobeinikov won more than 20 awards in both national and international competitions, amongst which was first prize at the III Alexander Scriabin International piano competition in Moscow in 2004, and second prize, and Audience prize, at the II Sergei Rachmaninov International piano competition in Los Angeles in 2005.

The concert opens with a work entitled Khozorem Holiday Procession by Suleiman Yudakov, a 20th century Soviet Bukharian composer who wrote the melody for the Tajik SSR state anthem in 1944, which is also used in the modern-day national anthem of Tajikistan. The final work is another symphony by Brahms, his Symphony No 3, which Hans Richter – who conducted the premiere in 1883 – described as Brahms’ ‘Eroica’.

The concert takes place on February 28, in the Auditorium Rainier III at 18h30. Tickets for all performances by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic can be bought online.


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Lead image © Lukas Gojda


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