At the close of its 2016-17 season, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra demonstrates its versatility – in terms of both programming and performance – with a series of four diverse concerts spread throughout the month of June.

The first programme has a mostly Scandinavian theme, taking its title, Nordlys – Lumières du Nord, from the spectacular natural phenomenon known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis – ‘Nordlys’ being Norwegian for ‘northern light’. We now know that this almost magical display of colour has a scientific explanation, but the mythical interpretations are so much more poetic. Ancient Norse chroniclers thought they were the result of sun flares, great ocean fires or glacial fluorescence, and during the Viking Age, the strange flickering lights were said to be the armour of the Valkyrie warrior virgins.

This concert features two works by Scandinavian composers, opening with Edvard Grieg’s Concert Overture In Autumn, one of a collection of pieces which were described by The Guardian as having “the kind of easy fluency and melodic freshness that characterise so much of Grieg’s finest music”. It’s followed by the Symphony No 1 by Sibelius, regarded by some – such as LA Philharmonic annotator Herbert Glass – to have “a lot of Tchaikovsky and a touch of Borodin” about it.

Also on the programme is Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor, played by Latvian violinst Baiba Skride  whose European highlights this season have included debuts with the Philharmonia Orchestra London, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai and Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, as well as return appearances with the Vienna Symphony, and the Stockholm, Bergen, Copenhagen and Royal Liverpool philharmonic orchestras.

For this performance, the OPMC is led by one of Norway’s most respected conductors, Eivind Aadland, former Chief Conductor and Artistic Leader of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, whose recordings of the first two volumes of the Complete Symphonic Works by Grieg were described by Gramophone as “outstanding”, and the third volume as “exceptional”.

The concert takes place on Friday, 2nd June, in the Auditorium Rainier III. Tickets are available online.

OPMC fait son Show!

The following week, Kazuki Yamada, Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the OPMC, leads a performance entitled L’OPMC fait son Show! with soloist Martin Grubinger, the Austrian virtuoso described by critics as “a wizard of percussion”. With his wide ranging repertoire, Grubinger regularly guests with some of the world’s finest orchestras, either as a soloist or with his Percussive Planet Ensemble and pianists Ferhan and Ferzan Önder. Included in this concert are Edgar Varèse’s Tuning Up, and Friedrich Cerha’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, both of which will have their Monte-Carlo premieres.

The concert also features a selection by Leroy Anderson, Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No 45, the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Snr, and ends on a high with Leonard Bernstein’s Mambo from West Side Story.

Martin Grubinger appears with the OPMC on Friday, 9th June, at the Auditorium Rainier III. Visit Monte-Carlo Ticket for reservations.

Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra – “in a league of her own” according to NBC News – leads the concert entitled Soirée Latine the following week. Recently appointed the first female chief conductor and musical director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Ms de la Parra is one of the few females directing a major orchestra.

The guest artists in this performance are Brazilian guitar virtuoso and composer Yamandu Costa,  and percussionist Ernesto Fagundes. Yamandu Costa, who is also a composer, is regarded as one of the greatest exponents of the Brazilian guitar, and plays a mixture of styles on his seven-string guitar. Ernesto Fagundes plays the Bombo legüero, a traditional Argentinian drum.

The programme also features the Symphony No 2, Sinfonía India, by Carlos Chàvez, and one of Costa’s own compositions, the Concerto De Fronteira for Guitar – both works having their Monte-Carlo premieres. Also included are José Pablo Moncayo’s most famous symphonic work, Huapango, and Silvestre Revuelta’s La Noche de los Mayas – a suite from the score he wrote for the 1939 Mexican film of the same name.

Soirée Latine takes place at the Auditorium Rainier III on Friday, 16th June. For tickets, visit the Monte-Carlo Ticket website.

Concert Spirituel, the final performance in this series of June concerts, features two works by J S Bach – his Partita No 3 for Solo Violin in E minor BWV 1006, and his beautiful Goldberg Variations BWV 988.

The Partita No 3 was the last of Bach’s series of six sonatas and partitas which he wrote for solo violin, and – consisting of dance movements which are mostly of French origin – it’s described as probably the most cheerful of the three partitas. It’s performed in this concert by the Albanian-born French violinist Kristi Gjezi who was raised in Bordeaux, and studied at the Academy of Biarritz and at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris.

Bach originally wrote what we know as the Goldberg Variations for harpsichord, a work he published in 1741. Not much is known about further public performances of the work until it was played by pianist Rudolf Serkin in the late 1920s, and recorded in the early 1930s by Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. The brilliant American pianist Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations as a piece for the piano in 1955 and again in 1981, and it was this latter recording which inspired Russian violinist and conductor Dmitri Sitkovetsky to transcribe the work for string trio in 1984, and for string orchestra in 1992, with a further revision in 2009 – firmly linking his name with the Goldberg Variations which have since been recorded by some of the world’s finest musicians.

The performance in this Concert Spirituel is by the Goldberg Trio – violinist Liza Kerob, Federico Andres Hood on viola, and cellist Thierry Amadi.

The concert, which is admission-free, will be held in the Church of St Charles in Monaco on Sunday, 18th June.

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Lead image © Cole Hutson

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