The Nice Philharmonic Orchestra presents an all-French concert on 18th and 19th June – with Lionel Bringuier leading the Orchestra in a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major – soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet – and Bizet’s Symphony in C.
Multi-award-winning artist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is acknowledged as one of the finest pianists of today. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has recorded more than 50 albums, and has a wide-ranging repertoire of solo, chamber and orchestral music – from Beethoven through Liszt, Grieg and Saint-Saëns to Khachaturian and Gershwin, and to Olivier Messiaen, Qigang Chen, James MacMillan, Richard Dubugnon and Aaron Zigman.
Thibaudet has always delighted in playing music away from the standard repertoire – from jazz to opera – including works which he himself has transcribed for the piano. He is known as one of the foremost interpreters of the music of George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel, and is the soloist in the forthcoming Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch. He can also be heard on the soundtracks of Pride and Prejudice, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Wakefield and the Oscar-winning film Atonement.
He is the first-ever Artist-in-Residence at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he is able to indulge his passion for education, fostering young musical talent through individual lessons, masterclasses and performances with students. In 2017, the school announced the Jean-Yves Thibaudet Scholarships, to provide aid for Music Academy students, whom Thibaudet will select for the merit-based awards, regardless of their choice of instrument.
In this concert, Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Ravel’s gorgeously jazzy Piano Concerto in G major, which rather underpins the composer’s own view of a concerto. “The music of a concerto,” he said, “should, in my opinion, be lighthearted and brilliant, and not aim at profundity or at dramatic effects.” This concerto was written between 1929 and 1931, following Ravel’s exposure to jazz during a visit to the United States, and at a time when the influence of jazz was prominent in Paris as well. The work was premiered on January 14th, 1932, at a concert of the Lamoreux Orchestra in Paris, with Marguerite Long as soloist.
The Symphony in C – George Bizet’s first – was written when the composer was just 17. It was thought to have been a student assignment whilst Bizet was studying at the Paris Conservatoire in 1855. It was neither published nor performed during Bizet’s lifetime and was only discovered in 1933 in the archives of the Conservatoire by musicologist Jean Chantavoine. Bizet’s biographer, Douglas Charles Parker, took the work to the conductor Felix Weingartner who recognised it as a remarkably mature and well-written symphony, and Weingartner conducted the premiere performance in Basel, Switzerland in 1933. A hugely popular and melodic work, it has remained a firm favourite of the classical repertoire ever since.
Lovers of ballet will know this symphony for the ballet, Symphony in C, which George Balanchine choreographed in for the School of American Ballet – which he founded – and which premiered the work in 1947. Balanchine first learned of the existence of the score from his great friend, Igor Stravinsky, and created one of the most beautiful four-movement, plotless ballets, ever. This work, too, has become a favourite in the repertoires of a number of ballet companies and is frequently performed.
Lionel Bringuier, Artiste Associé of the Nice Philharmonic, is regarded as a Ravel specialist, so these performances of the Concerto in G, in the hands of Thibaudet and Bringuier, should be absolute magic. Add to that the fact that Bringuier is on home territory in Nice – the city of his birth – and he should be right in his element.
Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, between 2014 and 2018, Bringuier has held previous posts at the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in Valladolid, the Orchestre de Bretagne and Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. He is highly regarded on the international stage – both as a symphonic and operatic conductor – having appeared with ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Philharmonia, and Bavarian Radio Symphony orchestras, as well as the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the Israel Philharmonic, the Tokyo Symphony and the Seoul and Malaysian philharmonics. According to The Washington Post, “…. in the subtlety of his musical imagery and the absolute mastery of his craft, Bringuier’s conducting brings to mind the great Pierre Monteux”.
During the coming season, Lionel Bringuier will lead performances with Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orchestre National de Lille and Houston Symphony Orchestra. An operatic highlight of this season will be Die Zauberflöte in Tokyo with the Nikikai Opera Foundation.
Passionate about education, outreach, and developing the careers of emerging conductors and soloists, in September 2020 he served on the jury of La Maestra, the first international conducting competition for women, and continues to work with local schools in Nice to introduce children to classical music and orchestral experiences.
Lionel Bringuier leads the Nice Philharmonic in performances of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G – soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet – and Bizet’s Symphony in C. The concerts will take place at Nice Opera on June 18th and 19th, and reservations may be made online.
Lead image courtesy Opéra de Nice Côte d’Azur/Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice