The LPO presents an evening of post-Romantic works
This weekend, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra returns from their brief Carnival recess with a program highlighting three celebrated post-Romantic works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On Saturday, February 21, guest conductor Teddy Abrams will lead the LPO to perform pieces by early French modernists Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, as well as a symphonic work by Russian master of the late Romantic style, Sergei Rachmaninov.
Joining the LPO for the performance is pianist Alessio Bax, who has recently emerged on the classical stage, playing alongside the likes of violin dynamo Joshua Bell and pianist Emanuel Ax. The Italian pianist is a 2009 recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, and already has several critically acclaimed recordings in his discography. For Saturday’s concert, he will be soloing on Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G major.”
The LPO is no stranger to the works of Ravel -- in the past, performing much of the French composer’s small but powerful output, including a remarkable rendition of Ravel’s other piano concerto, “For the Left Hand” in 2012, performed by veteran soloist Joaquin Achúcarro. The young Bax should have his hands full for Saturday’s performance, as the Gershwin-esque “Piano Concerto in G major” requires a great deal of virtuosity and skill from the pianist, especially in the elaborate second movement.
Preceding this on the program is Debussy’s arguably most famous symphonic work, “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun,’” a 10 minute tone poem based on the Stéphane Mallarmé poem of the same name. The work was considered groundbreaking when it premiered in Paris in 1894, replacing structured German Romanticism with more formless orchestration influenced by Eastern music. This work, among other compositions from that time, led critics to call Debussy’s music “impressionistic,” as it resembled the style of the French Impressionists, though Debussy did not care for the term.
The last gasp of Romanticism on the program comes from works of master Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, who completed his orchestral suite “Symphonic Dances” in 1940. The composer died only two years after its 1941 premiere in the U.S., and the work provides a fantastic introduction to Rachmaninov, showcasing his capacity to compose colorful, rhythmic works that are engaging and contemporary, even though they were written at a time when Romanticism was no longer in vogue.