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French pièces de résistance! Québec Symphony Orchestra Music Director Fabien Gabel makes his debut leading the SF Symphony in the alluring, heady ardor of Dukas La Péri, one of the great neglected masterpieces of the early 20th century. Then, wildly virtuosic pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet brings his customary joie de vivre to award-winning film composer Aaron Zigman’s piano concerto, Tango Manos, in its US premiere performances. Saint-Saëns’ cutting-edge, gloriously tuneful Symphony No. 3—the composer’s most famous instrumental work—closes this program with panache.
Inside Music: an informative talk by Laura Prichard with Aaron Zigman, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.
Off-The-Podium: a post-concert Q&A opportunity for the audience to ask questions with Gabel, Thibaudet, Zigman.
At a Glance
The last major entry in the minuscule catalogue of Paul Dukas (which extends to only twelve published pieces, including the popular The Sorcerer's Apprentice), La Péri was conceived as a one-scene ballet for the dancer Natacha Trouhanova, who danced in its premiere (along with male dancer Alfred Bekefi) in 1912. The scenario, drawn from Persian folklore, involves a prince’s quest for a magical flower, which he steals from a sleeping peri, a female fairy-like creature. She enraptures him with her dance and earns back the flower, with which she disappears. Dukas provided a score of bewitching effect in which sonic luxury mixes with a transparent texture. The piece failed to enter the ballet repertory, and concert performances of its music are also rare—unaccountably, given its rapturous elegance.—James M. Keller
Tango Manos, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra 2019 | 29 mins US PREMIERE
Aaron Zigman is the award-winning composer of more than sixty major Hollywood film scores, including The Notebook, John Q., and the Sex and the City films. Zigman and pianist Jean Yves-Thibaudet first worked together on Zigman’s score for the 2016 film Wakefield. The two had a natural affinity, and when Thibaudet was exploring the idea of commissioning a tango-influenced piano concerto, Zigman was at the top of his mind. For Zigman, the tango expresses feelings of "pain, beauty, and love, yet it is also a dance that must reflect these emotions. It's a very introspective art form."
SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3, Organ 1886 | 34 mins
It’s astonishing to think that Camille Saint-Saëns was born when Beethoven was still being mourned and died when Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was already being assimilated into the repertory. Some viewed him as a curious relic of antiquity, but his style continued to develop practically until the day he died. Saint-Saëns at his best—and here is his best—has vision and splendid sense of gesture; his braininess and elegant surefootedness are delightful. A note on the title: The prominent use of the organ has earned this piece the nickname Organ Symphony. It is actually misleading since French composers of that time composed a good many solo organ pieces that were titled “organ symphonies.” No matter, Saint-Saëns ensures that his featured instrument makes an impact. LISTEN FOR: The C major chord the organ releases in the finale dependably propels a fair percentage of the audience several inches off their seats.—From notes by James M. Keller and Michael Steinberg
Fabien Gabel's appearance is supported by the Louise M. Davies Guest Conductor Fund.
The US Premiere of Aaron Zigman's "Tangos Manos" Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is supported by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for New Works of Music.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet's appearance is supported by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Guest Artists.