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Articles & Interviews

These Symphony-commissioned feature articles offer insights into the music you'll hear in the concert hall. We hope you'll find them provocative and entertaining.

May 18, 2015

Charles Dutoit: The Rhythms and Romance of Spain

The setting is the early 1900’s in the Parisian salon of Les Apaches, or the “hooligans”. Composers Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, and Igor Stravinsky share cigars, companionship and a wholly new artistic aesthetic with an all-male band of outsider poets, artists, and musicians. They bring scandalous elements of exoticism to their work, from their own native sources of folk music and mystical Oriental harmonies. Falla and Ravel (born in the Basque village of Ciboure, near the Spanish border) imbue their music with a particularly Spanish flavor.

Guest conductor Charles Dutoit manifests this flair in his second week of concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, June 4-6. Since his SFS debut in 1981, Dutoit, a famed interpreter of French music, has frequently delighted SFS audiences with the music of Ravel and others. Young and dynamic Spanish pianist Javier Perianes is featured in his SFS debut in Falla’s Night in the Gardens of Spain, dedicated in 1915 to the ringleader of Les Apaches, pianist Ricardo Viñes.

It is the SFS premiere of Ravel’s comic one-act opera L’Heure espagnole (The Spanish Hour) with its cast of talented vocalists that takes center stage with a concert version, sung in French with English supertitles. Its slapstick plot depicts a day in the life of Concepción, to be sung by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard,  the bored, unfaithful wife of a clockmaker in 18th –century Spain, who hides her paramours in an array of grandfather clocks. Of performing the piece recently in Rome with Dutoit, baritone Jean-Luc Ballestra shared, It's not only about the singing which is really demanding, but it's full of humor and poetry … In Rome , the audience was laughing so much and we could feel a real connection.” These concerts provide a rare chance to hear this delightful work. 

If You Go:

Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony in The Rhythms and Romance of Spain featuring Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain with pianist Javier Perianes, and Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole with vocalists Isabel Leonard, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, John Mark Ainsley, Jean-Luc Ballestra, David Wilson-Johnson. June 4-6 at 8 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall. An open rehearsal takes place June 4 at 10 a.m. at Davies Symphony Hall. (415) 864-6000