San Diego Symphony at McCallum Theatre (Palm Desert)
Conductor Domingo Hindoyan is on the podium for the San Diego Symphony's annual visit to the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. Hinoyan conducts this dazzling concert of sumptuous folk colors and wild dancing beginning with the French composer Roussel’s delightful ballet based on the dramatic ancient Greek story of Ariadne. Fandango is the work of Arturo Márquez, one of the best-known Mexican composers of today. Commissioned by the distinguished California violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, Fandango is inspired by the traditional sounds of Mexican folk-music. Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka is a thrilling orchestral showpiece, stuffed with dances and songs borrowed from Russian folk music and beyond.
Albert Roussel: Suite No.2 from Bacchus et Ariane, Op.43
Albert Roussel was one of the leading French composers between the two World Wars, and a near contemporary of Ravel. But he didn’t start as a musician. Like Rimsky-Korsakov, he first trained as a sailor, and spent a number of years traveling around the globe as a midshipman on merchant boats before finally deciding to retrain as a musician. This youthful experience gave him a fascination with the "exoticism" of different and faraway cultures, and many of his early works reflect this, showing an interest in India and other parts of the Far East.
Later in his life, Roussel shifted to being more interested in Ancient Greece, and from this enthusiasm comes one of his most delightful works, his ballet on the old story, mentioned by Homer and featured on many Greek vases (and told in a famous opera by Richard Strauss), of how Ariadne, the daughter of the King of Crete, rescued prince Theseus from the Labyrinth where he was about to be destroyed by the Minotaur, and the two lovers fled from her father’s wrath.
Arriving on the island of Naxos, they are seen by the god Bacchus (aka Dionysus) who decides to steal Ariadne from Theseus and take her for his own. This is the story of Roussel’s (French-titled) ballet, known as Bacchus et Ariane.
Act 1 tells how Bacchus scares away Theseus and his fellow sailors, driving them into the sea, and captures Ariadne by throwing his cloak over her, putting her to sleep, then dancing with her in her sleep, before leaving her to slumber on a rock.
Act 2 – known in concert performance as Suite 2, though the suite is exactly the same as the ballet and not a note is cut – begins with Ariadne alone on her rock, waking from her stupor. Looking round and expecting to find Theseus and their companions, she realizes with horror that she has been abandoned, and climbs to the top of a cliff to hurl herself into the sea. But when she leaps, she is caught by Bacchus who was watching her all along from his hiding place. The two resume the dance he began when she was asleep. Awake now, she finds herself fascinated, and yields to him with a kiss (one of the most beautiful moments in the score).
At this point, Bacchus’s attendants – known in classical times as the Thiasus, and a terrific feature of ancient Roman celebrations – flood on to the stage, including the Maenads (wild and drunken women) and the Satyrs (priapic and intoxicated male creatures, half beast, half human). Ariadne, thrilled and by now ecstatic, begins a highly erotic solo dance which excites everyone, and is then joined by Bacchus for an earthy love duet, after which all the Thiasus join in for a wild orgiastic dance of consummation, the so-called Bacchanalia.
Think Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring meets Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloë!
Arturo Márquez: Fandango for Violin and Orchestra
Arturo Márquez is one of the best-known Mexican composers of today, known most of all for the way he has used the traditional sounds of different kinds of Mexican folk-music and incorporated them in works for orchestra.
The distinguished Californian violinist Anne Akiko Meyers finds Márquez’s music so striking that a couple of years ago she commissioned him to write her a violin concerto in this style. The result was Fandango for Violin and Orchestra, which Meyers premiered in 2021 at the Hollywood Bowl, with the LA Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. We are delighted she is now bringing this piece to San Diego!
Here is what the composer said about this piece before the first performance:
The Fandango is known worldwide as a popular Spanish dance and as one of the fundamental parts of flamenco. Since its appearance around the 18th century, various composers such as Scarlatti, Boccherini, Soler, Mozart and others have included a Fandango in their concert music. What is little known is that immediately upon its appearance in Spain, the Fandango moved to the Americas where it acquired a personality according to each land that adopted and cultivated it. Today, we can find it in countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico; in the latter it is specifically found in the state of Veracruz and in the Huasteca area…
The composer goes on to say that his own love of Fandango stems from the playing of his father, a distinguished mariachi musician.
Márquez’s Fandango for Violin and Orchestra is, he notes, "formally a concerto in three movements." The first is called Folia Tropical, and mixes Mexican elements with much older forms of Fandango from Portugal and Spain. The second movement, Plegaria (Prayer), joins the Spanish Fandango to the specific and distinctive music of the huapango mariachi. And the third movement, Fandanguito, is "a tribute to the famous Fandangito Huasteco. The music of this region is composed of violin, jarana huasteca (small rhythm guitar) and huapanguera (low guitar with 5 orders of strings) and of course accompanies the singing of their songs..."
Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka (1947 version)
One of the best loved orchestral scores of the early 20th century, Petrushka is the second of the three great ballets that the young Stravinsky wrote for the famous Russian Ballet seasons in Paris in the years immediately before World War 1, the others being The Firebird and The Rite of Spring.
Petrushka’s uproarious story of three characters in a puppet show at the annual Shrovetide Fair in St Petersburg (sometime in the 19th century) who come to life with tragical-comical consequences was an immediate hit at its first performance, not least because of the wonderful sets and costumes designed by Alexandre Benois; but also, and more importantly, because the main roles of the puppet Petrushka himself and his beloved Ballerina were performed by two of the greatest dancers of the modern age, Nijinsky and Karsavina.
The music, which Stravinsky said he originally imagined as a kind of mad piano concerto, is an extremely colorful orchestral showpiece, stuffed with other people’s dances and songs stolen from all over the place. Some of the tunes – which are all extremely catchy – are Russian, and familiar to most Russians even today, including an old popsong, "Vdol’ po Piterskoi" (Along the Petersburg Road), most frequently sung by people who are very drunk. Stravinsky also used several beautiful village songs which the composer found in a folk-song collection compiled by his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov.
Other tunes in Petrushka are not Russian at all. For the Dance of the Ballerina, Stravinsky used a couple of cheap waltzes by the 19th century Austrian composer Joseph Lanner, but added wrong notes to make the orchestra seem like an old-fashioned music-box which is broken down and out of tune. And for another scene he stole a popular and somewhat off-color French cabaret song of the period:
She had a wooden leg
And just so no one could see
She stuck rubber washers
On the end of it.
Stravinsky assumed this was a French folk song – indeed it sounds remarkably and suspiciously close to the American jazz standard "Sweet Georgia Brown!" – and used it for the delightful moment when an organ-grinder (complete with monkey assistant) appears at the fair, winding his mechanical instrument round and round. Unfortunately, Stravinsky didn’t realize that this tune – which is actually very old – had been copyrighted by a music-hall composer called Emile Spencer… and Spencer sued, resulting in him receiving a royalty payment during his lifetime every time Petrushka was performed!
– San Diego Symphony Creative Consultant GERARD MCBURNEY
- SDSO On The Road
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|Venue||McCallum Theatre (Palm Desert)|
Many modern conductors, especially young conductors from France, have championed this luscious score in recent times. Try this performance from the Brussels Philharmonic with Stéphane Denève.
Listen to Anne Akiko Meyers playing the "Fandanguito" in the world premiere of Arturo Márquez’s Fandango at the Hollywood Bowl in August 2021.
Stravinsky’s wonderful version of the "Petersburg Road" song he adapted/shanghaied for Petrushka's "Dance of the Coachman."