In this Late Night concert, Sir Simon Rattle and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker invite you to a “French hour”, whereby one could give the concert the title “L’esprit français”: The evening commences with the Chansons madécasses by Maurice Ravel, who in 1925-26 set three poems by Evariste-Désiré de Parny to music and who considered the cycle one of his most important works. He wrote: “I believe the Chansons madécasses introduce a new element, a dramatic one – indeed, an erotic one […]. The songs form a sort of quartet in which the singing voice has the role of the leading instrument. First and foremost, simplicity is important.”
This is followed by the technically very challenging Trois Strophes sur le nom de Sacher for solo cello by Henri Dutilleux, which originated on Mstislav Rostropovich’s initiative on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Paul Sacher, the Swiss conductor and patron of the arts: “The connection between each strophe,” said the composer, “is made up of the six letters of the name SACHER [eS (=E flat), A, C, H (=B), E, Re (=D)].” The third piece is the Quatre Poèmes hindous, composed by Maurice Delage in 1912 during a trip to India; in it, the student of Ravel captured in shimmering colourful sound that romantic image of the Orient that was widespread among French poets and composers at the beginning of the 20th century.
The concert ends with Jacques Ibert’s Divertissement from the year 1930. His music is characterised by that typically French “lightness of mind ... without which life would be unbearable” (Francis Poulenc) – including defamiliarised quotations from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), a satirical Valse in a parodied Shostakovich style (through which a waltz version of the Mackie Messer ballad from Weill’s Dreigroschenoper, distorted as in a curved mirror, wanders like a ghost), can-can echoes, percussive sequences of piano chords and boisterous animated cartoon music in wild chase scene style with the sound of police whistles.