Programme Guide

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” states the beginning of the Old Testament Book of Genesis. But the Bible was not the force behind Darius Milhaud’s ballet music La Création du monde, premiered at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1923 with set and costumes by Fernand Léger, but rather African creation myths. And things are irresistibly jazzy in this musical creation of the French composer, who was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1892 and died in Geneva in 1974. Not without good reason: after all, jazz, which Milhaud was attracted to throughout his life and which inspired his composing, was invented by musicians whose African forefathers had been hauled off as slaves all over the world.

Igor Stravinsky wrote his Concerto in E-flat major, Dumbarton Oaks, 15 years after Milhaud’s ballet music; it was intended as a musical homage to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The occasion at the time for this witty composition, which plays with musical traditions and entrenched listening habits, was the 30th wedding anniversary of an American diplomat and patron of the arts.

For two decades, and with compositional wit and skilled craftsmanship, Richard Ayres has been exhaustively attempting to get to the bottom of the genre of the (solo) concerto as a musical and social phenomenon. The works he has termed “NONcertos” for solo instrument(s) and orchestra invite listeners and interpreters to embark on musical journeys of discovery of a special kind.

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