Seiji Ozawa conducts Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les sortilèges”
Noah Bendix-Balgley, Emily Fons
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 5 in A major, K. 219
Noah Bendix-Balgley violin
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for violin and orchestra in A minor, op. 28
Noah Bendix-Balgley violin
L’Enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells) Scenic Performance
Emily Fons mezzo-soprano, Sir Paul Gay bass baritone, Yvonne Naef contralto, Kiera Duffy soprano, Marie Lenormand mezzo-soprano, Mathias Vidal tenor, Elliot Madore baritone, Kanae Fujitani soprano, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Gijs Leenaars chorus master, David Kneuss stage direction
Seiji Ozawa confessed how deeply moved he was when he returned to the Berliner Philharmoniker in April 2016 after an absence of seven years owing to illness. “There is a very specific sound in this orchestra. And on this particular occasion, I really felt it.” Ozawa enjoys a special friendship with the Philharmoniker: in 1959, he came to Berlin as a young conductor and had the good fortune to attract the attention of Herbert von Karajan. Karajan became his mentor and invited him to make his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1966. From then until 2009, the Japanese conductor returned to Berlin for guest appearances, often twice per season – in spite of his many international obligations and his chief conductor positions with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Wiener Staatsoper.
This season, Ozawa conducts two works by French composers: the opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges written by Maurice Ravel to a libretto by Collette and which is staged in the Berlin Philharmonie by director Daniel Kneuss. In fantastic, magical images, the plot traces the development of a child, from his angry tantrums which damage his surroundings and consequently also himself, to a boy who is compassionate and self-aware. The composer set this story to music in the manner of an “American operetta” (Ravel). Like in a revue, he employs a wide range of musical styles one after another, from the neo-Baroque bicinium and bel canto arias to ragtime and music hall. Moreover, there is Ravel’s subtle, multifaceted orchestration which makes L'Enfant et les sortilèges one of his most impressive and most personal works.
In the first part of the concert Noah Bendix-Balgley is the focus of the musical action. Born in North Carolina, the musician has been concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker since 2014. He opens the concert – without the participation of Seiji Ozawa – as the soloist in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s A major Violin Concerto. The work is the last of the five violin concertos Mozart wrote between 1773 and 1775. It is characterised by the brilliance of the solo violin part, its original – often surprising – harmonies, and its folk music-based final theme. Ozawa then conducts Camille Saint-Saëns’ Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, an equally atmospheric and highly virtuoso piece for violin and orchestra which the composer wrote for the famous violinist Pablo Sarasate.
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