Francophones join forces on Ravel – JH News & Guide

Hold onto your piano bench: Piano superhero Marc-André Hamelin is in the area to perform this weekend with the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Hamelin will perform Ravel’s “Concerto for Left Hand” with guest conductor Stéphane Denève leading the Festival Orchestra on Friday and Saturday evening.

Also on the program are Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s elegiac “blue cathedral” and Sergei Prokofiev’s modernist take on “Romeo and Juliet.”

Hamelin has been the subject of such superlative praise — “preternatural clarity and control” (The New York Times), “monstrously brilliant technique” (The New Yorker), “a pianist who really does turn whatever he touches to gold” (Gramophone) — it seems a bit like a visit from royalty to have him appear at the Grand Teton festival.

…Ravel was already well established when he composed his one-handed concerto, between 1929 and 1930, having written many of his best-known works, such as his “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” earning a reputation for a light and ethereal touch. The D minor concerto, however, was something else. Written with World War I a still-recent memory, it was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in the war. Turbulent but ultimately triumphant, the piece is jaw-dropping for technical virtuosity that has stymied many a two-handed keyboardist.

…Higdon’s “blue cathedral” will open the program. Written in 1999 as a commission to honor the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute for Music, it also recalls the composer’s younger brother who had died not long before. Over its 11 minutes, the work swells from quiet, gentle sparks of ideas to a crescendo that remains tender before subsiding again.

And Prokofiev’s nine-movement Suite for “Romeo and Juliet” will conclude the concert. Ominous, occasionally strident, the suite nevertheless also captures the youthfulness and romance of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

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Grand Teton Music Festival | Jackson Hole, WY