Richard Strauss: Don Juan
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
Claude Debussy: Pelléas and Mélisande Suit
Richard Wagner: Prelude and Love Death from Tristan and Isolde
Contemporaries, adorers and the adored – all in one evening. Richard Strauss considered Wagner a role model, to whom he felt inferior despite his resounding successess. Don Juan, stirring and infused with eroticism, which he conducted in Budapest in 1908, made him a star at 25. In his symphonic poem, he demonstrates stunning courage in this treatment of orchestral sounds, a feat musicians and audiences are grateful for to this day.
After Ravel’s shining piano concerto’s energetic, jazzy first movement, a journey inward begins, only for the piece once again to be dominated by pulsating rhythms of extroverted jazz music. The soloist of the concert is the internationally acclaimed French pianist Bertrand Chamayou. Chamayou had earlier recorded a double album of Ravel’s complete works for solo piano, characterised by the British Gramophone magazine as “revelatory performances of breathtaking beauty”.
Debussy also adored Wagner but tried to shrug off his influence. His only complete opera, Pelléas and Mélisande, remains fresh to this day. The plot – working without time, expressed emotions and actions – balances reality and dream.
The concert ends with a haunting, beautiful melody from Tristan and Isolde. The melancholic and ecstatic Prelude and Love Death immediately sweeps listeners away and “acts like a narcotic”.