Paris Festival: The City of Light

I was unable to attend the concerts last weekend, but a friend of mine, French horn player with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra was gracious enough to write her thoughts on the concert…

By Kristen Miller

The set of April 27-29 concerts given by the Pittsburgh Symphony was the much-anticipated musical opening to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Paris Festival. I attended Saturday’s concert and was drawn in to the aura of Paris while hearing a wonderful sampling of music.
The concert began with the delightful La Boutique Fantasque (“The Fantastic Toy Shop”), a ballet by Ottorino Respighi that was inspired by the work of Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (who experienced a great burst of creative activity in Paris). The ballet tells the story of dancing dolls that outwit customers in the toy shop to prevent the sale of two can-can dancing dolls. The music is not only aurally descriptive, but colorful as it depicts the antics of the dolls bustling around the shop. The virtuosity of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s woodwind section was evident as they figuratively “became” the dolls. It was an enchanting performance that transported the audience into another time and place.
Next on the program was Ibéria by Claude Debussy; he was a composer who played an important role in developing French music and Impressionism. Ibéria is a triptych (a piece in three movements) that is the second part of a larger suite entitled Images. The piece was conceived after Debussy attended a bullfight in Spain and he was compelled to capture the character of the country. The portrayal of “Through the Streets and Lanes,” “The Fragrances of the Night,” and “Morning of a Feast Day,” was extremely reminiscent of Spanish culture and flair while still being truthful to Debussy’s style. During this piece, I experienced the music with closed eyes and was able to feel the personality of each movement in such a vivid manner that I felt like I was in Spain with Debussy.
To finish off the concert, the Pittsburgh Symphony played Manuel De Falla’s Suites Nos. 1 and 2 from The Three-Cornered Hat. The Three-Cornered Hat is also a ballet, but it is very Spanish in sound. It tells the story of a miller and his wife as they try to fend off the advances of a devious Corregidor (mayor). A series of lively dances characterize these pieces and again, the Symphony’s performance propelled listeners into another reality. My favorite dance was The Miller’s Dance from the Suite No. 2- the solos in this movement played by William Caballero (French horn) and Harold Smoliar (English horn) were exquisite.

Overall, this series of concerts certainly leaves high expectations for the concerts to come. I am excited to see what the coming weeks of the Paris Festival hold! Au Revoir!

1 thought on “Paris Festival: The City of Light”

  • Nice description, I didn’t even read the program, so it’s nice to know what these pieces were supposed to be about. Which reminds me, I forgot to blog about the second half of the program.

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