On 13 November, 2016, the red velvet curtain of the Opéra de Paris rose after a minute's silence dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan who, had attended their last concert exactly one year ago.
It is something that American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato must have been acutely aware of when she put together this programme of songs (by Haydn, Strauss, Granados and Jake Heggie) exploring the theme of loss and abandonment, with Philippe Jordan, music director of the Opéra de Paris, in a rare stint at the piano and out of the orchestra pit.
The concert that began with a minute's silence but ended, in true Joyce style, with a song for hope (Strauss' Morgen) and a song of joy (Rossini's La Danza).
The first reviews from the French music press hailed the recital a triumph and an "emotional event" (ForumOpera).
“From the first bars of Haydn’s cantata Arianna à Naxos, the mezzo-soprano confirms that her voice is in dazzling shape. How could anyone fail to fall under the spell of her fruity timbre – seamless across her entire vocal range – which her dynamic control allows her to vary in colour and intensity; by her brazen high notes and her seemingly endless breath?”
Joyce DiDonato's new album In War & Peace is out now.
Warner Classics and Erato artists were out in full force at the 2016 Victoires de la Musique Classique - the French classical GRAMMYs.
The labels had more artists nominated than any other recording company, with several giving live performances throughout last night's glittering ceremony broadcast to a televised and radio audience of millions on France2 and France Classique.
Bertrand Chamayou took the coveted final prize of Solo Instrumentalist of the Year. "I'm moved to accept this award in my hometown," he said. "I'd like to thank all the Toulousains who supported me from the beginning...I've just released a new album of Ravel that was recorded here in Toulouse."
Chamayou also played a movement of the Liszt Piano Concerto live during the ceremony, with conductor Tugan Sokhiev and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, in a performance dedicated to the late French composer-conductor Pierre Boulez.
He is now a three-time Victoires de la Musique Classique laureate, having previously won 'Revelation of the Year, Solo Instrumentalist' in 2006, and 'Recording of the Year' in 2012.
The recording project grew from performances of a ballet production of Daphnis et Chloé at Paris’ Opéra Bastille in Spring 2014: Philippe Jordan, Music Director of the Paris Opéra, was conducting a complete ballet for the first time and the choreographer, Benjamin Millepied – known to a wide audience for his work on the Oscar-winning film Black Swan, starring his wife, Natalie Portman – was undertaking his first major project for the Opéra before assuming his new role as its Director of Dance in Autumn 2014.
Also nominated in this category was the Mozart album The Weber Sisters (Sabine Devieilhe, Pygmalion orchestra and conductor Raphaël Pichon).
Seventeen-year-old trumpet virtuoso Lucienne Renaudin Vary was named Solo Instrumental Revelation of the year. On accepting this award for France’s brightest rising stars, she announced a forthcoming debut album in the planning stages with Warner Classics, a label with a roster of revered trumpet players past and present, notably Maurice André and Alison Balsom.
"I'm so happy to have the opportunity to record a future album based on vocal repertoire, opera and song, and I hope to explore the link between classical trumpet and jazz," she said in a statement. Lucienne also performed the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major as part of the ceremony.
In this category for promising young artists, all three nominees were linked to Warner Classics and Erato. Violinist Camille Berthollet, the winner of the Prodiges competition whose debut album of the same name achieved Gold status in France just weeks after its release, gave a moving live performance of the theme from Schindler's List. Violist Adrien Boisseau, meanwhile, joined the award-winning Ebène Quartet last year and releases his first album as part of the group in April.
Remarkably, the ages of musicians performing in the Victoires de la Musique this year ranged from 17 to 92, with veteran pianist and founder of the Beaux Arts Trio Menahem Pressler receiving a Victoire d'Honneur for Life Achievement - a career spanning more than 70 years. As precise and lively as ever, he accepted the accolade with a live performance of Chopin's A-minor Mazurka Op.17 No.4.
Pressler's 90th birthday celebrations in Paris in 2014 were captured in a live album featuring his chosen chamber music partners the Ebène Quartet. The year 2016 began auspiciously for this living legend with his long-overdue debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at the annual New Year's Eve Concert, now available on DVD from EuroArts.
Warner Classics and Erato congratulate all the award-winners and nominees this year at France's biggest classical music event, the Victoires de la Musique Classique.
Erato's new recording of Daphnis et Chloé, Ravel’s most sumptuous score, marks a number of firsts as it evokes the heady days of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris in the early years of the 20th century.
The recording was made under studio conditions at the Opéra Bastille, several months after the run of live performances in May and June 2014. It grew from performances of the classically-inspired ballet at Paris’ Opéra Bastille in Spring 2014: Philippe Jordan, Music Director of the Paris Opéra was conducting a complete ballet for the first time and the choreographer, Benjamin Millepied was undertaking his first major project for the Opéra before assuming his new role as its Director of Dance in Autumn 2014.
In an interview with the magazine Paris Match, Philippe Jordan described the impact of collaborating with dancers: “When I work on a symphony, it’s different. Here, the sense of phrasing, the physicality that dancers bring, make it something else.” He also pointed out that he has a certain heritage when it comes to ballet: “My mother was a dancer, and my father [the conductor Armin Jordan] worked a lot with ballet companies in the early stages of his career. Something must have been passed down to me!”
The recording also includes the Ravel ballet that Les Ballets Russes rejected originally, but has since been recognised as one of the composer's most masterful scores: La Valse. "As with Daphnis et Chloé Ravel created in La Valse a genuine symphonic poem and initially intended to give it the title Wien," explains Jordan. "Written after 1918, it is haunted by the ghost of vanished empire, a kind of wonderful yet fragile dream in which we catch glimpses of carefree innocence through the mists of direst calamity."
Daphnis et Chloé is available from May 4.
Philippe Jordan conducts the Orchestra of the Paris Opera in instrumental music from all four music dramas in the cycle, including, of course, the thrilling Ride of the Valkyries and the magisterial Death of Siegfried; the programme reaches a climax with the final scene of the entire work, Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Götterdämmerung, sung by the world’s reigning dramatic soprano, Nina Stemme.
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In his magnificent Requiem, first heard in Milan in1874, Verdi brought all his dramatic genius to a sacred text. The chorus and orchestra of the Paris Opéra, under their music director Philippe Jordan, marked the composer’s bicentenary in 2013 with two performances of the work. Joining them was an impressive quartet of soloists: soprano Kristin Lewis, mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana, tenor Piotr Beczala and bass Ildar Abdrazakov.
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