The end of this month will see a brief (six dates) tour of North America by the Orchestre National de France. This will be a “farewell” tour, because it will be the ensemble’s last with Music Director Daniele Gatti, who has held that position since 2008. Gatti will be leaving for Amsterdam, where he is slated to become the next Music Director of the Royal Concertgebouw.
Programming for this tour will follow the usual overture-concerto-symphony format; and almost all of the offerings will be both traditional and familiar. Only one piece, which will be discussed below, may constitute an exception. The symphony will be Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 64 (fifth) symphony in E minor. The “overture” will be Claude Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (prelude to the afternoon of a faun), the only work by a French composer to be performed during the tour. There will be two different concerto soloists. During the performance in Boston, French pianist Alexandre Tharaud will serve as soloist for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 488 concerto in A major.
For the remaining programs the soloist will be French violinist Julian Rachlin performing Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 77 (first) violin concerto in A minor. This was one of Shostakovich’s “desk drawer” compositions. He wrote and dedicated it to David Oistrakh in 1948. However, around the time it was completed, Joseph Stalin’s thuggish lackey Andrei Zhdanov was laying down the law about what music would be suitable for the reinforcement of Soviet values. Having suffered and endured denunciation for the composition of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Shostakovich concluded (rightly so) that it would be better to keep the manuscript for his violin concerto out of sight. As a result, the music did not receive its world premiere until October 9, 1955, a “safe” interval of time after Stalin’s death. Along with the Debussy selection, this will be the only twentieth-century composition to be performed.
This tour will visit six cities in North America. Five of them will be in the United States. The specifics for those five performances will be as follows:
January 24, 3 p.m., Boston, Massachusetts: Celebrity Series of Boston, Symphony Hall
January 28, 8 p.m., New York, New York: Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium
January 29, 8 p.m., Newark, New Jersey: New Jersey Performing Arts Center
January 30, 8 p.m., Greenvale, New York: Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, Concert Hall
January 31, 4 p.m., Washington, DC: Kennedy Center, Concert Hall