Monday 27 January, 2020

Thrilling premiere of the Basque National Orchestra at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris

Thrilling premiere of the Basque National Orchestra at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris

Yesterday, the orchestra added a performance on one of the most emblematic stages of contemporary culture to its extensive international track record and did so with great confidence. The brilliant performance was rewarded with loud and sustained applause and the entire orchestra, under the baton of Robert Treviño, was congratulated for the “powerful sound and musical quality”.

Playing on a stage that has seen some of the most important premieres in the history of music, such as The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky, guarantees an emotional and memorable musical experience. And this was provided by the musicians of the Basque National Orchestra, who, led by their conductor Robert Treviño, took full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy performing in this theatre and were also able to demonstrate the outstanding musical quality of the orchestra at this moment in time.

They opened with Ravel, in a subtle reference to the composer’s birthplace of Ciboure, to interpret Rapsodie Espagnole and La Valse. The composition of the two works shows great imagination in the use of timbre and orchestral colour and they have an immediate appeal for the audience. In the second part, the orchestra tackled Mahler’s The Song of the Earth. This is a work composed during one of the most painful periods of the composer’s life and brings together six songs that celebrate the joys of life and reflect on loss and death. The verses were sung by two world-class Mahlerian performers: the mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston and the tenor Corby Welch. The incorporation into the programme of this difficult work for the debut in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is the result of Robert Treviño’s aim to show the capabilities and current form of the orchestra. Working together as a team they demonstrated the high musical level and interpretative maturity demanded by Mahler’s score.

The audience was very discriminating and respectful and did not begin their cheering until Treviño put down the baton. Only then was the silence and recollection created by the final movement of The Song of the Earth broken by the extended applause of those in attendance, surprised by the “powerful sound and musical quality of the orchestra”. Treviño took the opportunity to say thank you for the invitation – explaining that the debut of the orchestra in Paris coincides with the 80th anniversary of the first Basque Government in exile – and above all for being allowed the pleasure of showing this “sample of Basque culture and the fine musicians that it has”. The repetition of the last movement of Rapsodie Espagnole by Ravel rounded off an already outstanding night in the history of the Basque National Orchestra.

 

 

Institutional presence and Basque community

 

The Basque National Orchestra always acts as a cultural ambassador and extends and reinforces the visibility of Basque culture abroad. Reference was made to this by the Deputy Minister of Culture of the Basque Government, Joxean Muñoz, who, together with the general manager of the orchestra, Oriol Roch, received the ambassador of Spain in Paris, Fernando Carderera, in the theatre. The ambassador, a self-confessed music lover, only had words of praise for the orchestra, which he described as “virtuoso and powerful”. In addition to other institutional representatives of the OECD and UNESCO, there was the opportunity to greet Xabier Bindel Leizaola, grandson of Jesus Maria Leizaola, Lehendakari of the Basque Government in exile between 1960 and 1978. Members of the Euskal Etxea in Paris were also in the audience.

After this premiere, the Basque ensemble will pass the baton to orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Andris Nelsons and the Philharmonia Orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen. And their latest international challenge will take them to the city of Istanbul, another important cultural epicentre where they will arrive on 9 March.

 

Concert programme:

Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 25 January, 20:00

Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano
Corby Welch, tenor
Basque National Orchestra
Robert Treviño,
conductor

Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole [16 min] / La Valse [12 min]
Gustav Mahler: The Song of the Earth [63 min]

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