Showing posts with label Louise Farrenc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louise Farrenc. Show all posts

Monday, December 16, 2019

French revelation



I reviewed the Aurora Orchestra's splendiferous performance of Louise Farrenc's Symphony No. 3 the other day at Kings Place. WTH is this piece not performed 30 times a year? It's simply wonderful - and the orchestra under Duncan Ward gave it a beautifully characterised performance. Plus a gorgeous new piece for cello and strings by Charlotte Bray and Angela Hewitt in a fine, glittering Mozart concerto, on a piano that took up most of the platform... Here's my review for The Arts Desk.

Taster:

Why does music suddenly disappear? It is all the more heartening when a work as excellent and enjoyable as Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3 takes wing once more, but you do have to wonder what they were thinking in mid 19th-century Paris to allow such a terrific orchestral piece to sink and vanish. The symphony formed the second half of the Aurora Orchestra’s latest concert in its Pioneers series for Kings Place's "Venus Unwrapped" series, and very welcome it was. 

Farrenc (1804-1875) was a highly successful and well-regarded musician in her day, known as a brilliant pianist and the only female professor at the Paris Conservatoire. Her third symphony, premiered in 1849, bristles with post-Beethovenian energy; the idiom is a little like Weber, but with a voice all its own, deftly written with never a note too many, plus a satisfying feel for structure and strong conclusions. The slow movement contains some enchanting ambiguity between major and minor, the scherzo fizzes and pounds and the finale is bright with contrapuntal virtuosity. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Next to Beethoven, Louise Farrenc

There's a plethora of terrific concerts on 8 March, International Women's Day. Actually we're splendidly spoilt for choice this year! In the Barbican's offering, Laurence Equilbey conducts her own Insula Orchestra - resident at La Seine Musicale in Paris - in the UK premiere of the Symphony No.3 by Louise Farrenc (1804-1875), with Beethoven's Triple Concerto in the first half starring Natalie Clein (cello), Alice Sara Ott (piano) and Alexandra Conunova (violin). I asked Laurence why she's putting Farrenc side by side with Beethoven, and plenty more besides...

Equilbey in action

Your London concert is on International Women’s Day. This annual event has gained prominence at an extraordinary speed over the past few years. Why do you think it’s important to mark it?

There is definitely a greater appetite from audiences to hear music from female composers of the past than there has been previously, and when is a greater opportunity to celebrate this than on International Women’s Day! However International Women’s Day is not the only day that Insula orchestra will be celebrating female composers. In upcoming programmes we will be performing Fanny Mendelssohn’s Hero et Leander, and Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto, and I would love to tackle the work of even more rarely performed female composers, like Clemence de Grandval.

 For those who haven’t yet heard of Louise Farrenc, please tell us a bit more about her. What appeals to you in her music? Why should we all come along and discover her?

I love to always keep an ear out for rare and undervalued works. I discovered the work of Louise Farrenc a few years ago, but I wanted to wait for the perfect moment to perform her Symphony no.3, as it is her finest work. This symphony has been immaculately constructed, and uses fascinating rhythmic motifs, very powerful orchestration, and has beautiful melodic themes which I think are evocative of Mendelssohn (Felix!). It definitely deserves to be a mainstay in the performance canon.

The concert has three female soloists in the Beethoven Triple Concerto and a symphony by Louise Farrenc. How did you decide on the pieces and the performers? 

Symphony no.3 was actually premiered alongside Beethoven’s 5th, so I wanted to be paired with Beethoven again. I think these works not only enhance each other, but help to complete a broader understanding of 19th century musical life in Paris. Farrenc and Beethoven are also linked in other ways, as they shared a teacher, Antoine Reicha.

Laurence Equilbey at La Seine Musicale
Photo: Julien Benhamou
It was not a case of gender with the three female soloists – Alexandra Conunova, Natalie Clein and Alice Sara Ott. All three are simply superb musicians who are at the top of their game.

 How and why did you start your own orchestra? What is its mission statement, and why?

Insula orchestra is resident at La Seine Musicale, and we performed the inaguaral concert there in 2017. The venue also provided the inspiration for the name ‘Insula’, the latin for ‘island’, as La Seine Musicale is located on Ile Seguin, just a few miles downstream from Paris. The Insula cortex is also the part of the brain linked to emotion.

Starting a new orchestra like Insula orchestra and having a fantastic new venue like La Seine Musicale gives us the perfect opportunity to approach classical music from a fresh perspective. We have the freedom to take risks, and our ethos is to preserve a place of artistic experimentation, innovation and openness. We have plans to incorporate visual arts, theatre, and technology in many exciting ways.

What are your views generally on the issues facing women in the music business, especially conductors and composers? Have we put up with sexism and discouragement on the grounds of gender for too long? Do you think the situation is improving now?

There are definitely prejudices against women in the music business that have existed for a long time, but we should celebrate that now we have some opportunities to finally enjoy the work of long neglected female composers, like Louise Farrenc. One must not forget however that there are many forgotten composers who were neglected due to racial bias or their social situation, not just due to their gender.

For performers, conductors, soloists, stage designers, the path is a hard one, and there is a need to take some specific measures for more inclusive programme ideas.

What further measures can be taken to aid this process? 

We can make amends to these women, and in turn benefit female composers of the future, by first and foremost exploring their music. For performers, the French government has proposed quota objectives to fill. I also read recently that UK festivals are taking actions to achieve greater gender equality on the stage. It is very important that culture opens itself up to women.

The new concert hall in Paris on the Seine is the second important music venue to open in the French capital in the past few years, the other obviously being the Philharmonie. But London is still struggling to build its first since the 1980s. Why do we need new, proper concert halls in this day and age? 

 At La Seine Musicale we have been very lucky to have the support and commitment of our local government, Departement des Hauts de Seine. In that area of Paris there was previously no big concert hall which could be used for staged projects, with all the modern technical equipment. La Seine Musicale was an unprecedented investment in the musical sector, so we can only hope that similar opportunities will arise in London. Having said this, the Barbican’s willingness to welcome Insula orchestra and our ethos is hugely encouraging.