SleepB Intro

Severance Hall
December 5 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 

December 6 – Friday at 11:00 a.m.* 
December 6 – Friday at 8:00 p.m. 
December 7 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m. 


Romantic Stories & Origins

This week’s program presents three works from the 19th century — or just two for the Friday Morning concert.  All three have French connections, and each features memorable, colorfilled music.  One is from an opera, another from a ballet, while the third is a delightful piano concerto filled with grace, elegance, and good fun.

The concert opens with an overture to Hector Berlioz’s opera Béatrice and Bénédict.  Based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, this tenderhearted and charming opera was premiered in 1862.  The overture offers a spirited sense of action and drama, alternating between fiery expectancy and poignant music of bittersweet calm, then bursting to a solid conclusion.

Next, for the evening concerts, is Camille Saint-Saëns’s lively “Egyptian” Piano Concerto, from 1896.  The composer was one of the finest pianists of the 19th century — and a great champion of concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, helping convince the world anew what great works those were.  In his own Piano Concerto No. 5, Saint-Saëns added French interest and taste for the Middle East (the nickname attests to time the composer spent in North Africa, and to his use in the score of “exotic” elements borrowed from the music of countries there).  Guest pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet takes the solo role.

To end the concert, guest conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider has woven together his own suite of musical selections from Tchaikovsky’s great ballet score for Sleeping Beauty.  The ballet, premiered in 1890, was the brainchild of Marius Petipa, the acclaimed French-born choreographer whose innovations almost singlehandedly brought ballet forward to become a modern classical artform — and whose work in Russia gave that country an early and often unequaled ranking in balletic dancing, where it often remains today.  The music is equal parts drama, emotion, and rhythm — and full of pleasure with or without the age-old story of love’s awakening.

  Eric Sellen