Celebration

Sunday, April 24, 2022 • 7:30 p.m.
Benaroya Hall (200 University St)

Harmonia Orchestra & Chorus
William White, conductor

Program

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)
D’un matin de printemps

William C. White (*1983)
The Muses [world premiere]

— intermission —

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Daphnis et Chloé [complete]

About the Concert

Join us for a bacchanalian season finale, as we revel in the warm Mediterranean breezes of Boulanger and Ravel, and present the world premiere of a major new work by our own music director, William White!


Health and Safety

All in-person concert attendees age 12 and older will be required to provide proof of vaccination at the door (those under 12 must provide proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of the performance start time). All patrons are required to wear approved masks at all times when inside Benaroya Hall.

Programs and artists are subject to change. Harmonia and Benaroya Hall reserve the right to alter policies throughout the season in accordance with updated health guidelines.


Program Notes

Lili Boulanger
D’un matin de printemps

Marie-Juliette Olga (“Lili”) Boulanger was born August 21, 1893, in Paris, and died at Mézy-sur-Seine on March 15, 1918. She began composing this work in 1917, completing the orchestral version in January 1918. The score calls for pairs of woodwinds (plus piccolo, English horn and bass clarinet), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, celesta and strings.

At age 24, Lili Boulanger was nearing the end of her tragically brief life while composing her final two orchestral works and the last music written in her own hand: D’un soir triste (“Of a sad evening”) and D’un matin de printemps (“Of a spring morning”). Boulanger conceived three versions of each work, with D’un matin being scored for violin (or flute) and piano, piano trio, and full orchestra.

“Her manuscripts for these works betray the increasing effects of her illness,” writes Boulanger biographer Léonie Rosenstiel. “The notes are minuscule. What reveal most the composer’s steadily worsening condition are the alternative versions within a single score, the insertion of ideas between staves.” D’un matin, which Rosenstiel calls “by turns mordant, animated, agitated and slightly ironic,” exhibits the influence of Claude Debussy, who would die a mere 10 days after Lili.

Maurice Ravel
Daphnis et Chloé

Joseph-Maurice Ravel was born in Ciboure, France, on March 7, 1875, and died in Paris on December 28, 1937. He began work on the ballet Daphnis et Chloé in 1909, completing the score in 1912. The first performance took place in Paris on June 8 of that year. In addition to wordless chorus, the score calls for 3 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, E clarinet, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drums, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, castanets, celesta, glockenspiel, 2 harps and strings.

The ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev is responsible for a number of works that today greet audiences far more often in the concert hall than in staged performances. Among these, of course, are the three great ballets of Igor Stravinsky — The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) — as well as the remarkable ballet that premiered between those last two, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Stravinsky himself called Daphnis “not only Ravel’s best work, but also one of the most beautiful products of all French music.”

Daphnis underwent a longer-than-intended gestation, in part due to the personalities and high standards of Ravel’s collaborators, who included choreographer Michel Fokine, designer Léon Bakst, dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina, and conductor Pierre Monteux. In a 1909 letter, Ravel wrote: “I’ve had a really insane week: preparation of a ballet libretto for the next Russian season. Almost every night, work until 3 a.m. What particularly complicates matters is that Fokine doesn’t know a word of French, and I only know how to swear in Russian. Even with interpreters around you can imagine how chaotic our meetings are.”

Ravel initially envisioned a “great choreographic symphony in three parts … a vast musical fresco,” completing a piano score by May 1910, but significant revisions followed, particularly to the General Dance that ends the ballet, forcing the premiere to be twice postponed. When Ravel delivered the final version of this scene, the corps de ballet objected to the irregular 5/4 meter, prompting Ravel to suggest they chant “Ser-gei-Dia-ghi-lev” to keep track of the pulse.

“The work is constructed symphonically,” Ravel explained, “out of a small number of themes, the development of which ensures the work’s homogeneity.” As the ballet opens, Daphnis and Chloe fall in love; in a central episode, pirates abduct Chloe, and the god Pan rescues her; the final scene reunites the young lovers and ends in celebration:

“No sound but the murmur of rivulets of dew trickling from the rocks. … Little by little, day breaks. Bird songs are heard. Herdsmen arrive searching for Daphnis and Chloe. They find Daphnis and awaken him. In anguish, he looks around for Chloe, who at last appears. …They throw themselves into each other’s arms. … Daphnis and Chloe mime the story of the nymph Syrinx, who was beloved of the god Pan. Chloe impersonates the young nymph wandering in the meadow. Daphnis appears as Pan and declares his love. The nymph repulses him. He grows more insistent. She disappears among the reeds. In despair, he plucks some reeds and shapes them into a flute and plays a melancholy tune. Chloe returns and dances to the melody of the flute. The dance grows more and more animated and, in a mad whirl, Chloe falls into Daphnis’ arms. … A group of young girls … enters. Daphnis and Chloe embrace tenderly. A group of young men invade the stage. Joyous tumult. General Dance.”

Ravel uses a wordless chorus throughout the ballet as yet another evocative timbre in his seemingly inexhaustible instrumental palette. Although he prepared orchestral cues to replace the choral passages when absolutely necessary in smaller theaters, the composer considered the chorus indispensable. When Diaghilev mounted a London production sans chorus, the composer wrote a scathing letter to The Times, calling the omission of the choral parts “disrespectful towards the London public as well as the composer.”

Jeff Eldridge