Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet Brings Dazzling Concerto to Seattle Symphony

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Photo by Andrew Eccles)

For Opening Night, Ludovic Morlot and Jean-Yves Thibaudet team up with the Seattle Symphony for a powerhouse program that thrills from colorful opening to rousing finale.

By Andrew Stiefel

Music Director Ludovic Morlot has chosen two Russian showpieces to celebrate the start of the Seattle Symphony’s 2018–2019 season at the Opening Night Concert & Gala on September 15: Modest Mussorgsky’s colorful Pictures at an Exhibition and Khachaturian’s virtuosic Piano Concerto.

Despite the program’s Russian roots, however, the night has a distinctly French influence: Morlot has invited fellow Frenchman and audience favorite, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, to join the orchestra for Khachaturian’s rarely performed Piano Concerto. And Mussorgsky’s opulent suite owes a debt to French composer Maurice Ravel.

Pictures at an Exhibition

One of his most celebrated works, Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874 to honor his close friend, Russian architect and painter Viktor Hartmann, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 39. The original piano suite depicts an exhibition of Hartmann’s watercolors with each of the ten atmospheric movements evoking one of Hartmann’s images.

Mussorgsky’s piano suite was not published until after the composer’s death in 1881, but once it was released, the music almost immediately inspired attempts to arrange the work for orchestra. It wasn’t until Ravel undertook a commission from Serge Koussevitzky to arrange Pictures for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1922, however, that a concert hall favorite was born.

From the trumpet solo in the opening of the Promenade to the dark woodwind tones evoking a chant in the catacombs, Ravel’s keen ear for orchestral color transformed Mussorgsky’s black-and-white piano miniatures into a series of multi-hued and powerful vignettes. The fifth portrait, Ballet of Chicks in their Shells, features some of Ravel’s most playful and charming music:

Khachaturian Piano Concerto

To conclude the concert, Morlot has invited Thibaudet to perform Khachaturian’s equally sparkling Piano Concerto. Written in 1936, Khachaturian’s concerto is heavily influenced by Armenian folk music, as is evident in the concerto’s rhythmic games and distinctive harmonies, never mind the sheer virtuosity of the music.

“I wanted Jean-Yves to come back, especially after being our artist in residence during the 2015–2016 season,” commented Morlot. “Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto is brilliant and thrilling, but it’s one that most people aren’t familiar with yet. There’s no better ambassador for this music then Jean-Yves.”

For those who wish to continue the evening, the concert will be followed by a gala celebrating Morlot’s final season and the 20th anniversary of Benaroya Hall. Gala packages can be reserved by calling 206.215.4753.

Experience the excitement and glamour of Opening Night with Music Director Ludovic Morlot and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on September 15!


Opening Night Concert & Gala Supporting Sponsors:
JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nordstrom

Opening Night Concert & Gala Event Sponsors:
Aetna, Boeing, Delta Airlines, Microsoft, Nesholm Family Foundation

Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s Opening Night Concert performance is generously supported by Jean-François and Catherine Heitz.

Posted on September 4, 2018