Voila! Virtuoso Pianist Louie Lortie Reveals the ‘Magic of Chopin’ During French-Infused Concert

Concert also Taps the Brilliance of Mozart, Debussy and Ravel!

ChopinViva la France! For Pacific Symphony’s upcoming concert, two of the brightest French-Canadian classical music stars—celebrated pianist Louis Lortie and acclaimed guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni—perform a program inspired by the spirit of France with music by Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel. The program, glittering with a French aesthetic, begins with Mozart’s Symphony No. 31, “Paris,” which he wrote specifically to please and impress Parisian audiences. Chopin called “The City of Lights” home for most of his adult life, and his “Piano Concerto No. 2” dazzles like Paris after dusk when performed by the remarkable Lortie. Debussy and Ravel are simply two of France’s greatest composers. Debussy’s “Ibéria” is a departure, venturing into Spain, while Ravel’s seductive “La Valse” rounds out the Symphony’s program.

chopinBBC Music Magazine commented on Lortie’s gifts as an interpreter of Chopin by saying: “Lortie is a model Chopinist: eloquent but never sentimental, elegant, harmonically luminous, structurally immaculate—and surprising.” In 1984, Lortie was the first-prize winner in the Busoni Competition and also a prizewinner in the Leeds Competition.

The concert “The Magic of Chopin” takes place Thursday through Saturday, April 27-29, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$125 (Box Circle, $195). For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or CLICK HERE.

Frédéric Chopin’s name is a little deceiving. Born Fryderyk Chopin, he was actually a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. So how can a concert featuring a concerto by a Polish nationalist and a symphony by an Austrian legend (Mozart) be considered “all-French”? It can if the symphony is Mozart’s “Paris” symphony and the concerto is by Chopin, who considered Poland the fatherland, but Paris his home—presented alongside two featured French works.

Born in 1810, Chopin was quickly labeled a prodigy with a talent for music composition. At just 7, his teacher notated one of his improvisations and had it published; soon he was writing music himself. At the young age of 20, Chopin unveiled his remarkably beautiful Piano Concerto in F minor, now known as No. 2. Its success in Warsaw made the composer a national hero in Poland. (His concerto that is now known as No. 1, in E minor, was actually composed later, though in the same year as No. 2.) At age 21, Chopin arrived in Paris with Polish soil in his possession and never left. All of the treasured elements of a more mature artist are to be found in abundance in his Concerto No. 2: sumptuous melodies, enchanting harmonies and unforgettable resonance.

ChopinMozart, who was also a child prodigy, traveled to Paris at age 22 with his ill mother. A performance there of his music by an Italian composer upset him so greatly he used the word “sabotage” to describe what had been done to it. To assuage his feelings, the director of the concert asked Mozart to write a new symphony. It was an opportunity for the young composer to really make his mark. Following the death of his mother the next year, Mozart returned to Salzburg. However, his time in Paris resulted in one magnificent triumph: the Symphony No. 31 in D Major. The “Paris” Symphony took advantage of the large orchestra Mozart had at his disposal. The opening movement of the “Paris” Symphony was one of the most thrilling sounds Mozart ever made with an orchestra.

In the late 19th century, Claude Debussy, along with Maurice Ravel, was a leading exponent of the new musical language, French Impressionism. Debussy gave the title “Images” to three of his compositions: two sets of solo piano pieces (1905 and 1908), and the orchestral triptych of which “Ibéria” is the central work. A triptych within the larger triptych of “Images,” “Ibéria,” with its evocations of the Spanish life, consists of: “Through Streets and Lanes,” “The Fragrances of the Night” and “Morning of a Holiday.” Debussy wrote: “Without false pride, I feel that these three pieces hold together well, and that they will find their place in the literature of the piano…to the left of Schumann or to the right of Chopin..."

The waltz theme in Ravel’s “La Valse” is irresistible, but tinged with decadence, which grows ever larger. The music draws the audience in with its seductive splendor, yet somehow it also feels threatening. Ravel had described this dangerous beauty as “a sort of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, mingled with, in my mind, the impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling.” In his preface to the score, he noted: “Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees…an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth… Set in an imperial court, about 1855.”