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Picture Perfect

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Portsmouth GuildhallPortsmouth, South-East, PO1 2AB, United Kingdom
On Thursday 8 March 2018 at 19:30

Rapsodie espagnole, Ravel’s first published orchestral work, is Spanish to the core, subtly and brilliantly evoking the sights, sounds and physical sensations of this “perfumed land that the sun caresses.” This is music at once coolly intellectual and passionately sensuous, which justifies its composer’s reputation as a musical Impressionist. The tension built up through the restraint of the first three movements is released with fervent abandon in the finale – Ravel’s pulsating rhythms combining with full-bodied instrumentation conjures up the brilliance, commotion and joyous confusion of a Spanish festival, offering the composer splendid opportunities for dazzling orchestral effects and colours.. Ravel's admirers had long been waiting for him to compose a piano concerto. When he finally took up the form, in his mid-fifties, he worked on two at once. They were among the last compositions he ever completed.

The G Major Concerto sparkles with energy and a sense of spontaneity, but it is far from casual in its sourcing and craftsmanship, drawing upon Basque and Spanish melodies, jazz riffs, the influences of Mozart and Saint-Saëns, and even his childhood fascination with mechanical toys. Thirty years after Debussy wrote his Tarantelle styrienne for piano, Ravel created an orchestral version of the sprightly work, publishing it under the title Danse. Working like an orchestral painter he brings additional intensity and exuberance to the original harmonies and textures of light and shade. Pictures at an Exhibition is, in part, Mussorgsky's musical homage to a talented friend, inspired by a visit to a posthumous exhibition. One of Mussorgsky's great gifts was the ability to capture the essence of a character, mood, or scene in brief, striking musical imagery. His imagination goes far beyond the immediate visual stimulus of the paintings, which are brought into even more vivid detail through Ravel’s orchestral magic.

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