a scintillating Ravel Piano Concerto in G at his Boston Pops debut…a thoroughly engaging, mostly French recital in Orange County (CA)…and an exuberant opening evening concert at the Hollywood Bowl
“Boston University Night” in the Spring of 2003 marked Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s debut with the Boston Pops. Mr. Thibaudet, of course, is no stranger to Symphony Hall. He has been here more than once before, dazzling Boston’s serious music lovers with his now famed virtuosic performances. But a Boston Pops concert is a more social event and attracts a slightly different audience: easy-listening concert-goers who enjoy having their music served up with food and drink.
How would serious concert fare such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G play to such an audience, we wondered. If the Boston U Night concert was a good indicator, very well indeed! The party-like atmosphere (perfect for the evening’s other musical entrees – Offenbach’s Overture to “Orpheus in the Underworld,” Gould’s American Symphonette No. 2, music from the film “Cinema Paradiso,” and hits from the Broadway musicals “42nd Street” and “Chicago”) did not detract from one’s enjoyment of Ravel’s music, clearly because Thibaudet was totally uncompromising in his artistry.
Wearing an unconventionally stylish black silk jacket (not leather as many thought), he delivered – with his customary panache. His nimble fingers raced across the keyboard, unfolding a brilliant panoply of sound and color – from the jazzy Gershwinesque first movement (at times pointillistic and dream-like, and finally rhapsodic), through the nostalgic melody of the slow and lengthy second movement, to the almost unrestrained rapidity of the short third movement.
It was a masterpiece of Ravellian jazz and lyricism exquisitely played by soloist and orchestra under the very able direction of Pops maestro Keith Lockhart – to the audience’s great delight and a standing ovation. The concert also showcased Boston U’s 2003 music competition winner, student Dainius Puodziukas, who played the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with warmth and sophistication.
Jean-Yves’ second performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto was telecast on PBS in the summer 2003 series of “Evening at Pops.” Watch a video:
THEN ON TO THE WEST COAST…