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Grant Park Orchestra - Ravel's 'Daphnes et Chloe' (15 August 2014)

Joshua Iyer

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Published: August 16, 2014 at 2:40 AM [UTC]

This evening, as a birthday present, we went to Chicago and I saw the Grant Park Orchestra and Choir playing Ravel's "Daphnes et Chloe", a tone poem (ballad) based on a Greek tale thought to have been written in the 2nd century AD. I spent all last week going through and listening to the score on YouTube, and I had a PDF of the score I followed during all fifty-five minutes of the piece - which flew like the wind! It was so cool to hear some of those fantastic moments live rather than in the recording.

The concert itself was an outdoor one, similar to the two outdoor concerts we went to last summer (or two summers ago), so as the sun set (although I was focused on reading the music), the crickets chirped, and the city lights lit up. We sat in the lawn in the back with a blanket, although at the front where the orchestra played, it looked like the cut-out of a concert hall, which was kind of neat. The buildings and skyscrapers behind us lit up in a compendium of colors as we left the concert, artistically expressing my joyous emotions. Above our heads was a wonderful "ceiling" - an open "grid" area that the blue sky going to a dark indigo could be seen. It was really a cool atmosphere to look at as we waited (impatiently) for the opening notes of the piece.

Following the score was a challenge, as there were times when the music moved very rapidly, but was a lot of fun and helped me focus on the music. One of the things I love to hear (and do often, as a composer) are those build-ups to climactic moments via cresendos, and they were brought to life by the speakers all around the "ceiling" - I sat right underneath one! One of my dreams is to follow a score and hear the notes on the page come to life literally around me, and this brought chills to my spine. The orchestra was fairly large, with the violins divided four (and sometimes eight!) ways for firsts and seconds, and two viola parts and cello parts. Every wind part had a prominent solo at different times throughout, and lots of harp glissandi helped move the piece along. The violin had several solo moments, even a viola solo underneath an octave lower, and looking at the score, I noticed the viola played higher than the violin at one point, which meant Ravel wanted to change the timbre a bit with the melody. There was also a choir divided in eight parts. It wasn't a large part of the piece, but if was prominent at the beginning and end, and was very powerful. The piece ended on a very chaotic note, with winds and strings rapidly flowing, the choir screaming devilish chords, the brass booming.

The music had a lot of contrast that flowed extremely well, and I realize the members of the orchestra probably spent a lot of time practicing those transitions. It is extremely hard for both the composer and the orchestra to play a piece as long as this and make it flow that well, and they did a fantastic job. There were times when the music was very slow, and times when there would be 32nd note runs in the flutes and I had to flip pages every five seconds. There were specific sections in the piece, but not many fermatas or room for breathing throughout, which kept it interesting. The piece also had a story I read beforehand, and sometimes followed through the music. With the story, it was fairly easy to discover how the music fit in. Another feature I really noticed (and the orchestra did a god job bringing out) was one of the leitmotifs that haunted the music throughout the entire score. It was introduced at the beginning, in the bassoon, and continued at other various moments, in the horn, in the violins, and the oboe and flute. This motif allowed the piece to feel even more cohesive as it progressed, as it brought to mind the previous times it was heard. And as previously mentioned, it was made clear that the entire orchestra knew about this (and the others) so that it would be brought out for the audience to also hear.

Overall, this was an amazing experience that left me feeling very elated and inspired to work on my symphonic tone poem. Following the score did help a lot in terms of the analysis of the piece (and my second full listen-through), but the orchestra and choir did a wonderful job, and all of the solos were spot-on. Additionally, the general ambience and setting was very relaxing; it was a beautiful summer night, and the fact that an orchestra was playing some music outside was very cool. I love outdoor concerts a lot, and I am very glad I got to hear one of my favorite pieces live. The orchestra will start up again next June, and they play a wide variety of music from classical to contemporary. This concert was great fun, and I can't wait to use this inspiration tomorrow morning as I continue to compose my own contemporary piece.


Also, today, August 15, 2014, I enjoy the first day of my eighteenth year around the sun. I am officially an adult! :)


From Kit Jennings
Posted on August 19, 2014 at 1:30 PM
Happy Birthday!

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