The middle of August is always bittersweet around Walk Festival Hall. Grand Teton Music Festival musicians are preparing to head back to their hometowns and home ensembles, to organizations and institutions with which they have worked sometimes for decades. And they’re also getting ready to say good-bye to Jackson Hole, which, for many, is a place that has come to feel like a second home, and to bid adieu to fellow players with whom they have forged powerful musical relationships amid the summer splendor of the Tetons.
But first, they have one last weekend to savor — one last weekend to perform masterpieces of the classical repertoire for an adoring audience, and one last weekend to bask in festival friendships.
“I know several of the musicians,” said Louis Langrée, who is set to make his Grand Teton Music Festival debut as the guest conductor for the closing concerts of the 58th season. “I will see the principal oboe from Atlanta, who just performed for two weeks at the Mostly Mozart Festival. And I have musicians from my orchestra, Cincinnati, who’ve told me, ‘Oh, you will love it there.’ It’s a small world.”
“I am really looking forward to performing the Tchaikovsky [Violin Concerto] with Louis Langrée,” said violinist Augustin Hadelich, this week’s guest soloist. “He’s a wonderful musician and friend with whom I’ve performed before a number of times with his orchestra in Cincinnati.”
Langrée, Hadelich and the Festival Orchestra close out the season with Anatoly Lyadov’s “The Enchanted Lake,” Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s superlative Violin Concerto in D major and two orchestral works by Maurice Ravel: Suite No. 2 from his ballet “Daphnis et Chloe” and the inexorable orchestral piece, “Boléro.”
French conductor Langrée just wrapped up his 17th season as music director for the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City, and, after his week in Jackson Hole, he will return to Ohio to celebrate the 125th season of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where he has been music director since 2013.
Hadelich arrived earlier this week for his third appearance in town for a “GTMF Presents” recital with pianist Orion Weiss on Wednesday, as well as the two weekend performances of Tchaikovsky’s concerto.
“I’ve been performing almost every week this past year, traveling all over the world. I still live in New York, but there have been concerts in New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and many trips to Europe, as well as concerts all over the North and South America.”
He has been playing the 1878 concerto since he was 12.
“The intensity of the lyrical writing, the balletlike elegance of the virtuosic passagework, and the infectiousness of the Russian dances in the last movement make this piece exhilarating,” he said.
The concerto plainly shows the composer’s devotion to Mozart, as in the “classical, elegant, almost formal” theme of the first movement, Hadelich wrote, “which is a big contrast to the lush and romantic second theme.”
Langrée, too, is a Mozart fanatic, and an expert interpreter of the prodigy. While there’s no Mozart on this week’s program, Tchaikovsky is the next best thing.
“To meet [Hadelich] again on a piece we never have performed together ... will be wonderful, I expect, with this talented musician and this mensch,” he said. “He has such eloquence and an intimacy.” Even with an orchestra, Hadelich approaches performance like an invitation to make chamber music, he said.
The Tchaikovsky is the keystone of a solidly constructed program that will start with “The Enchanted Lake,” Lyadov’s 1908 tone poem fairy tale. Langrée said the work represents a fascinating link between Russian romanticism and French impressionism, with its shimmering, vibrant colors.
In music of the romance era, he said, the key is to blend the colors of the orchestra and the score; in impressionism, however, it is not.
“Each instrument has its own unique quality,” Langrée said. “The general musical image is it’s like a stained glass window — it’s not a blending of colors but the color made by really really red, really really yellow, really really blue ... the color made by the sound of the flute, the clarinet, the oboes — they have to dialogue together, to speak the same musical language. But the chemistry, it’s not about blending, it’s about balance and the specificity of each tone.”
That sense of impressionism, or, perhaps more vividly, pointillism, is on brilliant display in Ravel’s 1913 Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis et Chloe,” he said. The composer employs the specific colors of specific instruments in a different, more demonstrative manner in his 1928 “Boléro,” the theme of which repeats and repeats but is different every time as different instruments take it up and as the ensemble plays it with more urgency and fire — a tantric buildup of musical potency.