Maurice Ravel + Claude Debussy – Bolero + Le Mer (1989)

FrontCover1Two famous concerts from the classical music history:

Before he left for a triumphant tour of North America in January 1928, Maurice Ravel had agreed to write a Spanish-flavoured ballet score for his friend, the Russian dancer and actress Ida Rubinstein (1885-1960).

The idea was to create an orchestral transcription of Albeniz’s piano suite Iberia. But on his return Ravel discovered that the orchestration rights had been granted to the Spanish conductor Enrique Arbós. Although Arbós generously gave up these rights, Ravel abandoned the idea and set about preparing an original score.

Ravel had long toyed with the idea of building a composition from a single theme which would grow simply through harmonic and instrumental ingenuity. Boléro’s famous theme came to him on holiday in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

MauriceRavelHe was about to go for a swim when he called a friend over to the piano and, playing the melody with one finger, asked: “Don’t you think that has an insistent quality? I’m going to try to repeat it a number of times without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.”

He began work in July. By Ravel’s standards the piece was completed quickly, in five months – it had to be ready for Rubinstein to choreograph.

“Once the idea of using only one theme was discovered,” he asserted, “any conservatory student could have done as well.”

BoleroThe relentless snare-drum underpins the whole of the 15-minute work as Ravel inexorably builds on the simple tune until, with a daring modulation from C major to E major, he finally releases the pent-up tension with a burst of fireworks.

Boléro was given its first performance at the Paris Opéra on November 20, 1928. The premiere was acclaimed by a shouting, stamping, cheering audience in the midst of which a woman was heard screaming: “Au fou, au fou!” (“The madman! The madman!”). When Ravel was told of this, he reportedly replied: “That lady… she understood.”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said: “I am particularly desirous there should be no misunderstanding about this work. It constitutes an experiment in a very special and limited direction and should not be suspected of aiming at achieving other or more than it actually does.”

Yet although Ravel considered Boléro one of his least important works, it has always been his most popular. (

La mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestre (French for The sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra), or simply La mer (i.e. The Sea), is an orchestral composition (L 109) by the French composer Claude Debussy.

Composed between 1903 and 1905, the piece was initially not well received, but soon became one of Debussy’s most admired and frequently performed orchestral works.

The work was started in 1903 in France and completed in 1905 at Grand Hotel Eastbourne on the English Channel coast. The premiere was given on 15 October 1905 in Paris, by the Orchestre Lamoureux under the direction of Camille Chevillard.

GrandHotelA typical performance of this piece lasts about 23 or 24 minutes. It is in three movements:

“De l’aube à midi sur la mer” – très lent – animez peu à peu (si mineur)
“Jeux de vagues” – allegro (dans un rythme très souple) – animé (do dièse mineur)
“Dialogue du vent et de la mer” – animé et tumultueux – cédez très légérement (do dièse mineur)

Usually translated as:
“From dawn to noon on the sea” or “From dawn to midday on the sea” – very slow – animate little by little (B minor)
“Play of the Waves” – allegro (with a very versatile rhythm) – animated (C sharp minor)
“Dialogue of the wind and the sea” or “Dialogue between wind and waves” – animated and tumultuous – give up very slightly (C sharp minor)

ClaudeDebussyLa mer is a masterpiece of suggestion and subtlety in its rich depiction of the ocean, which combines unusual orchestration with daring impressionistic harmonies. The work has proven very influential, and its use of sensuous tonal colours and its orchestration methods have influenced many later film scores. While the structure of the work places it outside of both absolute music and programme music (see below on the title “Three symphonic sketches”) as those terms were understood in the early 20th century, it obviously uses descriptive devices to suggest wind, waves and the ambience of the sea. But structuring a piece around a nature subject without any literary or human element to it – neither people, nor mythology, nor ships are suggested in the piece – also was highly unusual at the time.

Debussy called La mer “three symphonic sketches,” avoiding the loaded term symphony. Yet the work is sometimes called a symphony; it consists of two powerful outer movements framing a lighter, faster piece which acts as a type of scherzo. But the author Jean Barraqué (in “La Mer de Debussy,” Analyse musicale 12/3, June 1988,) describes La mer as the first work to have an “open” form – a devenir sonore or “sonorous becoming… a developmental process in which the very notions of exposition and development coexist in an uninterrupted burst.” Simon Trezise, in his book Debussy: La Mer (Cambridge, 1994) notes, however, that “motifs are constantly propagated by derivation from earlier motifs” (p. 52).

Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Seji Ozawa (01. + 02.)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Carlo Maria Guilini (03. – 05.)
Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas (06.)


Maurice Ravel (recorded 1974):
01. Tempo Di Bolero Moderato Assai 15.01
02. La Valse  11.58

Claude Debussy:

La Mer (recorded 1980):
03. I. From Dawn Till Noon On The Sea De L’aube à Midi Sur La Mer  9.25
04. II. Play Of The Waves Jeux De Vagues 7.18
05. III. Dialogue Of The Wind And The Sea Dialogue Du Vent Et De La Mer  8.38

06. Prélude à L’apr#s-Midi D’un Faune (recorded 1971) 9.32



Donald Runnicles – Grand Teton Music Festival (2010)

FrontCover1The Grand Teton Music Festival (GTMF) is known for orchestral performances equaling the grandeur of our Teton Mountain setting. Hailing from great orchestras, musicians return to the Tetons each summer to perform challenging repertoire.

Maestro Donald Runnicles has led the Grand Teton Music Festival as its Music Director since 2006. Runnicles is concurrently the Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony.

The Grand Teton Music Festival began in 1962. Concerts in the early years took place in a canvas tent at the base of Rendezvous Mountain. Through the years the Festival has grown into one of the nation’s finest, and now takes place in acoustically-acclaimed Walk Festival Hall.

Donald Runnicles is concurrently the General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin; Chief Conductor of BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; and Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival. Maestro Runnicles’ career can be characterized by high quality of performances strongly centered in grand romantic opera and symphonic repertoire of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

DonaldRunniclesAs General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Mr. Runnicles has primary responsibility for the musical forces of this historic company which produces, on average, twenty five productions per season. This season, Mr. Runnicles conducted Don Carlo, Otello, Tristan und Isolde, Billy Budd, and Werther among others.

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Mr. Runnicles literally returned home to take up the post as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO). He conducts five of the BBC SSO’s main series programs in the orchestra’s Glasgow home and leads this orchestra in two programs at the London Proms each summer.

Maestro Runnicles has been Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival (GTMF) since 2006 and recently renewed his commitment through 2019. At GTMF he designs the repertoire; conducts four weeks; and participates as a pianist in a number of chamber concerts.

Runnicles’ commercial recording of Wagner arias with Jonas Kaufmann and the Deutsche Oper Berlin won the 2013 Gramophone prize for best vocal recording.

In March of 2015 he will, once again, conduct at the Berlin Philharmonic. Then in June of 2015 he returns to the San Francisco Opera (where he conducted for seventeen years) for a new production of Berlioz Les Troyens.

TetonVillage02Christmas time in Teton Village

And this is a very special CD:
“This recording is not for sale or broadcast. For promotional use only.”

All pieces recorded live by the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Walk Festival Hall, Teton Village, Wyoming durch the 2010 Summer Season (it was the 49th Summer Season: June 30 – August 14, 2010 !)

All you have to do is to listen and enjoy these rare recordings with wonderful compositions by classic composers like Beethoven, Ravel, Brahms, Mozart …

The Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles


Ludwig van Beethoven:
01. Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67 – Allegro con brio 7.41

John Adams:
02. Slominsky´s Earbox 7.43

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
03. Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 – Molto allegro 9.33

Johannes Brahms:
04. Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, op. 15 – Adagio 12.41

Edward Elgar:
05. Introduction & Allegro for Strings 13.55

Maurice Ravel:
La Valse 12.25



TetonVillage01Founded in the early 1960’s, Teton Village was modeled after European-style villages and has continued to evolve and progress into a mature, year-round, family-friendly retreat. Teton Village is located just 12 miles from the town of Jackson (Jackson Hole) at the base of Rendezvous Peak. Jackson Hole is a high mountain valley located along the western border of the state of Wyoming. The name “hole” derives from language used by early trappers (or mountain men) to describe a valley surrounded by mountains. These valleys contain rivers and streams which are  good habitat for beaver and other fur-bearing animals the trappers were seeking.

Jackson Hole is surrounded by the Teton mountain range on the west and the Gros Ventre mountain range on the east. With foothills and jagged peaks, the Tetons are commonly associated with Jackson Hole and are a popular sightseeing attraction for many visitors. The Gros Ventre Range contrastingly is geologically older than the Tetons and has a much broader width, encompassing huge expanses of wilderness.