Duncan Ward conducts Stravinsky, Schubert et Beethoven
The Orchestre de Paris at the Aix-en-Provence Festival
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In residence at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in the south of France, the pioneering Orchestre de Paris marked their fiftieth anniversary in 2017 under the baton of Duncan Ward. The British native, selected in 2020 to head the festival’s Mediterranean Youth Orchestra—a prestigious training ground for young musicians, who work alongside the established artists in residence—is also a composer whose deep understanding of the score is apparent in his expert conducting style.
Two Suites for Small Orchestra by Stravinsky, from 1921 and 1925, punctuate the evening. These miniatures are an ideal framework to celebrate two unjustly neglected masterpieces, beginning with Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, composed at just 18 years of age but never performed in Schubert’s lifetime. In 1881, fifty years after his death, the public finally got to appreciate—among other moments—the Rossinian crescendo of the finale, with its devilish tarantella and hints of opera buffa.
Closing out the program is Beethoven’s Fourth, sandwiched between the universally known Eroica and Fifth Symphonies (Robert Schumann described it as “a slender Greek maiden between two Norse gods”), but given the opportunity to shine on its own merits here, a true masterpiece by turns delicate and monumental.