A “collective marvel” (Philadelphia Inquirer), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra embodies the sheer joy of music-making. Honing their craft under celebrated conductors, 100 young musicians perform with a fresh exuberance that makes each work new.
Ravel began composing Daphnis and Chloe, for Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, in 1909 and completed the score in 1912. The ballet was first presented on June 8, 1912, in Paris. It is the largest orchestral work Ravel composed. “My intention in writing [Daphnis and Chloe],” Ravel revealed, “was to compose a vast musical fresco in which I was less concerned with archaism than with reproducing faithfully the Greece of my dreams, which is very similar to that imagined by French artists at the end of the eighteenth century.”
Ravel called his work a “choreographic symphony in three parts.” The story of the ballet was adapted from the fifth-century Greek author Longus. Daphnis and Chloe, who were abandoned as children and raised by shepherds, had fallen in love. In the first part Daphnis earns Chloe’s kiss, but she is then abducted by pirates! Pan and his warriors must rescue Chloe in the second part and in the third the lovers are reunited. Ravel arranged two sets of symphonic sections of the ballet for the concert hall and the second suite premiered for the first time on April 30, 1914. “The work is constructed symphonically out of a small number of themes,” Ravel said, “the development of which ensures the work’s homogeneity.” Daphnis and Chloe did not succeed as a ballet, due to the bickering of the Artistic leadership. However, the lush music, most notably in the second suite, made an immediate impression on listeners and it has since become a symphonic staple.
Brahms completed his First Piano Concerto early in 1858 and was the soloist at the first private performance on March 30, 1858 as well as at the first public performance on January 22, 1859, both took place in Hanover. This was Brahms’s first major orchestral work, longer than Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto and it occupied Brahms for at least five years. It is a dramatic piece deeply embedded with Brahms’s grief over Robert Schumann’s breakdown and death, as well as the conflict of his relationship with his widow, Clara. Thus, it may not be a surprise that a critic at the second performance, in Leipzig, wrote that the Concerto "cannot give pleasure," for it contains, "the shrillest dissonances and most unpleasant sounds." Nonetheless, after the harsh composition of the first movement, the Adagio presents a different world. "I am painting a gentle portrait of you," Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann, regarding the piece. This concerto is a result of patient deliberation as Brahms was reluctant to take on the writing of a symphony. However, there was grandeur about the early sketches of the composition that only an orchestra could answer, thus after five years of work and intense emotion the “symphony with solo piano” was created.