A Tribute to French Composers

The Manoel Theatre in collaboration with the French Embassy in Malta and the Alliance française de Malte -Med are rpoud to present "A Tribute to French Composers" an evening devoted to French composers with the participation of two of "Des Équilibres" its most talented interpreters; Agnès Pyka and Bruno Robilliard.


Thursday 10th May 2012
at 20:00hrs.
Teatru Manoel


L’Ensemble des Équilibres is a multi-talented French ensemble, based on the collaboration between orchestral musicians, professors of conservatories, soloists, and chamber musicians, on a national and international scale.Created in 2006, under the artistic direction of the violinist AgnèsPyka, the ensemble proposes today a large variety of programs in various formations, exploring anything from the rarest repertory of chamber music of the XVIII century to the more contemporary ones.

For this evening devoted to French composers Des Équilibres presents two of its most talented interpreters.

Agnès Pyka -violin

Agnès Pykais thefirst prize winner for violin and chamber music from the Scuola di alto Perfezionamento Musicale at Saluzzo, Italy. She is even a graduate of the Conservatory ‘Ferenc Liszt’ in Budapest, Hungary: there she even obtained first prize for violin studying with Ferenc Halasz and vilmos Szabadi and the first prize for chamber music in Ferenc Rados’ class. Pyka even obtained the Master’s degree in performance from the Toronto University, Canada in Lorand Fenyves’ class.
Pyka placed first at the young soloists National Competition ‘Hart House’ in Toronto, Canada, the ‘Schubert’ National Competition and at Moncalieri European Competition, both in Italy.She has played concerti and recitals in different countries including the USA, Canada, Hungary, Italy and also is a memeber of prominent ensembles including Musicatreize (1st violin), the Ensemble Instrumental de Nice and the Baroque ensemble Da Camera (soloist and 1st violin). At present she also teaches at the conservatory in Toulon.
She founded the association Accords en Scène in 2005 and has been its artistic director since then, as well as the director of L’Ensemble des Équilibres.

BRUNO Robilliard -Piano

Born to a family of musicians, pianist Bruno Robilliard began his studies at the National Conservatory of Lyonshowing unusual ability in improvisation and composition at a young age. At fourteen, he was admitted to the National Conservatory of Music in Paris where he studied piano with Germaine Mounier and chamber music with Geneviève Joy-Dutilleuy.In 1984 he was appointed accompanist at the National Conservatory of Lyon and accompanied the flute class of MaxenceCarrieu at theConservatory of Génève. In 1994 he taught music at the National Conservatory of Music in Lyon and that same year obtained his Certificatd’Aptitude as Professor of Piano.

Robilliard leads a brilliant career as a solo pianist and as chamber musician in France as well as abroad. As an eclectic musician one may find him playing with the National Orchestra of Tokyo, the Opera of Lyon (including conductors such as Kent Nagano), or with the National Orchestra of Lyon ( with David Robertson conducting). For many years, he has a participated in a large number of festivals, such as Pollenca, l’Orne, la Dombe, du Vieux Lyon, Radio France and Montpellier as well as the Voyage Musical d’Hiver.Robilliard has performed with the Debussy Quartet, the Ravel Quartet, Marie-Annick Nicolas, Philippe Pierlot, Bruno Grossi, Jean-Baptiste Dumora, Rodrigue Milosi, the ONL Members of Lyon, as well as with leading conductors including Mark Foster, Pascal Verrot, Claude Bardon, Yves Cayrol, Philippe Fournier and Stephen Asbury, amongst others.


Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Méditation de Thaïs
from the Opera Thaïs

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor, L 140


Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G, Op. 119

Maurice Ravel (1899-1963)
Jeux d’eau

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
L’isle Joyeuse, L 106

Programme Notes

Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Méditation de Thaïs
from the Opera Thaïs

Massenet’s lyric works are interspersed with purely orchestral passages, of which the Méditation de Thais is the most emblematic. In the opera, composed between 1894 and 1898, the passage of thesolo violin contrasts with the orchestration, depicting the religious meditation which seals the fate of the two heroes, a courtesan on the way to redemption and a holy man heading for own destruction.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor, L 140
i.Allegro vivo ii.Intermède, fantasqueetléger iii. Finale: Trèsanimé

This is the last work of an exhausted Debussy, the third part of a project that was initially made of six works, and which consists in sonatas in honor of the French eighteenth century. Written and completed in 1917 for the last public appearance of Debussy, it begins with an opening Allegro vivo that marks a theme in G minor, which leads to a passionate exhibition before a second more serene theme. Both are then combined in a construction that breaks down to an abrupt conclusion in G minor. The following interlude is an ostinato inspired by Spanish traditions, and ends with a lively finale as a perpetuum mobile showing a feigned cheerfulness while the end is nigh.

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G, Op. 119

i.Allegro con fuoco ii. Intermezzo. Très lent et calme iii. Presto tragico

Francis Poulenc composed his sonata in 1942, in memory of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, murdered by Franco’s militia during the Spanish Civil War. Poulenc was inspired by the instrumental balance achieved by Brahms in his sonatas, completely breaking away from the model that he describes as a "prima donna violin arpeggio on the piano."Beginning with an energetic and jerky allegro followed by two melodic themes very typical of Poulenc’s musical language. The development of the first melodic theme gives way to a formula full of nostalgia. The slow movement, vaguely recalling Spanish features, is above all a superb cantilena that owes much to Ravel. Despite its title, the last movement begins with a series of humorous dialogues between the two instruments, which abruptly shifts into a tragic vision where one can hear the poet being shot dead. This paradoxical work, set up in Nazi occupied Paris and dedicated to a poet executed by their allies, oscillating between humor and tragedy, is often misunderstood, despite the beauty the composition. Poulenc created it with GinetteNeveu, his dedicatee, after the death of whom he revised the final movement. It forms nonetheless part of the repertoire of the twentieth-century great works of chamber music.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Jeuxd’eau is a piece for piano composed by Maurice Ravel in 1901, dedicated to his teacher Gabriel Fauré, and performed for the first time by Ricardo Viñes on April 5, 1902. The manuscript contains an epigraph with a quote taken from Henri de Regnier;“River god laughing at the water that tickles him”. Although Ravel’s reputation as Debussy’s follower and as an impressionist dates back from Jeuxd’eau, his main source of inspiration lies inListz.
Fauré held Jeuxd’eau in great admiration, while Saint-Saens thought this avant-garde work was no more than a “cacophony”. However the piece enjoyed an early and resounding success, besides definitely asserting Ravel’s musical identity and influenced much of his peers including Debussy (Préludes, Études). Its shortness and its tenderness make it a concert’s popular passage.
Maurice Ravel himself described Jeuxd’eauthus; “Jeuxd’Eau, which appeared in 1901, stands as the point of departure for all new pianistic expressions one may find in my works. This work, inspired by the bubbling of water and the musical sounds of fountains, waterfalls, and brooks, is built on two themes in the manner of the first movement of a sonata, without, however, being subjugated to the classic tonal formula.”

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
L’isle Joyeuse, L 106
L’Isle Joyeuse is a piece for piano solo composed by Claude Debussy and published in 1904 with Masque. It seems that both have been composed earlier, round about 1980, when Debussy was writing his melodies based on Verlaine’s poems. L’IsleJoyeuse was inspired by Watteau’s painting l’Embarquement pour Cythère (1717).
L ‘Isle Joyeuse’s colourful and brilliant manuscript, in which the pianist is asked to constantly change his sonority and to play with finesse, could stand for frivolity, mindlessness and escape.The short opening trill is followed by a divertimento with a habanera rhythm; then a long voluptuous passage develops, concluding with a dynamic and brilliant finale. Debussy embarks on new soundscape horizons including the extensive use of the tone scaleand the use of new musical colors.


Jules Massenet

Jules Massenetwas born on May 12th, 1842, inMontaud and died on August 13th, 1912 inParis. While studying at the Conservatoire from the age of 11, Massenet won the Prix de Rome in 1863 and was appointed as a teacher at the Conservatoire of Paris in 1878, when he started composing his most famous operas. A very prolific composer, he created twenty-five operas, four oratorios, and more than two hundred and eighty melodies. Brilliant and passionate, with an inherent talent for music and an unusual knowledge of the human voice, Jules Massenet exported through his creations, the French elegance on the most prestigious stages around the world. Already renowned during his lifetime, his operas Manon, WertherandThais still enjoy an extraordinary popularity around the world.

Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, was born on August 22th, 1862, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and died on March 25th, 1918, in Paris. Debussy entered the Conservatoire at the age of 10, later winning the Prix de Rome and residing at the Villa Medici. His work was qualified as avant-garde and modern when, in 1894, he created the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.

Breaking away from the pre-determined rules and concepts, Claude Debussy, who was one of the leading representatives of the impressionist movement, revisited musical forms. This non-conformism is evident not only in his symphony La Mer, but also in his ballet Jeux, as well as in his opera Pelléas and Mélisande, or his chamber music String Quartet in G minor.

His work, although limited, has had a significant influence on the history of music.

Francis Poulenc

Francis Poulenc, pianist and composer, was born on January 7th, 1899 and died on January, 30th, 1963 in Paris.

He was a self-taught composer, influenced from an early age by his contemporaries Eric Satie and Jean Cocteau, being one of the founders in the creation of the group composers “Les Six” in 1920. His work is varied, ranging from melodies and cantatas, to chamber music, orchestral and religious compositions. From 1936 onwards, after one of his close friends died in a car accident, his music was durably influenced by the spiritual awakening then experienced.

Bold but never provocative, sometimes austere at others unconventional, melancholic or entertaining, Francis Poulenc was characterised by duality, a recognisable feature of his compositions. Driven by his own melancholy, his religious devotion, his passion for voice, words, literature and poetry, his greatest masterpieces belong to vocal music, whether it was an opera buffa based on lyrics by Guillaume Apollinaire, an opera with alibretto written by Bernanos, a concerto on a Jean Cocteau’s writing or a musical adaptation of poems written by Charles d’Orléans, to mention but a few.

Francis Poulenc, whose works are regularly presented on the international stage, appears as one of the main representatives of the typical French style of music, bothsolemn and light, spontaneousthough refined, inventive yet soundly structured.

Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel was born in Ciboure on March 7, 1875 and died on December 28, 1937. He is probably best known for his orchestral work, Bolero beside the arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition.

He studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris in Paris, under Gabriel Fauré. He was also heavily influenced by Debussy’s impressionist style. Ravel was also highly influenced from music around the world incluing American Jazz, Asian music, and traditional folk songs from across Europe.

When American composer George Gershwin met Ravel, he mentioned that he would have liked to study with the French composer. The Frenchman retorted, "Why should you be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?". Igor Stravinsky once referred to Ravel as the "Swiss Watchmaker", a reference to the intricacy and precision of his compositions.

As part of the theatre’s commitment to the arts, Teatru Manoel has introduced a 50% discount for young people under the age of 25. Unlike other promotional offers, this reduction is not just for students but anyone under the age of 25 who would like to enjoy an evening at the theatre. Interested patrons should present their ID Card upon booking at the booking office.This offer is valid for Teatru Manoel performances.

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Article published in The Times on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 (PDF - 866.4 kb)

Dernière modification : 10/05/2012

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