Paris pays tribute to British conductor

9th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 9, 2007 (AFP) - Acclaimed British conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, a longtime champion of early music, will play one of his favourite 18th-century French composers Jean-Philippe Rameau during a homage to his work organised by the French capital.

PARIS, Feb 9, 2007 (AFP) - Acclaimed British conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, a longtime champion of early music, will play one of his favourite 18th-century French composers Jean-Philippe Rameau during a homage to his work organised by the French capital.

Paris' Cite de la Musique will pay tribute to the 63-year-old conductor, who took up the baton at the age of 15, from next Saturday until February 15, through a series of concerts, films and conferences. Gardiner for his part will give an exotic touch to his early music, adding Zulu drums to  baroque.

Then February 16 and 17, Gardiner, who was knighted in 1998, will play Rameau's "Castor et Pollux" at the prestigious Salle Pleyel in Paris, in concert version.

It will be the first time in almost a quarter-century that Gardiner has conducted one of his favourite French composers.

"Even though Rameau, on the personal level, was a bit hard and not always courteous with other composers, as far as his talent is concerned, he is a great figure, a musical giant," Gardiner told AFP in perfect French.

On February 19, France's classical music radio station, France Musique, will dedicate the entire day to the francophile conductor, who in the last 40 years has frequently crossed the channel with his Monteverdi Choir, founded in 1964, and his English Baroque Soloists, set up in 1978.

Gardiner has a long history with France, becoming the first musical director of the Lyon Opera orchestra, between 1983 and 1988, two decades after studying in Paris.

In his 20s he won a French government scholarship to work with outstanding musical teacher Nadia Boulanger, the first woman to conduct several major symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony.

He inherited a love of old partitions from Boulanger, spending hours at the country's National Library in quest of ancient manuscripts.

That was where he discovered Rameau's "Les Boreades," a masterpiece never played in the musician's lifetime. He directed it in 1982 at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, a year before staging Rameau's "Hippolyte et Aricie".

At the Cite de la musique, Gardiner will also conduct other French masters, from Couperin to Campra to Chabrier to Debussy to illustrate "the continuity of French music" across time.

He is also inviting young South Africans from the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble to back 18th-century Rameau with Zulu percussions.

"They are extremely talented, and bizarrely, what they do works very well with Rameau," he said.

Gardiner is also releasing a new album under his own record label, Soli Deo Gloria, set up to counter the majors which, he said, "have lost their authority and contribute less and less to musical life".

The record, "Pilgrimage to Santiago," features the Monteverdi Choir singing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

And next season Gardiner will be back in Paris at the Opera-Comique for a revisited version of Bizet's "Carmen" using the ancient instruments of his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Entertainment

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