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Juanjo Mena, the Spanish conductor at the helm of the BBC Philharmonic, is taking us on a trip to Spain, blazing with colours, sounds, and fragrances. The programme opens with Danzas fantásticas (1919), the best-known work by Joaquín Turina.
Danzas fantásticas, op. 22 (17')
Concierto de Aranjuez (arranged for harp) (21')
Iberia, Part II of the cycle Images pour orchestre (20')
Jana Boušková harp
Juanjo Mena conductor
Juanjo Mena, the Spanish conductor at the helm of the BBC Philharmonic, is taking us on a trip to Spain, blazing with colours, sounds, and fragrances. The programme opens with Danzas fantásticas (1919), the best-known work by Joaquín Turina. Although originally written for piano solo, it is the orchestral version that has become famous.
Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez takes us to the gardens of the royal palace in Aranjuez, which King Philip II had built in the sixteenth century. Rodrigo perfectly succeeded at evoking the sounds of nature through music. He describes the first movement as being “full of rhythm and energy”, the second movement is a dialogue between the harp and soloists in the orchestra on oboe, bassoon, English horn, and French horn. The third movement is an imitation of a courtly dance. The premières took place in 1940 in Barcelona and Madrid with solo guitar. It was not until 1974 that Rodrigo transcribed the work for harp at the request of Nicanor Zabaleta. Famous versions of the Concierto de Aranjuez have also been recorded by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and jazz trumpet player Miles Davis, who took inspiration from the slow movement.
Iberia from Debussy’s orchestral work Images leads us through the streets and the paths of Spain, the fragrances of the night, and the morning of a festive day. The concert will then conclude with one of the most famous compositions, Ravel’s Bolero. It would not have taken much and this classical “hit” might never have seen the light of day. At the request of Ida Rubinstein, Ravel had originally just wanted to orchestrate Albéniz’s Iberia, but he was long unable to acquire the rights to it. By the time he finally succeeded, Ravel already had a different plan: “Write a theme that lasts about a minute and repeat it for eighteen minutes.”
Jana Boušková studied at the Prague Conservatory and graduated from the Ostrava University in Libuše Váchová’s class. She was then accepted to the prestigious Indiana University and studied with Susann McDonald. She is the only Czech harpist to win the world’s top International Harp Competition which takes place in the USA (1992). In the same year, she won the 2nd prize at the International Harp Contest in Israel, which has the longest tradition among harp competitions, being also the only Czech harpist to be invited to this competition. She also won the Concours International de Musique de Chambre (France) and the Torneo Internazionale di Musica (Italy). She received the “Lady Pro” award for the top ten most significant Czech female personalities as the first ever classical musician.
Jana Boušková performs as a soloist and with chamber ensembles in the Czech Republic and abroad at prestigious concert stages such as the Alice Tully Hall – Lincoln Center (New York), the Theatre Châtelet in Paris, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Prague Spring Festival and the Berliner Festtage. As a soloist she has appeared with many Czech and international orchestras at the Carnegie Hall in New York, Berlin Philharmonie, Kölner Philharmonie, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Symphony Center in Chicago, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Rudolfinum in Prague and many others.
Besides the solo career Jana Boušková devotes herself to pedagogical activity and teaches simultaneously at the Royal Academy in Brussels and at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She is the Czech Philharmonic principal harp player and is being regularly invited to participate in world renowned harp congresses and symposiums and leads masterclasses all over the world. She teaches at prestigious schools including the Indiana University in the USA and Haute Ecole de Musique in Geneva.
The vast repertoire of Jana Boušková includes compositions of all eras. Numerous Czech and foreign contemporary composers have written music directly for her. She has recorded more than twenty CDs for Czech and international labels and made recordings for radio and television companies. Jana Boušková is the official player of the prestigious Lyon & Healy harp producer and plays the instrument by this US company, which she won in the International Harp Competition in 1992.
Juanjo Mena began his conducting career in his native Spain as Artistic Director of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra in 1999. His uncommon talent was soon recognized internationally with appointments as Principal Guest Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic and Chief Guest Conductor of the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. In 2011 he was named Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic which he led for seven seasons, taking the orchestra on tours of Europe and Asia and conducting annual televised concerts at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. His BBC tenure featured, notably, “thrilling” (The Guardian) performances of Bruckner Symphonies, a cycle of Schubert Symphonies and set new standards for the interpretation of Spanish and South American repertoire. He currently serves as Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati May Festival, the longest running choral festival in North America, where he has been expanding the scope of the legendary institution with new commissions and community engagement.
A sought-after guest conductor, Juanjo Mena has led Europe's top ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic among others. He appears regularly with all the major orchestras in his native Spain: the Spanish National Orchestra, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and Madrid Symphony Orchestra among others. Following his North American debut with the Baltimore Symphony in 2004, he has conducted most of the continent's leading orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Montreal Symphony and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In Asia, he is a regular guest conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
In the 20/21 season, Juanjo Mena returns to conduct the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony as well as a number of orchestras across Spain. He debuts with the Czech Philharmonic and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
His operatic work includes Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Richard Strauss’ Salome, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, Bartók's Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung as well as productions of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in Genoa, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Lausanne, and Beethoven’s Fidelio and Britten’s Billy Budd in Bilbao.
Juanjo Mena’s rich discography with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos includes an acclaimed Gabriel Pierné release selected as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Weber Symphonies, Ginastera’s orchestral works to mark the composer’s centenary, and new reference recordings of largely overlooked Spanish repertoire including Arriaga’s orchestral pieces, works by Albéniz, Montsalvatge and Turina, as well as three discs of works by Manuel de Falla featuring his opera La Vida Breve. In 2012 Juanjo Mena recorded Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony with the Bergen Philharmonic for the Hyperion label, a disc said to “utterly redefine the terms under which past/current/future Turangalîlas need to be judged” (Gramophone).
Juanjo Mena studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache following his musical education at the Madrid Royal Conservatory where he was mentored by Carmelo Bernaola and Enrique García Asensio. In 2017, he was awarded the Spanish National Music Award. He lives with his family in his native Basque Country.
Exotická barevnost, nezvyklá harmonie a ohnivá rytmika hudby Pyrenejského poloostrova okouzlovala francouzské tvůrce také následujících generací, zvláště ty ovlivněné uměleckým světem impresionismu. Stopy iberských inspirací nalezneme mimo jiné v takových významných dílech, jako byly orchestrální triptych Images a klavírní cyklus Estampes Clauda Debussyho či orchestrální skladby Maurice Ravela Španělská rapsodie a Bolero, které je též na programu dnešního koncertu.
Ke kompozici díla vycházejícího z rytmu španělského tance nasměrovala Ravela, který sám byl po matce Bask, tanečnice Ida Rubinstein, která si u něj v roce 1928 objednala pro svou baletní společnost orchestraci šesti kusů z cyklu klavírních skladeb Iberia španělského impresionisty Isaaca Albénize. V průběhu práce se Ravel dozvěděl, že orchestrální verze již existuje a autorská práva neumožňují vznik jiných aranží. Autor této úpravy, španělský dirigent Enrique Fernández Arbós, sice nadšeně udělil Ravelovi souhlas s instrumentováním, Ravel se ale mezitím rozhodl zkomponovat pro Idu Rubinstein vlastní skladbu v rytmu španělského tance bolera.
Mimořádně úspěšná premiéra baletního představení v choreografii Bronislavy Nižinské se konala v pařížské opeře 22. listopadu 1928 a předznamenala nesmírnou popularitu, jíž se toto Ravelovo dílo dodnes těší. Skladba je založena na ostinátním rytmu malého bubnu. Nad tímto rytmem se střídají dvě melodie, které v nezměněné podobě prostupují celým dílem – jedna diatonická a rytmicky symetrická, druhá se synkopami a jazzově sníženými tóny. Zaznívají ovšem v obměňované instrumentaci a v neustále zesilované dynamice a postupně mohutnícím obsazení.