French Impressionist composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel were very influenced by the beginnings of jazz and ragtime in the early 1900’s. Perhaps lesser known is how much jazz musicians themselves borrowed from Debussy and Ravel later on. This program shows the reciprocal links between French and early American music, the former contributing to the expansion of classical harmony and the latter standing at the frontier between classical and jazz. At the time when Ravel composed the Miroirs suite in 1904, an early work in his compositional life, Debussy was already a highly regarded composer at the peak of his career— no doubt young Ravel was influenced by his elder colleague even though his own musical language is truly unique. Ravel’s Miroirs and Debussy’s Images set were composed around the same time in the early 1900’s and both revolutionized piano writing. Standing as monuments in the piano repertoire today, both works present a combination of similarities and oppositions and, for this program in particular, will serve to show different facets of pianistic innovations developing in the first decade of the 20th century. But more connections can be made still. The program includes a composition by internationally acclaimed American virtuoso pianist Earl Wild. Born in 1915, a few years before Debussy’s death, Wild is not only recognized for his flamboyant interpretations of Liszt and Rachmaninov, but was also a great lover of jazz and improvisation, as shown by his masterful transcriptions and compositional tributes to George Gershwin: this Grand Fantasy on Porgy and Bess (1973) is a virtuoso written improvisation on themes from Gershwin’s opera. As for George Gershwin, he is himself hard to pinpoint—classical or jazz? Elements of his writing obviously come from classical music, yet his language sounds so much like jazz. In this program, I included a mix of more popular works such as excerpts from the Songbook (basically Gershwin’s transcriptions of his own songs which by 1932 were already well-known and loved by the public) as well as the more “serious” 1926 Preludes. In naming the latter works as such, Gershwin placed himself in the continuation of classical composers before him: Bach, Chopin, and of course Debussy Admission is free, sign up here Join the Facebook event for updates
Maurice Ravel – “Oiseaux Tristes”, extrait des Miroirs (1904)
Claude Debussy – Masques, D’Un Cahier d’Esquisses, L’Isle Joyeuse (1903-1904) Images, 1er Cahier (1905)
Earl Wild – “Jasbo Brown Blues” et “Summertime”, extraits de Grand Fantasy on Porgy and Bess (1973)
George Gershwin – The Man I Love, extrait du Songbook (1932) Preludes (1926)
Praised for “her calm technical control, her immediate sense of balance”, as well as for “extraordinary vigor, flawless musicality” (Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, 2013), French pianist Mathilde Handelsman has performed as a solo and chamber musician throughout Europe and the United States. Her principal teachers are John O’Conor, Menahem Pressler and Laurent Cabasso. Mathilde was born in Paris in 1990 to a family of musicians. She started the piano with her mother at age four and was admitted a few years later to the Conservatoire de Paris (CRR) which lead her to perform in prestigious venues including two operas at Bastille and a concert under the direction of Seiji Ozawa. She has won prizes at national and international piano competitions in France such as Concours International d’Ile-de-France, Concours de Chatou, Claude Kahn and U.F.A.M. In 2009 she was awarded 1st prize at the Young Artists Competition of Alès. Mathilde was regularly invited to participate in international masterclasses during which she received guidance from Andrei Gavrilov (who described Ms. Handelsman as “an outstanding pianist”), Asaf Zohar, Boris Berman, Robert McDonald, Michel Beroff, Jacques Rouvier, Julian Martin and Christopher Elton. She has been featured in festivals such as “Pianofest in the Hamptons,” Wissembourg International Music Festival, Gijon International Piano Festival, Ferrara International Piano Festival and Masterclasses at the Adamant Music School. Passionate about literature, Mathilde Handelsman writes and composes. From ages 13 to 17, she studied harmony and composition at the conservatory in Paris and wrote several pieces which were subsequently performed in recitals and competitions. Mathilde also completed one year of Theater Studies at the Sorbonne and took part in a series of acting masterclasses in New York in 2008. Furthermore, she regularly works as a French-English translator. In the last two years, Mathilde published two books of poems: Pré-sage (2016) and L’Absurde Génie des Fleurs (2017). Mathilde is also currently a member of the “Boutry Ensemble,” a group of American musicians dedicated to the promotion of internationally acclaimed pianist, conductor and composer Roger Boutry (Prix de Rome, 1954). Mathilde Handelsman holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree “Magna cum laude” in Piano Performance from the Académie Supérieure de Musique de Strasbourg. She completed a Performer Diploma at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University-Bloomington while also teaching there as an Associate Instructor and as a faculty member of “Young Pianists.” She is currently pursuing a Doctorate (DMA) at Shenandoah University on a full-tuition scholarship.