The last time pianist Frank Braley appeared with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, in 2007, he was a key part of an informal French celebration at Benaroya Hall.
Led by conductor, fellow Frenchman and Seattle favorite Stéphane Denève, Braley made a dazzling impression performing a Ravel concerto. Music by Fauré and Debussy rounded out an energized concert that brought the audience to its feet.
Braley returns May 15 and May 17 to Benaroya with another French maestro at the helm, this time SSO Music Director Ludovic Morlot, the soloist’s longtime friend.
For this concert, the bill is focused on a pair of native Austrians and giants of the Classical era: Mozart, represented here by both an early, breakthrough concerto and one of his later symphonies; and Haydn, who lamented Mozart’s early death by noting the world would not see a composer of his genius for at least 100 years.
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The concert was built around Braley and his request to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major (“Jeunehomme”), says Elena Dubinets, Seattle Symphony’s vice-president of artistic planning.
“Frank is an exquisite Mozart interpreter and I know that we are in for a treat,” she said.
Dubinets says the inclusion of Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C major (“Linz”) is part of a seasonlong strategy to play several of the composer’s later symphonies on different programs. Written by a 27-year-old Mozart in four days of 1783 while stopping over in the Austrian town of Linz, the piece had its premiere there in October of that year.
The earlier “Jeunehomme,” written by Mozart when he was 21 and a court musician in Salzburg, Austria, is a beautiful work that brought his youthful focus on piano concertos to culmination.
As for Haydn’s Symphony No. 70 in D major, it’s on the SSO program because, well, Morlot loves the brilliant composer, Dubinets says, and the piece complements the Mozart works.
Born in Corbeil-Essonnes, France, in 1968, Braley displayed enormous potential when he began studying piano at age 4. Despite that, he anticipated having a career in science, but enrolled at 18 to pursue music at the Paris Conservatory.
In 1991, Braley won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition, launching a busy career as a touring soloist playing for such legendary conductors as Kurt Masur and Neville Marriner.
Braley is also a chamber-music enthusiast, often collaborating with violinist Renaud Capuçon, cellist Gautier Capuçon and clarinetist Pascal Moraguès.
“We haven’t found an opportunity to bring [Braley] back until now,” said Dubinets, “because he is very much in demand, especially in Europe, and doesn’t have enough time to visit all the orchestras that would like to work with him. We are extremely excited to have him back this year.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org