Ravel, Poulenc and Schumann in Agen

An extremely varied programme at the Théatre Ducourneau, Agen, in the Lot-et-Garonne department of France, by Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine under Douglas Boyd. Beginning with the orchestrated version of ‘5 Piéces enfantines’ from ‘Ma Mère l’Oye’ by Maurice Ravel, followed by an excellent performance of Francis Poulenc’s ‘Concert champêtre pour clavecin’, with the extraordinary Jean Rondeau on harpsichord. The second half saw a beautifully-played ‘Symphony no. 2’ by Robert Schumann.

Douglas Boyd

Douglas Boyd

Jean Rondeau

Jean Rondeau

Ravel: ‘5 pièces enfantines’ from ‘Ma Mère l’Oye’; Poulenc ‘ Concert champêtre pour clavecin’; Schumann ‘Symphony no. 2 in C major’ opus 61.

Liszt and Shostakovich in Toulouse

At La Halle aux Grains, Toulouse, for an excellent concert by the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under Tugan Sokhiev. The first half saw Liszt’s ‘Piano Concerto no. 1’ wonderfully played by the renowned French pianist Lucas Debargue, who was deservedly called back for two encores. The second half was a powerful performance of the ‘Eighth Symphony’ of Dimitri Shostakovich, an epic work which evokes the suffering of the second world war.

Lucas Debargue

Lucas Debargue

Tugan Sokhiev

Tugan Sokhiev

Liszt: ‘Piano Concerto no. 1 in E Flat’ S.124; Shostakovich ‘Symphony no. 8’ opus 65.

Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre

At the Louvre, Paris, for the spectacular exhibition of the works of Leonardo da Vinci on the five-hundredth anniversary of his death. Although Leonardo was born in Italy in 1452, he died in Amboise in the Loire Valley, France in 1519, where he was in the service of Francis I, King of France.

The exhibition was presented chronologically, beginning with exquisite drapery studies drawn during Leonardo’s apprenticeship in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, and then followed his career from Florence to Milan to Rome and finally to France.

Whilst there are a limited number of paintings by Leonardo, the exhibition used other means to fill out his story. For example, infrared reflectograms and preliminary drawings allowed the process of his artistic technique to be examined. However, it was the inclusion of amazing notebooks such as the Codex Leicester and Manuscript B, with drawings and text in Leonardo’s hand, which best illustrate his extraordinary talents – with their designs for a helicopter and a tank, studies of the bones and muscles of the human body, drawings from the natural world and the findings of his scientific experiments.

Leonardo 'Benois Madonna' (1480 - 82)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Benois Madonna’ (c.1480 – 82)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Saint Jerome' (c.1480 - 82)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Saint Jerome in the Wilderness’ (1480  – 90)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Portrait of a Musician' (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Portrait of a Musician’ (c.1483 – 90)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Virgin of the Rocks' (1483 - 94)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Virgin of the Rocks’ (c.1483 – 94)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Manuscript B' (c.1487 - 89)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Manuscrit B’ (c.1487 – 89)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Vitruvian Man' (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Vitruvian Man’ (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci 'La belle ferronniere' (c.1490 - 96)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘La Belle Ferronniere’ (1490 – 97)

Leonardo da Vinci 'The Virgin and Child with St. Anne' (c.1503 - 19)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne’ (c.1503 – 19)

Leonardo 'Codex Leicester'

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Codex Leicester’ (1506 – 10)

Leonardo da Vinci 'St. John the Baptist' (c.1513 - 16)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Saint John the Baptist’ (c.1508 – 19)

El Greco at the Grand Palais, Paris

At the Grand Palais for the first major retrospective of the work of El Greco in France. Domenico Theotokopolous, known as El Greco, was born in Crete in 1541. He travelled to both Venice and Rome before setting in Toledo, Spain, where he made his name.

Whilst his extreme Mannerist style with elongated figures was puzzling to his contemporaries, he was very influential with later artists, including Picasso, who is said to have based some of the figures in ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ on El Greco’s ‘The Vision of Saint John’.

El Greco 'The Disrobing of Christ' (c.1579)

El Greco ‘The Disrobing of Christ’ (c.1579)

El Greco 'Saint Dominic in Prayer' (c.1585 - 90)

El Greco ‘Saint Dominic in Prayer’ (c.1585 – 90)

El Greco 'Saint Martin and the Beggar' (1597 - 99)

El Greco ‘Saint Martin and the Beggar’ (1597 – 99)

El Greco 'Portrait of Cardinal Nino de Guevara' (c.1600)

El Greco ‘Portrait of Cardinal Niño de Guevara’ (c.1600)

El Greco 'Saint Luke' (c.1605)

El Greco ‘Saint Luke’ (c.1605)

El Greco 'Laocoon' (c.1610)

El Greco ‘Laocoon’ (c.1610)

El Greco 'The Vision of Saint John' (1610 - 14)

El Greco ‘The Vision of Saint John’ (1610 – 14)

Toulouse-Lautrec at the Grand Palais, Paris

At the Grand Palais in Paris for an extremely comprehensive and well-presented exhibition of the works of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the chronicler of Montmartre life and culture in the late nineteenth century.

Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi in south-west France, into an aristocratic family. However, childhood injuries that did not heal properly left him extremely short. After recognising that he had some artistic talent his parents arranged for him to have training, although he soon began to rebel against academic art and he set up his own studio in Montmartre, then one of the poorest areas of Paris.

He painted his friends and models as well as singers and dancers he met in the Moulin Rouge. He also frequented the brothels of the region and painted the prostitutes he met there. He was also particularly talented at producing advertising posters, first for the night clubs and theatres and later for commercial companies.

Towards the end of his short life, he died aged thirty-six, he suffered from alcoholism and probably also syphilis and was confined to a clinic. He died from a stroke whilst on holiday on the Atlantic coast of France. Despite his short career Toulouse-Lautrec produced 737 canvases, 275 watercolours, 369 prints and posters and over 5000 drawings.

Toulouse-Lautrec 'At the Fernando Circus - the Equestrienne' (1888)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘Equestrienne at the Cirque Fernando’ (1887 – 88)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'The Redhead in a White Blouse' (1889)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘The Redhead in a White Blouse’ (1889)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'At the Moulin Rouge' (1892 - 95)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘At the Moulin Rouge’ (1892 – 95)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'La Goulue' poster (1891)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘Moulin Rouge, La Goulue’ (1891)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'Aristide Bruant Ambassadeurs poster' (1892)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘Les Ambassadeurs, Aristide Bruant’ (1893)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris' (1893)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘Jardin de Paris, Jane Avril’ (1893)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'Au Salon de la Rue des Moulins' (1894)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘At the Salon, rue des Moulins’ (1894)

Toulouse-Lautrec 'The Jockey' (1899)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec ‘The Jockey’ (1899)

The Alana Collection at Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

The Alana Collection is one of the most important private collections of Italian Renaissance art and is normally based in the United States. This was the first time it had been exhibited to the general public. Over seventy-five works from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century were on display, including paintings by Lorenzo Monaco, Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio.

Nardo di Cione 'Annunciation' (c.1350 - 55)

Nardo di Cione ‘Annunciation’ (c.1350 – 55)

Lorenzo Monaco 'Annunciation' (c.1420 - 24)

Lorenzo Monaco ‘Annunciation’ (c.1420 – 24)

Filippo Lippi 'Saint John the Evangelist' (c.1432 - 34)

Filippo Lippi ‘St. John the Evangelist’ (c.1432 – 34)

Filippino Lippi 'St. Ubald and St. Frediana' (1496)

Filippino Lippi ‘St. Ubald and St. Frediano’ (1496)

Pontormo 'Portrait of a Lute Player' (c.1529 - 30)

Pontormo ‘Portrait of a Lute Player’ (c.1529 – 30)

A world premiere at Opéra Limoges

In Limoges in the Haut-Vienne region of France for a concert by the Orchestre de l’Opera de Limoges, conducted from the piano by François-Frédéric Guy. The first half contained Mozart’s ‘Piano Concerto no. 12’, followed by the world premiere performance of Aurélien Dumont’s fascinating ‘Ecoumène Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’, whilst the second half was a very well-received performance of Beethoven’s ‘Symphony no. 7’.

Francois-Frédéric Guy 3

François-Frédéric Guy

Mozart: ‘Piano Concerto no. 12 in A major’ (K414); Aurélien Dumont: ‘Ecoumène Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’; Beethoven: ‘Symphony no. 7’.

Leonardo drawings at Buckingham Palace

At the exhibition ‘Leonardo da Vinci – A Life in Drawing’ in the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The exhibition is a survey of the drawings of Leonardo from throughout his career, from Florence to Milan and on to Rome, and then north again via Tuscany and Lombardy, eventually ending up in France, where he spent the final years of his life in the service of Francis I at the Château de Chambord.

The drawings range from preparatory studies for paintings to anatomical sketches and architectural designs. The exhibition contains over 200 drawings, which were bought by Charles II for the Royal Collection in the seventeenth century.

Leonardo da Vinci - A Life in Drawing

Leonardo 'A Man tricked by Gypsies' (c.1493)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘A Man tricked by Gypsies’ (c.1493)

Leonardo 'The Head of Leda' (c.1505 - 08)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘The Head of Leda’ (c.1505 – 08)

Leonardo 'A Star-of-Bethlehem and other Plants' (c.1506 - 12)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘A Star-of-Bethlehem and other Plants’ (c.1506 – 12)

Leonardo 'The Fetus in the Womb' (c.1511)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘The Fetus in the Womb’ (c.1511)

Bruckner 8 at the Proms

Back at the Royal Albert Hall for another Proms concert. Six Bach organ works played by Michael Schönheit made up the first half. The second half was a superb performance of Bruckner’s 8th symphony played by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig led by the wonderful Andris Nelsons.

Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Bach: ‘Fantasia in G minor’, BWV 542; ‘Cantata no. 147’, BWV 147; ‘Jesus bleibet meine Freude’; ‘Prelude in E flat major’, BWV 552; ‘Chorale Prelude Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, BWV 645; ‘Fugue in E Flat major’ BWV 552; Bruckner: ‘Symphony no. 8 in C minor’.