Jean-Yves Thibaudet Opens Symphony SeasonFeature Story Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
The San Diego Symphony opens its 2011-2012 season on Friday, Sept. 30 featuring the internationally acclaimed pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Joining Thibaudet for the Saturday evening gala performance will be soprano Kathleen Battle.
Thibaudet, hailed as one of the best pianists in the world, brings his artistry to San Diego for only three performances. Securing both Thibaudet and Battle is something that can take years to accomplish according to Director of Public Relations Stephen Kougias.
“Selecting guest artists for an upcoming season comes about through a series of meetings and discussions and may range from many, many months up to a year or even two years in advance,” said Kougias. “Several factors are taken into consideration including public appeal, repertoire and guest artist availability. Both Kathleen Battle and Jean-Yves Thibaudet are outstanding world-renowned artists and each have their own extraordinary talents, which gave us a great idea for San Diego Symphony’s gala concert.”
The season opening gala, Opus 2011: “A Night in Paris”, will feature both Thibaudet and Battle. Battle, who was last seen at the Symphony in May 2009, was added to the gala with the intent to make the evening even more special.
“We decided to have Jean-Yves as part of the opening weekend,” added Kougias, “but we wanted to make the Saturday evening gala even more special and therefore added Ms. Battle to that evening’s performance only. Therefore our gala attendees will have their own unique experience, different from the Friday and Sunday concerts.”
Thibaudet, born in Lyon, France, has been playing piano since he was five years old and began touring around the world at the age of 17, something that certainly could attribute to his worldwide acclaim.
“[Jean-Yves] is among a group of distinguished French pianists that include Jean-Philippe Collard, Pascal Roget and Robert Casadesus,” said Kougias. “Particularly for our opening weekend, we look for a renowned guest who will bring that certain star quality along with a deep level of artistry and musicianship. At the same time, we look for a guest artist to help us create a sense of excitement worthy of the Symphony’s opening and one who has great appeal to the public.”
With all of the talent, notoriety and acclaim pianist Thibaudet possesses, one might think all of the traveling and performing could get old and routine, but this is not so for Thibaudet.
“I cannot remember once of a concert or something that I was not looking forward to,” said Thibaudet. “I think that’s really extremely important, I think it’s very important, to remain fresh. Every concert for me, even pieces I’ve played so many times, it’s still fresh, I’m always looking forward to it, I think that’s the main thing.”
Oddly enough, one of the first pieces Thibaudet played with an orchestra, at the age of 11, will be a piece he will be playing here, Ravel Concerto in G.
“It’s been quite a few years that I have been playing it, I don’t know how many hundreds of times I’ve played it and still every time the magic is happening. It’s one of those pieces that you can never, never get tired of; it’s one of those pieces that is absolutely magical every single time.”
He also mentions that no matter how many times he has played a particular piece, he does still get nervous.
“Do I still get nervous? Yes, I do, and you have to. I think that’s the beauty and excitement of a live performance. That’s what gives it the edge. Otherwise you might as well stay at home and put on a CD. So we do get nervous and that’s what gives the edge to the performance.”
When asked if he has a favorite piece to play Thibaudet simply states, his favorite piece is always the one he is playing at that moment and that it has to be. Although he is a fan of big, romantic, French and classic pieces he does feel that there are so many wonderful pieces out there that he couldn’t pick just one.
Playing piano for Thibaudet and living the life he lives now has always been a dream of his and one he’s had since he was a child.
“It really was my dream,” said Thibaudet. “When I was a kid I really wanted to become a pianist and I was very lucky because I was always thinking I want to be a pianist. I worked hard and I never doubted I would become a pianist. I would say that anybody that has a dream … I think it’s like every dream, you really have to live up to the dreams.”
Living up to the dreams according to Thibaudet takes practice and discipline, and of course passion.
“You have to practice because there’s no secret,” added Thibaudet. “You can have as much talent and gift as ever, but you still have to practice everyday and that’s what is going to make a difference. It’s like the seed to the most beautiful plant. If you don’t take care of it, if you don’t water it the plant is not going to grow. You have to work very hard and have incredible discipline and it has to be the passion of your life.”
There are three ticket options for the season opening gala on Saturday Oct. 1, featuring Thibaudet and Battle. They are (i) concert, (ii) concert and post party and (iii) concert with pre and post parties. For more information on this event, the Friday and Sunday concerts and the pricing for those concerts, visit sandiegosymphony.org, or call the box office at 619-235-0804.
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