Last year, it celebrated its 40-year anniversary: the National French Youth Orchestra, the Orchestre Français des Jeunes (OFJ), was founded in 1982. Ever since, it has made a name for itself as one of the most distinguished youth orchestras in Europe – a fact verified several times already by the Young Euro Classic audience. Its approximately 100 members come together for several working phases a year in the region Hauts-de-France, where they are coached by members of the leading orchestras of France. Since 2019, the OFJ has also offered courses specialized in the interpretation of the classical and early romantic period (1750-1830). In chamber music formations, the musicians also perform in hospitals, prisons, senior citizen’s residencies and other social institutions, reaching out to people outside the regular concert halls. Since 2021, the Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt has been the Orchestre Français des Jeunes’ chief conductor. The OFJ’s summer tour takes place with the generous support of Aline Foriel-Destezet.
The Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt is a sought-after artist all over Europe and has held numerous leading positions during the course of his career spanning more than 40 years. At the moment, he is chief conductor at the Opera in Montpellier and was appointed associate conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra in 2022. He took on the chief conductorship of the French Youth Orchestra in 2021. Before that, Schønwandt was at the head of the Copenhagen Opera House (2000-2011), where he led a much-acclaimed Ring cycle at the newly constructed Opera House, among other productions. Nor is the conductor an unknown entity in Berlin: from 1992 to 1998 he led the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, known today as the Konzerthaus Orchestra. His opera engagements have taken him not only to London, Brussels, Paris and Vienna, but also to Bayreuth, where Schønwandt conducted Die Meistersänger von Nürnberg in 1987/88. The conductor has a special interest in his Danish compatriots Carl Nielsen and Niels Wilhelm Gade as well as contemporary Danish composers, whose works he has conducted in numerous world premieres.
The number of 25 solo albums alone which he has recorded over the past decades speaks for Alexandre Tharaud’s artistic qualities. They cover the full range from baroque masters such as Couperin, Bach and Scarlatti via Mozart and Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov to the most important French composers of the 20th century. Together with soprano Sabine Devieilhe, he recorded his latest CD, Chanson d’Amour; he has enjoyed an artistic partnership with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras for 20 years. Repeatedly, Tharaud has given world premieres of works by contemporary composers. As a soloist, the 55-year-old performs with all the major orchestras and at all the leading concert halls of the USA, Europe and Asia. In 2017 Tharaud presented the film Montrez-moi vos mains (Show me your hands), a very personal insight into the life of a pianist. In 2012 he also took on a supporting role as a pianist in Michael Haneke’s film Amour (Love), recording all the Schubert pieces featured in the film.
Symphony No. 5 “Symphonie concertante” (1949)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G-major (1929-1931)
Symphony No. 4 in F-minor Op. 36 (1877)
About the concert
The Orchestre Français des Jeunes, the National French Youth Orchestra, needs no introduction: it has been a regular and popular guest at Young Euro Classic, especially under its long-standing former chief conductor, Dennis Russell Davies, and every time, it performed colourful programmes in formidable interpretations. Therefore, the French-German-Russian programme for 2023 is sure to be a closing highlight of the festival! The concert begins with a homage to Karl Amadeus Hartmann, a composer unfairly neglected – in Germany as well! – who came to attention with impressive symphonic works mainly in the 1950s. Piotr Tchaikovsky might be described as the opposite: his Fourth Symphony, reflecting his precarious personal situation, is one of the most-performed works by this composer. Which leaves the Piano Concerto in G-major by Maurice Ravel, a work that is racy yet highly poetic, and has an award-winning champion during the concert by the Orchestre Français des Jeunes: their French pianist Alexandre Tharaud will be the soloist.