Lyrical French Delights, In Concert With Olmos

Jan 25, 2018

When you think of French cuisine, creamy delights and delicious pastries come to mind. When you think of French art, it’s the Impressionists you see.

And when it comes to French music, composers like Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, or Darius Milhaud may ring in your mind’s ear.

But what characterizes French music? San Antonio’s Olmos Ensemble aims to find out at their upcoming concert, “French Delights,” (Monday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m.) featuring the group’s regular players plus a special guest, pianist Christopher Guzman.

Paul Lueders, who plays oboe with the ensemble, says the French are “known for lyricism and vocal writing. Wind instruments are just an extension of the voice, so I think you’ll hear in the program a lot of singing, a lot of vocality.”

To be clear, there are no sopranos on tap. Lueders will play an important role in the program’s opening work, a suite by Darius Milhaud that’s partially inspired by baroque dance music. He’s also the featured soloist on a short piece by Emile Paladilhe, a somewhat forgotten composer today who (mostly) wrote for the opera. The “Solo de Concert” has “a lot of virtuosity and lyricism” in just three or four minutes, says Lueders.

As I was researching the program, I noticed that at least one of the works, Francis Poulenc’s “Sextet,” was revised several times by the composer before he settled on a final version.

“He composed that when technology was becoming readily accessible,” points out Olmos’ flutist, Mark Teplitsky. “This is true for all these 20th century French composers. They were composing when music was accessible in many more forms… of broadcast …music for films. I think a lot of the revision stemmed from the fact that music in the classical sense was no longer limited [to being heard only live].”

“These composers were perfectionists,” Teplitsky explains. “Once recording [technology] came about, it even more compounded the need to get it right.”

Olmos seems to have gotten it right in person at their new home—concerts this season are being held at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church.

“It’s a beautiful venue, acoustically, visually, aesthetically. It all ties into a performance that feels very genuine,” says Teplitsky.

Lueders agrees: “This is a community space, and as you walk in you feel the presence of the local community.”

Teplitsky adds enthusiastically, “We literally walk in through the audience itself!”

Olmos is also keeping the focus on community at their concert by showcasing local businesses, including Lily’s Cookies and Niche Clothing. There’ll be refreshments at intermission, and admission is by suggested donation, so everyone may attend.

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