Monday, December 4, 2023

William & Mary Orchestra Set to Debut French Composer Works

The 2022 William & Mary Symphony Orchestra. (WMSO)

WILLIAMSBURG — The William & Mary Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Professor David Grandis, will kick off its season with a special concert dedicated to Max d’Ollone on Oct. 28 at 7:30 pm.

The concert focuses on the works of d’Ollone, a contemporary of Ravel.

“Most of the works are American premieres, some will be world premiere recording (we’re recording a private afternoon performance before the concert), and most haven’t been played in France since their creation in 1911 or 1934,” Grandis said.

On the setlist are Le Temple abandonne, Fantaisie pour piano, Verdun excerpts (Nostalgie and Lamento), Les funerailles du poete, and Les villes maudites.

For Grandis, researching the works of d’Ollone was a passion project.

“I have always been a specialist of French music because of my cultural roots and my natural affinities, and I first discovered Max d’Ollone as an opera composer when I wrote my book on the stylistic elements of French opera, but I was unaware of his symphonic works until a recent recording by the Palazetto Bru Zane came out. I discovered Les villes maudites, and later the Fantaisie for piano and was impressed by the superior quality of the writing. I continued to explore his chamber music, discovered some masterpieces — an absolutely beautiful piano quartet — and decided to reach out to his grandson, Patrice d’Ollone, former director of the Paris National Orchestra,” Grandis said.

David Grandis conducting at a recent WMSO concert. (WMSO)

After making that connection, Patrice and Grandis worked together to secure some of Max’s works.

“Patrice was supposed to come play the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra with us in May 2020, but COVID happened. When things got better, I received the sad news that Patrice had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and wouldn’t be able to participate in the project, but his nephew will attend the concert,” Grandis said.

The concert will honor Patrice, alongside his grandfather.

“As Patrice composed a little himself and worked tirelessly to promote the music of his grandfather, I am very happy to play two pieces by him, and reuniting grandfather and grandson on the same program,” Grandis said.

Grandis is passionate about honoring his French roots, but also about honoring his family.

“The whole project is also tied quite intimately with my life as my father was an opera-trained singer in France during his early twenties. But life sent him in a very different direction, and he became a journalist. He loved this type of repertoire, and he was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia and passed in 2021, in the middle of all this,” Grandis said.

With rehearsals underway, Grandis and the orchestra take the responsibility of conducting and playing these debut works to heart.

“It’s a huge responsibility for the music director.  As Berlioz explained in his chapter on conducting in his orchestration treatise, if you play mediocrely something everybody knows, it doesn’t matter much for the work, it will be just bad for your reputation as a musician,” he explained. “However, if you don’t play well something that nobody knows, you don’t give a chance to the piece to be well received and loved. It’s a complete disaster, because of your bad performance, people might dismiss the work or the composer himself and all his production.”

“A conductor’s duty, above all, is to serve the composer to the best of his abilities. William and Mary Symphony Orchestra is composed of a majority of non-music majors, but the talent is there, and the excitement too. They’re dedicated, and they accomplish wonders,” he added. “As for the way the current rehearsals are going, I am very confident that they’ll do very well on this program, and the acoustic of the new hall is also very promising, which always helps a performance.

Tickets are $3 for general admission and can be purchased at the entrance of the hall before the concert. The show will take place at the new music hall, located next to PBK in the arts quarter of the college.

For more information on the William & Mary Symphony Orchestra, visit

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