This Valentine’s weekend, the Houston Symphony is delighted to present a program of sparkling French works sure to provide the perfect soundtrack for your date night. Not only will this program feature two virtuosic showpieces for piano and orchestra and highlight two of the most fascinating figures and amazing talents in music history—sisters Lili and Nadia Boulanger—we also welcome no less than five incredible guest artists to the Jones Hall stage. Read on to learn more about these world-renowned artists, then pick up your concert tickets and bring your sweetheart (or your pals) to beautiful Jones Hall for an unforgettable evening of music!
A frequent collaborator and friend of the Houston Symphony, Fabien Gabel returns to the Jones Hall stage to lead these performances. Hailed as an international star in the new generation of orchestral conductors, Gabel holds the position of music director of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre Français des Jeunes. Gabel was born in Paris to a musical family and began his study of trumpet at age six. In his youth he was awarded First Prize in trumpet while attending the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris as well as the Donatella Flick competition in London. This concert will mark Gabel’s 11th appearance with the Houston Symphony.
Immersed in music early through her childhood participation in her family’s church choir, Alexandra Dariescu went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music, winning a Gold Medal as a student, and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She makes her Houston Symphony debut with the U.S. premiere of Nadia Boulanger’s Fantaisie variée as well as César Franck’s Variations symphoniques. In 2018, she was honored with the “Officer of the Romanian Crown” by the Royal Family of her native country and was also selected as Young European Leader by Friends of Europe. She is also the creator of the highly successful Nutcracker and I production, combining multimedia art with piano, dance, and digital animation.
Houston resident and two-time Grammy winner Sasha Cooke returns to the Jones Hall stage for Lili Boulanger’s Scenes from Faust et Hélène. In demand thanks to her versatility and commitment to new works, Cooke is sought-after by orchestras, operas, and chamber ensembles across the globe. An alumna of Houston’s own Rice University and the Juilliard School, Cooke most recently won the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium for M.T. Thomas’s “From the Diary of Anne Frank & Meditations on Rilke.”
Recently graduating from the acclaimed Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Matthew White makes his Houston Symphony debut this weekend for Lili Boulanger’s Faust et Hélène. An avid participant in musical competitions, White has been awarded Grand Prize in the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition and the Mario Lanza Vocal Competition, as well as placing in the Deborah Voigt International Vocal Competition and the Metropolitan Opera Mid-Atlantic competition. In addition to his work in opera, White is also a trained violinist and frequent surfer, even owning his own surfboard business.
Rounding out this weekend’s roster of guest artists is baritone Joshua Hopkins, a JUNO award-winning performer. This season Hopkins will perform in opera houses from New York to Santa Fe, Chicago, Seattle, and more. Hopkin’s performance in L. Boulanger’s Faust et Hélène will mark his fourth appearance with the Houston Symphony. His artistry has been described by Opera Today as having “…the technique to exploit its full range of expressive possibilities from comic bluster to melting beauty.”
Whether it's a Valentine’s date, Galentine’s night on the town, or just some much-needed me time, this concert is sure to leave you uplifted. Hear these entrancing guest artists with the outstanding Houston Symphony, February 11 and 12. Plus, make your Valentine’s extra special by adding a box off chocolate with your purchase! Plus stop by one of the lobby bars for a glass of sparkling champagne.
XOXO from the Houston Symphony
-By Mark Bailes