Douglas recalled having played the Saint-Saens “Sonata for Clarinet” but his real introduction to the Frenchman's music was a production of “Samson and Delilah” at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
“Hearing ‘Samson and Delilah' turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Douglas recalled. “I wanted to take all of that incredibly passionate late romantic music and bring it to the piano concerto.
“I kind of felt like I had set myself up for disappointment because this concerto is not of that ilk. But I've grown to love it like you would a wonderful aged aunt. It's never going to rock the world but it definitely has a place in the world.”
Titled “Blazing Colors with a French Twist,” this all-French program will also feature Saint-Saens' “Danse Macabre,” an 1874 work that opens with the harp playing 12 repeated notes to signal midnight.
That's followed by an appearance from the Devil (portrayed by a solo violinist who is asked to tune his E string a half step lower, which creates an eerie sound) and finally some ghostly revelry that ends just before dawn breaks.
Music director Joel Levine has also programmed Hector Berlioz's “Harold in Italy,” an 1834 work for viola and orchestra. Inspired by Lord Byron's “Childe Harold,” the work is more of a symphony with a prominent viola line than an actual concerto for viola. Principal violist Royce McLarry will be the featured soloist.