I first met Daniel Boulud in March 2001, the day after Yo-Yo Ma premiered my second cello concerto with the New York Philharmonic. I was taken to lunch at Restaurant Daniel in New York City by some dear friends, and discovered that Daniel and his wife Micky had been at the previous evening’s performance. They warmly welcomed us to their restaurant, and told me that I could drop in, even on short notice—and so our friendship began.
Later that year, while I was at the fabled Yaddo artist colony in upstate New York, my friend Gordon Elliott, the food aficionado and television personality, had an idea he wanted to “try out” on me. He would bring an extraordinary bottle of red wine. The label would be at first hidden from me and I would, after having slowly partaken of a glass, create a short piece as an “homage” to the wine. All of this was recorded by his video crew.
The wine, a 1996 Cos d’Estournel, and the idea stayed with me for the next few years, until early 2003, when, after having dinner at Restaurant Daniel, I suggested a collaborative work to Daniel: his “dream” six-course meal would be “married” to a six-movement suite for six players with each movement introducing a course. He loved the concept, and after experimenting with different menus and tastings over the next two years in the Sky Box at Restaurant Daniel, we finally settled on the menu. That such a collaboration might be the focus of a Copland House gala benefit was largely the brainchild of my manager Elizabeth Dworkin. And when Copland House and its Artistic and Executive Director Michael Boriskin, my longtime friend and colleague, approached me about commissioning a celebratory work for this special event, everything fell into place, and I wrote the music in June and July of 2005. As the first work I began and completed after the composition and World Premiere of my opera Magaret Garner, it was a welcome change to a three-year immersion in a full-length operatic tragedy. The title, Troubadours’ Feast,
came last with some help from Daniel; music-makers reveling in the cuisines and cultures of different lands seemed to convey the ideal image.
The experience of creating the work was not unlike setting a text to music, in which the text—or, in the case of Troubadours’ Feast,
the food—must always come first. The music is not a “portrait” of the dish in question, but rather mirrors and embodies my experience and memory of it, visually and sensually (taste, aroma, texture, sight, etc.). In fact, the only sense not really employed in the experience of eating is aural. Troubadours’ Feast
is an attempt to create an experience for all five senses at once. It also happens to engage a sixth sense—the sense of humor.
— Richard Danielpour
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