In addition to music, French composer and conductor Bruno Mantovani has another great passion: food — especially the cuisine of his native country. “I have many more friends who are chefs than composers,” he said with a chuckle.

Mantovani is a member of the 106-year-old Club des Cents (Club of One Hundred), a highly exclusive assemblage of gastronomes who meet weekly in Paris for meals. Becoming a member requires two sponsors and an extensive interview process.

In a 2016 feature in Le Figaro, a major Paris newspaper, Mantovani highlighted some of his favorite restaurants and culinary shops in the 19th Arrondissement, the northeastern Parisian district that’s home to the Paris Conservatory, where the composer serves as director.

“For me, gastronomy is a real artistic expression and a very high-level expression,” said Mantovani, whose Threnos receives its world premiere Oct. 18-20 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop. “For example, if you take the big chefs in France — we just lost one of the most famous, Joël Robuchon, or Alain Ducasse or Bernard Pacaud — they have an identity. They are playing with the material. They are creating the illusion.”

Mantovani tries to do the same thing with musical sounds that those chefs do with meat, vegetables and spices: combine them in a unique way and invest them with a distinctive personal identity.

TOP: Gastronomes congregate at Club des Cents in 1914, just two years after its founding. | Photo: Wikimedia