Archive pour January, 2009

Worth pondering on…

29 January 2009

“The completely qualified critic does not, cannot exist … If he knew all there is to know about music, that would be but a beginning. If he knew everything about literature, about painting, about sculpture, about the dance and about the theater, he would be a superman among his fellows, but there would be much more for him to learn.”
Oscar Thompson, Practical Musical Criticism

Do newborn infants have a sense of rhythm?

27 January 2009

We know that newborn infants are sensitive to a variety of sounds. But what do they factually hear? Can they make sense of the musical world around them? Do they have a sense of rhythm, arguably one of the fundaments of music? Researchers from the Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Amsterdam are studying the question.

To read about it…

Opus Prizes

26 January 2009

Twenty-six Opus Prizes were awarded by the Conseil québécois de la musique yesterday in Montreal at Salle Claude-Champagne. In the category “Concert of the Year – Montreal”, three of the five nominees were Analekta artists: Ensemble Caprice for its concert “Vivaldi and the gypsies”, Les Idées heureuses for its “Promenade in Munich, Music at Albrecht V court” and baritone Jean-François Lapointe for “Paul Verlaine” (also nominated in the category “Concert of the Year – Classical, romantic, postromantic and impressionist repertoire”). Lapointe was awarded the prize in the “Concert of the Year – Montreal” category.

An Homage Prize was awarded to organist Bernard Lagacé, without a doubt one of the most important organists on the international scene today. Many of his legendary performances were recorded on the Analekta label, including Bach’s complete works for keyboard, launched in 2000. The boxset is still a reference today. To listen to one or the other of those works, you may click here.

The complete list of winners can be accessed here.

A bit of classical music at the Obama inauguration

21 January 2009

Most people may remember Aretha Franklin’s electrifying rendering of America – and her extravagant hat! – but, yes, classical music was heard at Barack Obama’s inauguration yesterday. Contemporary music, to be precise, written just for the occasion by John Williams. Indeed, despite the instrumentation of the work (violin, cello, clarinet and piano), it wasn’t Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, a choice that may have been a tad over the top for the occasion. Nevertheless, despite its more accessible exterior, Air and Simple Gifts had several qualities, not to be dismissed. The ending was sweet and quiet, after a raucous section that recaptured Obama’s victory speech in November. The title and the use of the folk song Simple Gifts was a nice homage toward Aaron Copland – who wrote Lincoln Portrait, among other truly American sounding music, let’s not forget. Most importantly perhaps was the look of sheer delight on the face of the president while he was listening to Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Antony McGill

Alex Ross, from the New Yorker, comments more extensively on the matter here…

Anne Midgette from the Washington Post is less tender. To read…

To listen to the work, you may do so here…

49 songs from north of the 49th parallel

20 January 2009

From January 5 to16, CBC Radio 2 invited Canadians to help select the top “49 songs from north of the 49th parallel” that would best define our country to the incoming U.S. President Barack Obama. Quite a few nominations were submitted, including quite a few Classical pieces. A first vote was held and the list was sized down to 100 titles, list that included 3 classical selections, including Glenn Gould’s everfamous recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Listeners voted again for the top 49 songs that they felt represented Canada the best. Gould made it to the top as well as Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman singing Goin’ Up a Yonder and heldentenor Ben Heppner singing We’ll Gather Lilacs.

To view the top 49 Songs, you may do so here…

Behind the scene with Tafelmusik

16 January 2009

What happens in a Tafelmusik rehearsal of Beethoven’s Symphonies? To find out, view this documentary, part of the bonus DVD accompanying Tafelmusik’s Beethoven Symphonies 7 + 8 recording, released on October 14, 2008 on the Analekta label. You will get insight from conductor Bruno Weil and music director Jeanne Lamon.

To access the CD information on the Analekta Website, click here…

Alain Lefèvre the guest of Charlie Rose

13 January 2009

The magnificent American TV host Charlie Rose has received some of the world’s greatest stars in his studio, whether they be politicians, actors, singers, activists. From time to time but ever so rarely, a Canadian guest graces his stage: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Margaret Atwood, Denys Arcand, Dov Charney (the founder of American Apparel). In December, his guest was pianist Alain Lefèvre. He shared with Rose his love of Mathieu but also talked about Rachmaninov, his professional life, his convictions for youngsters to be presented with classical music and arts. The interview can be heard here…

The Canadian pianist was also just named “Personality of the week” by La Presse newspaper two days ago. To read (in French)…

The Baroque era (1600-1750)

10 January 2009

If Renaissance composers (including Josquin des Prés, Orlando di Lassus and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina) first laid the basis of polyphonic writing, the composers of the baroque period solidified them while integrating new elements. Solo voices were progressively put forward (as exemplified by the birth of opera and the golden age of the castratos, true stars of the era). Singers add numerous ornaments to the melodies to expand the texture of the lines and this technique will also be used in instrumental music.

Renaissance’s repertoire was essentially modal and constructed horizontally (lines get superposed and meet in a few spots). The baroque composers put forward a more preeminent verticality that will eventually lead to the mastery of tonality as we know it today. The emergence of basso continuo (and cadences that punctuate the musical speech) confirms the importance granted to harmony as support of melody.

Musical forms got more settled through these years. The baroque sonata was then based on a three movements’ pattern (slow/fast/slow in Italy and fast/slow/fast in France). The suite (a series of instrumental dances, inspired by actual dances from various European countries), the fugue (brought by Johann Sebastian Bach to summits rarely achieved since) and the concerto (dialogue between orchestra and soloist) become more important forms, as works by Handel, Couperin, Purcell, Vivaldi, Telemann and Corelli demonstrate.

A few landmarks

1607 Orfeo de Monteverdi, considered as the first opera

1709 Cristofori invents the pianoforte, an instrument that will truly be recognized in 1747, thanks to Bach

1710 Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

1711 Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

1712 Haendel’s Messiah

The Caprice Ensemble recently launched the CD Vivaldi and his angels, featuring the famous Gloria RV 589.

Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà play Glass

7 January 2009

Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà perform the overture to Philip Glass’ Beauty and the Beast.

Angèle Dubeau on Philip Glass

4 January 2009

On October 14, Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà launched Philip Glass: Portrait, a CD devoted to the famous American composer. At the press conference, she told us more about the special bond she felt towards Philip Glass’ music.

“Glass’ music has always fascinated me. I discovered this music in the 80s and attended several concerts by Philip Glass and his ensemble. To Glass’ request, I worked on his Violin Concerto with him, in New York. Gidon Kremer had premiered the work but Glass wanted to make a few corrections and I was happy to spend time trying things out and reshaping the work with him. After that, I performed the work, including with the OSQ.

Since then, I’ve had this dream to do a recording of Philip Glass’ music, a musical portrait. I listened to almost all his catalogue, keeping in mind that everything would be mainly played by a string ensemble. I also wanted this portrait to be filled with different textures and colours.

Why does Glass’ music fascinate me? I find it enthralling. This is the word that would best describe this music.Also, it is a music that uses repetition, like a mantra. It is intelligent, considering its structure, well-conceived, Cartesian, mathematical. I have fun finding the rhythmic cell, what I would call the stem cell. I then add it, superpose it, in a rhythmic stratum. Rhythms of two juxtaposed on rhythms of three, four or five… it’s like finding a common denominator, finding the points of anchorage of this music.

All this, all these mathematics should leave us emotionless… if you thought this, you’d be mistaken because to this solid structure stratums of colours are added, sound colours that enthrall the listener.

For Glass, time is not to be perceived as a continuous flow but rather a sucession of small moments.”