Archive pour August, 2009

Finding a music teacher: a few essential questions

31 August 2009

Every time I pick up the phone and that someone enquires about my teaching availabilities, I am often totally dismayed by the few questions I’m asked. Most often, fees are discussed and what days of the week I teach. However, when one starts to learn an instrument, one often signs a (very) long-term contract. It is not unusual that students stay in my class seven, eight or even ten years. Though I quickly explain that my ultimate goal is that they won’t need me anymore and that they’ll be able to figure out how to work out any technical difficulties, in general, apprenticeship is not instantaneous. And, yes, through the years, teacher and student become close to one another, music being an experience to be shared.


Finding the right teacher: first steps

29 August 2009

It’s the beginning of the school year, which means back-to-school time, busier schedules, and the selection of various activities. Perhaps you are considering music lessons? Before picking up the phone, it is important to think about the amount of time that will have to be spent playing the instrument. It is not enough to simply book lessons in the agenda of an otherwise busy schedule. To make significant progress in playing an instrument you will have to invest a minimum amount of time in practice. Most teachers have quotas for their students, generally ranging from 20 minutes to an hour a day.

You are now ready to begin the selection process that will land you on the doorstep of the ideal teacher… for you.  Take the time to ask whatever questions you have and do not hesitate to ask to attend a mini-lesson. This will enable you to appreciate the physical environment, the rules that apply in the studio, the teacher’s capacity to teach, and also whether you hit it off with the teacher.


New voices?

27 August 2009

Lise Brunelle, Sophie Lemaire, Marjorie Maltais, Eric Prud’homme, Annie Sanschagrin, Pierre Verreault:  are these the names of new Canadian artists to be recorded by the Analekta label? Not exactly… at least not yet! In fact, these are the names of the six amateur singers who have been selected to take part in Apéro à l’opéra, Opéra de Montréal’s latest outreach program. Starting on September 22, they will follow a very serious formation, with experts from the opera world. Master classes, private lessons, as well as workshops in stage presence, diction, stress management and prononciation of Italian, German and Russian are also on the menu.

No less than 168 candidates from all over Quebec sent in their application for this unusual competition. I’ll keep you posted, of course.

New Mozart works

26 August 2009

Two previously unknown works composed by a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have been discovered and validated by the International Mozarteum Foundation recently.

The pieces, an extensive concerto movement and a prelude, were found at the end of a lesson book compiled by Mozart’s father for his daughter Maria Anna and young Wolfgang.

The works first appeared in a 1892 but were then classified as anonymous compositions, since they were in Mozart’s handwriting. But the research department at the Mozarteum Foundation re-evaluated the compositions and strongly believes that the pieces were actually composed by Mozart before he was versed in musical notation. The Foundation believes that Mozart’s father transcribed the works as Mozart played them.

First concert performances of the pieces are slated for Mozart Week 2010 in Salzburg.

The Soloist on DVD

25 August 2009

It is not often that a film about musicians is presented. You missed The Soloist, with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr., when it camed out, as I did? Now you can make amends and run to your video store. Anne Midgette, of the Washington Post, talks about the ups and downs of the movie, as seen by someone who loves classical music and is (obviously) interested by journalism. Read here…

Muzak: is it music or torture?

22 August 2009

I’m appaled: I just realised that, according to statistics, I’m destined to spend roughly 1.2 years on hold. And, yes, that means that I’ll have to listen to unbearable Muzak, interrupted every few seconds by a lovely electronic voice that will repeatedly reminded me that “Your call is important to us, please stay on line” or the more prosaic “Your estimated time of wait is…”

But where did the idea that music could calm upset consumers come from? Simon Morrison, a musicologist at Princeton University, says that it may very well be Erik Satie’s fault, as he became obsessed with the idea that music could no longer communicate to the audience and decided to write “furniture music” (musique d’ameublement).

Newsweek just dediceted an article to this somewhat sensitive (at least for musicians) topic. To read…

To listen to some Satie (way better than any Muzak), here is Francine Kay in some of his most famous works.

La Fête de la musique is back!

20 August 2009

The programmation of the 11th edition of the Fête de la musique at Tremblant is revealed today. This year marks the return of Angèle Dubeau as artistic director of the event, after an hiatus of three years. An annual gathering of various musical horizons nestled around classic genre for the sheer delight of music lovers. It consists of some 40 free outdoor concerts over a period of three days, given by more than 30 artists and groups, but is also a wonderful opportunity to savour the last fine summer evenings and the pedestrian village of Tremblant.

The Ensemble Caprice, winner of a Juno this year, will open the festivities with the first of three concerts devoted to Vivaldi. Under the direction of Matthias Maute, they will first perform “Vivaldi and the Gypsies”, followed by “Vivaldi and Telemann” in the early evening (exceptionally in St-Jovite) and, the following day, “Vivaldi and his secret fiancée” with soprano Shannon Mercer.

Alain Lefèvre will perform in a no-nonsense program, fueled by his inspiration of the day, on Saturday September 5 at 8.

On Sunday Septembre 6 at 8 p.m, Angèle Dubeau and La Pietà present a brand new concert under the theme of gestics. Among other things, she will premiere Canadian composer Christos Hatzis’ Arabesque.

The following day, at noon, the scene will be taken over by  Jean-Philippe Tremblay who, this time, performs as a chamber musician rather than a conductor. He will play the viola in a program devoted to Schumann.

Shannon Mercer, one of the most promising Canadian sopranos, will perform with The Skye Consort in songs from their most recent albumWales – The Land of Song on September 6 at 2 p.m.

La Fête de la Musique aims to democratise music by presenting it in a familial context. Since its debuts, the events has attracted more than 250 000 people. A musical rendez-vous that has become a must… totally free!

Details here…

Musical friendships

18 August 2009

If playing music conjures up images of isolation, whether in the practice room or on stage, then the enjoyment of music evokes companionship. Thus, it is hardly surprising that many musicians and composers have developed close relationships. Some composers saw each other on a regular basis. Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for example, enjoyed a deep and lasting friendship despite their age difference. Mozart even dedicated a series of quartet to his elder. To listen, as performed by the Alcan Quartet…

The flamboyant Franz Liszt and the more reserved Frédéric Chopin met also on a number of occasions and respected each other work’s tremendously. (There were some frictions in the love department though, it seems, Liszt could very well have stolen a potential girlfriend from Chopin, but that is another story…) Liszt was also a fervent admirer of Richard Wagner and the two spent many hours together. Their graves lie side by side. Alain Lefèvre performs three Liszt’s transcriptions inspired by Wagner.

Tovey comes to the rescue of bride

14 August 2009

Definitely a story to tell, again and again, to kids and grandkids… Conductor Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony, dashed to help out an English bride after her pianist disastrously got stuck in traffic as she was about to tie the knot. The conductor and composer, also a versatile pianist (and wonderful jazz improviser) was visiting Norwich to perform with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, but stood in to play the music the bride requested from memory. Isn’t love – and music – grand! The full story here…

Schumann and mathematics (the answers)

13 August 2009

a) Schumann died at 46

b) Clara was 20 when she married Schumann. After much ordeal and various menaces from Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, the wedding finally was held.

c) How many kids did the couple have? 8, among which Eugenie, who wrote her Memoirs and gave us much insight into the household’s daily routine, and Julie, who Brahms fell in love with. (He dedicated her Rhapsody for alto.)

d) Which finger did Schumann hurt? 4th

e) Month of Schumann’s birth (January being 1, February 2, etc.): June (6)

f) Number of pieces in Kinderszenen opus 15: 13. Schumann wrote 30 then chose 13 to include in the set.

g) Number of piano concertos composed by Schumann: only one.

h) Intermezzi opus 4

i) Schumann married 1 time, with his beloved Clara, virtuoso, composer… and mother.