Archive pour November, 2009

The power of youth

29 November 2009

Thursday and Friday, I Musici de Montréal (led by music director Yuli Turovsky) presented Stars of the Future, a concert featuring seven soloists under the age of 16! The wide-ranging program includes operatic excerpts, concerto movements for violin, flute and clarinet by Vivaldi, Seitz, Quantz and Weber, a word for erhu and strings, and Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien! Also featured was guest conductor Stéphane Tétreault, a 16-year old student of Yuli Turovsky who has had a very busy and successful year on the cello as well.

Musical terms: a game (2/2)

27 November 2009

You are a pro and knew it all? Here are the answers, just in case. For the others, why not a little bit more input…

1 R – 2 Q – 3 T – 4 A – 5 C – 6 D – 7 B – 8 N – 9 J – 10 M – 11 I – 12 K – 13 S – 14 O – 15 L – 16 E – 17 H – 18 P – 19 F – 20 G

1.    a theatrical work for singers and orchestra: opera. Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century with Peris’s lost Dafne, produced around 1597 but most textbooks cite Monteverdi’s Orfeo as the first official one, in 1607. The genre soon spread through the rest of Europe.

2.    a composition for soloist(s) and orchestra, usually in three movements: concerto. We’ll soon demystify that concept.

3.    a number in an opera, oratorio, or cantata for a single vocal soloist with orchestral accompaniment: aria.

4.    a composition for vocal soloists (usually just one or two) and orchestra, often with chorus as well and divided into several sections or movements: cantata. It can be sacred or not. Bach has written wonderful ones.

5.    a procedure in which a subject in one voice is repeated in different registers by several additional voices in succession: fugue. The term fuga was used as far back as the Middle Ages, but was initially used to refer to any kind of imitative counterpoint. It was not until the 16th century that fugal technique as it is understood today began to be seen in pieces, both instrumental and vocal. There also, Bach remains a master.

6.    instrumental music inspired by some extra-musical element – a story, a character, a landscape, a literary figure or an event: program music. The most famous example may be Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. (more…)

Musical terms: a game (1/2)

25 November 2009

Musical vocabulary may appear at times a bit strange, at others very precise. Do you know it well? Here is a little game for you to find out. You only need to association the definitition and the term. Answers (and some explanations) in our next post.


1.    a theatrical work for singers and orchestra
2.    a composition for soloist(s) and orchestra, usually in three movements
3.    a number in an opera, oratorio, or cantata for a single vocal soloist with orchestral accompaniment
4.    a composition for vocal soloists (usually just one or two) and orchestra, often with chorus as well and divided into several sections or movements
5.    a procedure in which a subject in one voice is repeated in different registers by several additional voices in succession
6.    instrumental music inspired by some extra-musical element – a story, a character, a landscape, a literary figure or an event
7.    art songs (as opposed to folk or popular songs) by German composers
8.    a musical form in which the principal theme alternates with a succession of subsidiary themes in the pattern of ABACADA
9.    a device used to dampen or muffle the sound
10.    a composition, often in three movements and usually written for either a single instrument or for a string or wind instrument plus piano
11.    a composition for orchestra usually lasting anywhere from about twenty to fifty minutes and often in four movements
12.    how loudly or softly the music should be played
13.    the rhythmic device of emphasizing the unstressed or weak beats instead of the normally accented strong beats
14.    the person who stands at the front of a band, orchestra, chorus or ensemble
15.    a passage in a composition for soloist and orchestra where the soloist plays completely alone, often in a virtuosic manner
16.    a group of singers who perform together, with more than one singer per part
17.    a symbol at the beginning of a line of music serving as a point of reference to indicate where all the pitches lie on the staff
18.    a method of composition in which all twelve pitches of the chromatic scale are treated equally
19.    the distance between two pitches
20.    The leader of the first violin section of an orchestra


A.    cantata
B.    lieder
C.    fugue
D.    program music
E.    choir
F.    interval
G.    concertmaster
H.    clef
I.    symphony
J.    mute
K.    dynamics
L.    cadenza
M.    sonata
N.    rondo
O.    conductor
P.    dodecaphony
Q.    concerto
R.    opera
S.    syncopation
T.    aria

Winners of the OSM Standard Life Competition

23 November 2009

The winner of the OSM Standard Life Grand Prize is Jan Lisiecki, a pianist from Alberta. This prize is awarded to one of the first-prize winners (piano and percussion) who made the strongest impression during the Competition. In addition to receiving a $10,000 scholarship offered by Standard Life, the 15-year-old winner will perform in a concert with the OSM on January 12, 2010. His prize also includes a professional recording from Espace musique as well as invitations from the orchestras of Ottawa and St.John (Newfoundland) as well as the Orford Arts Centre.

Pianist Tristan Longval-Gagné, from Quebec, and percussionnist Benjamin Duinker, from Nova Scotia, were the first prize winners in the two other categories of this year’s edition of the Competition.

An orchestra in a brothel

21 November 2009

A Leipzig orchestra has played in a brothel last night, as part of a series of concerts in strange places (an euphemism here), to meet its public “away from the atmosphere of classical concert halls”, to quote its music director.

Six musicians and a singer from the Forum for Contemporary Music of Lepzig performed eight works, including one from Kurt Weill and Bertold Bretcht’s Four-Penny Opera (one cannot accuse them of not having given serious thoughts to this program) in the city’s Eros Center.

Premiere of Gilles Tremblay’s opera tonight

19 November 2009

The fairy tale opera, L’eau qui danse, la pomme qui chante et l’oiseau qui dit la vérité is asserted to be the summum of Gilles Tremblay’s creative life. The premiere of this lyric work, a little over two hours long, is to be held tonight, at the Monument National in Montreal. Permeated by a strongly poetic strain, the opera is the product of a collaborative enterprise between Tremblay and poet and novelist Pierre Morency (signing his debut libretto)―two men united by a shared communion with nature. “Every word was re-examined, discussed, made to conform, in accordance with the music it will support,” explains Morency. “A libretto not only tells a story, but provides a base from which the composer can launch into his music.”

As occurs all too often, a cruel twist of fate intervened, and Gilles Tremblay could not be present at the rehearsals: he is convalescing from a CVA but should be there tonight. Fired with enthusiasm, the stage director Robert de Bellefeuille states: “We have the very delicate responsibility of bringing this work into the world. It traverses our whole bodies; we are investing a part of ourselves in it, unreservedly, uncompromisingly. The work will be complete only on the evening of the premiere; it is up to us to bring it forward without imposing it, in such a way that the audience will embrace it and be transported by it.”

50th anniversary of Villa-Lobos’ death

18 November 2009

A series of concerts and homages are held this week in Rio to honour the memory of one of – if not the – most important Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, who passed away on November 17, 1959.

“He was deeply immersed from the earliest age in an atmosphere of nationalistic exaltation, affirmation and search of “modernism” in all its meanings. He captured in his musical language all the elements of his universe, and through this conveyed the essence of his self-definition as a man and as an artist. His vast knowledge of his people’s folklore combined with his mastery of the compositional techniques of the “educated” musical styles of the period led to a most universal artistic product”, explained guitarist Alvaro Pierri in his program notes of his 1995 CD devoted to the composer.

“Composition was therefore his activity, fundamental, essential and vital, even during the course of normal life, while giving a lesson, surrouded by his friends or cooking a stew! Without a hint of arrogance he once told a reporter in a sudden impulse of sincerity: “I am the folklore.” Such a comment was fitting for a man of his vitality – powerful transfiguration of the cultural mosaic of his musical “nation.” Friend of Stokowski, Varèse, Milhaud, Rubinstein, Segovia, unsurpassed orchestrator and chamber musician, orchestra and choir conductor, unique pedagogue of spectacular realisations, often controversial, he always disseminated his creative energy in all directions to the major benefit of our emotions.”

To listen to his music…

To sing Messiah

16 November 2009

I admit that I am not a big Christmas fan but I really do enjoy Handel’s Messiah (written, let’s remind ourselves, to be sung at Easter). So when I read this invitation from Tafelmusik, I was a little titillated.

Indeed, the baroque orchestra just launched a contest to find the the best 90-second video celebrating the  spirit of their annual Sing-Along Messiah performance. As the media release says, “Now is your chance to show the world your finest Sing-Along voice by recording your best rendition of your favourite Messiah excerpt in a 90-second video that will be viewable worldwide. Be creative! Have fun! Sing your heart out with friends and family or be a daring soloist. You can appear in the video, or not, as long as the music and/or voices in the video are your own. (You could even film yourself as a sock puppet!). It doesn’t matter if you are a member of a choir, or you have never sung before – if you enjoy Handel’s Messiah, show us your stuff.”

Prizes will be offered for the Best Overall Performance, Best Group / Family, Best Soloist, and Most Creative, and the final decisions will be made by Mr. Handel himself, at the annual concert. For more information, you can visit Tafelmusik’s website

You can learn a little bit about Messiah by reading this article, published a few years back in La Scena Musicale…

Beethoven’s Fifth: images and music

14 November 2009

What if we were to take a piece of classical music and represent it with graphics? What would it look like? This is what demonstrates the Music Animation Machine. Each instrument has its own line (like a conductor’s score would) as well as its own colour. This is how we can visualize one of the best-known works of the repertoire and appreciate it in a totally different light.

Telemann: a biographical sketch (2/2)

12 November 2009

Through the years, he also became diplomatic correspondent, Kapellmeister of the courts of Duke Ernst of Gotha and eventually Kantor of the Hamburg Johanneum, a position that required  him to compose two cantatas a week, to produce a new Passion annually, and to provide occasional works for church and civil ceremonies. But it wasn’t enough for Telemann who also wanted to have his hand at opera, despite the opposition of the city fathers. Fed up with their attitude, he threatened to resign and applied for the post of Kantor of the Leipzig Thomaskirche, and in 1722 was chosen over Bach, Graupner and three other candidates. Since the Hamburg City Council refused to grant his release, they were nevertheless obliged to improve his salary and withdraw their objections to his association with the Hamburg Opera. Telemann remained in Hamburg until his death in 1767, being succeeded in that position by his godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian.

Considered the most famous musician in Germany, Telemann was an extremely prolific composer, and wrote more than 3000 works (some sources mention 3600), including more than 1500 church cantatas, 600 suites for orchestra and 46 settings of the Passion! Handel, a lifelong friend, would jokingly relate that Telemann “could write a church piece in eight parts with the same expedition another would write a letter”.

Listen to Telemann and the Baroque Gypsies, Ensemble Caprice’s latest album…