Archive pour January, 2010

Beethoven’s Ninth

31 January 2010

An die Freude (To Joy) by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), a poem first published in 1785, lived in Beethoven’s imagination for over 30 years before he decided to immortalize it in the final movement of the Ninth. The writings of the German poet and playwright could not but elicit just such a response in the composer. In fact, Schiller’s work teems with references to liberty dearly won and the first version of the text was actually and ode to liberty written in a democratic vein. Rather than set the poem to music, Beethoven used Schiller’s stanzas, omitting over half of them, altering them, repeating some, going even as far as to integrate four new verses of his own, in order to express his musical intentions more precisely.

As the first movement of the symphony begins, Beethoven suspends the preceding adagio, as if he wished to stretch it to eternity. The contrast with the instrumental recitative that follows is striking.  The material is first presented in its instrumental form before the famous theme of joy finally explodes, first with the basses in unison, and then varied in multiple forms. By adding voices, Beethoven does no simply wish to create an effect (as spectacular as it may be) but stretch out in an essential gesture what the instruments alone are no longer able to express. The chorus thus becomes orchestral colour, joining its voice to the other instruments. (“Art and science only can raise man to godhood.” (Beethoven)

To listen to the Third Symphony, as performed by the Orchestre de la Francophonie under the direction of Jean-Philippe Tremblay (CD 5)

Beethoven’s Eroica

29 January 2010

In the next few posts, we’ll take a closer look to three of Beethoven’s Symphonies: his Third (first movement), his Ninth (the famous last movement) and the Sixth, “Pastoral”.

Finished in 1804, Beethoven’s first truly romantic symphony, the Third Symphony, a “musical monument” according to Berlioz, would irretrievably topple the genre into a new era. It “seems a miracle, in the work itself of Beethoven,” maintains Romain Rolland. “If, later, he went further, he never, as here, took such a big step.”

The Symphony was first dedicated to Napoleon but when the latter proclaimed himself emperor, Beethoven furiously tore up his dedication. The Symphony does not so much evoke battles as “deep and serious thoughts, melancholy memories, ceremonies of imposing grandeur and sadness,” according to Berlioz. As Wagner explains in a text dated 1851, the term  “eroica” must be taken in its broadest sense, that of a “the whole complete man, who is in possession of all the purely human feelings of love, pain and strength at their richest and most intense.”

Built on a simple E flat chord, the principal theme of the first movement, desperate and nearly furious, reveals itself gradually in the development, according to Berlioz, a
dejection that rapidly vanishes, however. Throughout the movement, “pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, tenderness and melancholy, meditation and burning desire, lassitude and exaltation, bravado and indomitable independence alternate and penetrate each other,” according to Wagner.

To listen to the Third Symphony, as performed by the Orchestre de la Francophonie under the direction of Jean-Philippe Tremblay (CD1)

Mozart: 254 years young today

27 January 2010

It is Mozart’s birthday today, a composer who continues to touch music lovers, whether amateur pianists or fine connoisseurs.

To celebrate the day with grace, why not view this charming little video that features his “easy” Sonata, K. 545 (not as easy as it may sound, as many young pianists battling with this piece could testify).

And to listen to his last two symphonies, great masterworks of the repertoire, by Tafelmusik, it’s here…

The Orchestre de la Francophonie in Beethoven’s symphonies

26 January 2010

It is tonight that the Orchestre de la Francophonie’s latest recording, Beethoven Live, first commercialisation of all nine Beethoven symphonies by a Canadian orchestra, will be launched.

This project has been recorded live in Quebec, during a series of four concerts, performed a few days later in Montreal. This project is the brainchild of 31-year-old Québécois conductor Jean-Philippe Tremblay, music director of the Orchestre de la Francophonie since its founding in 2001 and guest conductor of various European and North American orchestras.

“Beethoven’s work, bearing the stamp of passion, impetuousness, fraternity, love, and above all integrity, communicates a host of emotions that leave no soul indifferent. Beethoven is, for me, the greatest among the greats: the liberator, the guide. To interpret his music is one of the most incredible experiences that can be granted a musician. It is in this spirit that my colleagues of the Orchestre de la Francophonie and myself have approached his music,” explains the young conductor in his program notes.

The Beethoven Live project was made possible thanks to the participation of Espace Musique and, for one week, you can download the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony free of charge here…

We’ll come back to some of the Beethoven’s symphonies in a few days.

Classical lost and found

25 January 2010

No, this is not the name of a new enterprise that specializes in albums forgotten on bench parks or the subway. It is a Website devoted to forgotten composers or forgotten music by otherwise great composers. As stated on their home page, “many classical collectors are now searching beyond the standard repertoire for more esoteric fare. There’s an abundance of it to be found in all those scores that down through the years have for one reason or another become lost to the general public.”

Analekta has long been aware of this need to step away from beaten tracks, as many recent releases demonstrate, whether it be the premiere of André Mathieu’s Concertino by Alain Lefèvre, Valérie Milot’s Harp Recital or Ensemble Caprice’s take on Telemann and the Baroque Gypsies or double bassist Joel Quarrington’s recital on Garden Scene.

Or how about discovering Théodore Dubois’ symphonic work, Adonis, a rather charming work, as played by the Orchestre de la francophonie…

Pax caelestis

24 January 2010

A quiet Sunday morning… and the peaceful voices of children singing sacred songs. You’re invited to go behind the scenes of the recording of Pax caelestis, the latest album from Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal.

To listen to the album…

A composer as president of Croatia

22 January 2010

Although kings from years past wrote music in their spare time—including the very prolific Frederick the Great, who wrote extensively for the flute—it is now rather rare that a head of state also works as a composer, except of course Ignacy Paderewski who served briefly as the first prime minister of the independent Poland at the begining of the 20th century. Well that was until now, with newly elected president of Croatia, Ivo Josipović, who shows no interest in retiring from the composing scene.

An article about past or present politicians known also as musicians can be read here…

Slavonic Dances

20 January 2010

When Johannes Brahms first heard about the talent of the young Antonin Dvořák, he wrote a few lines to Fritz Simrock, his Berlin publisher, recommending he Moravian Duets: “If you play them, you will experience great pleasure; as a publisher, you will be very happy to edit such delightful things. Dvořák writes everything: operas, symphonies, quartets, pieces for piano. He is, without a doubt, a man of great talent. And poor! I beg you to consider this.” This was to mark the beginning of international success and of a loyal friendship between the two composers. (more…)

Nine: an unlucky number?

18 January 2010

Beethoven, Schubert, Vaughan Williams and Dvořák all wrote nine symphonies before dying. Superstitious, Mahler started on a tenth, shortly after completing his Ninth. He was never able to complete it. Bruckner, even though he had numbered his two first symphonies 00 and 0, hoping to break the “spell” so to speak, also passed away after completing his Ninth Symphony. Sibelius, on the other hand, stopped after eight… and lived an extra 33 years!

To listen to the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, as performed by Angèle Dubeau, on her latest album, Virtuoso

Ensemble Caprice named Audience’s Choice

15 January 2010

The Ensemble Caprice has just received the “Audience Choice” Prize from the Conseil des Arts de Montréal. The musicians were chosen among 50 companies that took part in 2008/2009 in the “Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée”. Between 400 and 500 presentations are touring each year through this program that extends the life of recent creations. Ensemble Caprice was enthusiastically received by all for its Vivaldi and the Baroque Gypsies program. Congratulations!

To listen to the albumVivaldi and the Baroque Gypsies...