Archive pour February, 2010

Neuroscience Working for Music

27 February 2010

For 50 years Jean-Paul Despins has taught music and the means to transmit it to generations of students at Montreal’s Le Plateau school, Université Laval in Quebec City, and now at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). He is the embodiment of the ever-young professor: sparkling eyes, often teasing, communicative, and given to hearty laughter. One senses the fever to teach that continues to possess him, whether he’s convincing one person or a whole class of aspiring teachers–his mission being the need to rethink the basic premises of teaching music in elementary school. He’s extremely vocal about the problems he perceives in the educational system. For the last 20 years he has campaigned militantly to have neuroscience integrated into the teaching of music.

Emotion governs reason

Despins stresses the need to put emotion back into the vocabulary of musical education. “Teaching places too much emphasis on cognitive learning, without calling on emotion, despite the fact that we know emotion governs reason. People can’t learn on the basis of negative behaviour, and therefore of negative emotions. If I ask you to play a piano sonata movement that you’ve learned, you’ll play the one you like best. You’ll have forgotten the one you didn’t like. We have to throw off this constraint, this habit of intellectualizing everything without supplying any emotional input.”

In Despins’ view, the teacher’s primary mission is to transmit these emotions. “Children are a little like animals. They understand the teacher through their eyes. If the teacher doesn’t transmit any emotion, the child will always have problems.” However, learning situations aren’t designed to suit all children. Teachers can help them learn, but mustn’t force them. This is where the ability to read behaviour comes in–to be able to anticipate a student’s reactions, rather than simply react to them. (more…)

New venues for classical music

25 February 2010

In the February 8 issue of The New Yorker, Alex Ross discusses the National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which indicates that the number of people who venture out to classical music performances in a given year has been declining for almost three decades. Some organisations now offer classical concerts in jazz venues or cafés, like the famous Poisson rouge in New York. Is this the solution?

Analekta launches its new online store

23 February 2010

It’s now official: you can now download your favourite Analekta music… directly on the Website of the label! Entirely secure, user friendly and state-of-the-art, ANALEKTA.COM offers a higher quality of downloadable music, plus of course Radio-Analekta and the possibility of browsing through the complete Analekta catalogue in streaming.

A few months ago, I told you a little bit about the FLAC format, a “lossless” format that gives you the possibility to compress music without loosing any sound quality. The FLAC files sold on the ANALEKTA.COM Website now gives you the possibility to get sound quality equal to or superior to that of a CD. For a recent recording, you will be listening to the sound equivalent to that heard by a sound engineer while recording!

You can now easily and quickly download music performed by the greatest Canadian artists, buy or offer prepaid packages, subscribe, collect Analekta points and exchange them for download credits. Plus, all music bought on ANALEKTA.COM remains accessible on your account, without term limitations.

François Mario Labbé, founder of the label, took this opportunity to talk about some of the upcoming releases, including one devoted to the Italian baroque composer Francesca Caccini. Shannon Mercer, Luc Beauséjour, Sylvain Bergeron and Amanda Keesmaat performed three excerpts from the recording. Stay tuned for more information on this album soon.

A quiet Monday morning

22 February 2010

A very peaceful video, that features Nicolò Paganini‘s Cantabile for violin and guitar, performed by Angèle Dubeau and Alvaro Pierri.

Das Lied von der Erde: a performer’s perspective

19 February 2010

The British conductor Kenneth Woods tells us what sets Das Lied von der Erde apart from other works by Mahler. Is it autobiography?

The beloved earth everywhere blossoms and greens in springtime, anew. Everywhere and forever the distances brighten blue! Forever… forever… These were the last words Mahler ever set to music, and, unlike the rest of the Song of the Earth, they were not those of an ancient poet, but his own. Mahler, the master of contradiction and paradox, ends a work that is so universal in scope with just the briefest hint of autobiography- almost  a secret confession, hidden in this epic panorama.”

To read the article…

To listen to the work, as performed by the OSM under Kent Nagano…

Orchestral History: a timeline

17 February 2010

As far back as 950 B.C., orchestras were formed to celebrate public events, using instruments such as trumpets, harps, horns, pipes and percussion instruments. The form has come a long way over the past centuries, as these highlights demonstrate.

1030: Guido d’Arezzo creates musical staff for notation.

1473: The first complete piece of music is printed.

1600s: Instrumental music develops and composers create many new orchestral forms, including the concerto grosso, the concerto for solo instruments and orchestra and the sinfonia. Italian composer Jean-Baptiste Lully leads a large orchestra at the court of French King Louis XIV.

1607: Claudio Monteverdi writes a full orchestration for his opera Orfeo.

1709: Bartolomeo Cristofori invents the pianoforte. Many concertos will be devoted to the instrument from that point on.

1800: Beethoven includes trombones in the orchestra. Two years later, he enlarges symphonic form with his “Eroica” Symphony.

1815: Valves are invented for brass instruments, allowing them to play chromatically.

1824: First performance of Beethoven’s Ninth.

1839: New York Philharmonic Orchestra is formed.

1842: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is formed.

1877: The phonograph is invented and, the following year, the microphone.

1899: First tape recordings are made.

1909: First orchestral recording is released for sale.

1934: The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is formed.

1939: “A440” is adopted as the standard pitch for tuning. (Several baroque ensembles use a lower pitch to tune.)

Listen to the OSM in Beethoven’s Egmont and Fifth Symphony here…

Anton Kuerti in Texas

15 February 2010

Anton Kuerti gave recitals and masterclasses last week in Austin and was most convincing in both roles. “Beethoven,” said Kuerti, “shows that by persevering you can achieve great things. If we look at his manuscripts we see that he often crossed things out and he often revised what he had done before. Composing for Beethoven was torture. But as with so many things in life, hard work and commitment pay off. Don’t give up.”

Paul E. Robinson talks about it here…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 February 2010

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.” (Ingrid Bergman)… as is music, one might add.

As exquisite background for your intimate dinner with your loved one, nothing better than the album Of Love and Music. I admit a soft spot for Thaïs’ Meditation still and I’ve got a crush on you, a lovely medley of Gerhswin tunes…

A new pedal-harpsichord to be heard tonight

12 February 2010

Harpsichord maker Yves Beaupré, winner of the 2002-2003 Prix Opus “Appreciation to an instrument maker” has built a new pedal-harpsichord last summer. A pedal-harpsichord, that is, a harpsichord with an organ-type pedal-board, would have been found in the home of most German organists during the baroque period. No ancient instrument having survived, Yves Beaupré has recreated the instrument based on texts from the era. Musically, it grants the performer a new vision of Bach’s music and also offers new possibilities to harpischord repertoire.

Luc Beauséjour will use the instrument tonight to perform some of the most gorgeous pieces of the harpsichord and organ German repertoire, written by Bach (including excerpts from his Art of the Fugue), Buxtehude, Pachelbel and others.

The concert is held at the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours in Old-Montreal.

To listen to Luc Beauséjour and Shannon Mercer in Bach…

RIP Jacques Hétu

10 February 2010

A few moments ago, I learned with much sadness the death of composer Jacques Hétu, to whom a vibrant homage was rendered on January 31 at the 13th Gala des Prix Opus. Born in 1938 in Trois-Rivières, he studied composition with Clermont Pépin at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal while perfecting his abilities as a pianist and oboist. He also took classes with Lukas Foss at the Berkshire Music Centre in Tanglewood, before moving to Paris for a few years to study composition with Henri Dutilleux and analysis with Olivier Messiaen.

The works of Hétu include four symphonies; concertos for piano (1969, 1999), bassoon (1979), clarinet (1983), trumpet (1987), ondes Martenot (1990), flute (1991), guitar (1994), trombone (1995), marimba (1997), horn (1998), organ (2001), oboe and English horn (2004), and a Triple concerto for violin, cello and piano (2002); works for voice and orchestra including Les Abîmes du Rêve (1982) and the Missa pro trecentesimo anno (1985), for the Bach tercentenary; an opera, Le Prix, as well as several chamber pieces.You can listen to his Rondo varié, performed by Angèle Dubeau and Louise-André Baril, here…

La Scena Musicale had him on its cover in July 2008. To read the article…