Archive pour July, 2010

Prelude to the afternoon of a faun

29 July 2010

Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was first performed on December 22, 1894 and it definitely was one of the works that serves as a steppingstone for 20th century repertoire. Mallarmé, the poet who in 1866 completed the Églogue on which Debussy’s music was based, had only praise to offer:

“I just came out of the concert, extremely moved: a marvel! your illustration of l’Après-midi d’un faune would present no dissonance with my text, unless to go further, indeed, into the nostalgia and the light, with finesse, with malaise, with richness.”

Alain Marion performs a very interesting version, for flute and piano, here…

Bach’s Chaconne

29 July 2010

When Bach writes for solo strings, whether violin or cello, he seems to bring music to its purest essence. For me, one of the most inspiring moments of his Suites for solo violin remains his Chaconne, last movement of his Suite in D minor.

It is here performed by James Ehnes…

Liszt’s Petrarch’s Sonnet No. 104

27 July 2010

When Liszt’s name is heard, most people think of fireworks and passagework impossible to perform if you’re not a superhero. But Liszt is so much more interesting in his lyrical vein, like for example in Petrarch’s Sonnet No. 104, taken from his Années de pélerinage.

This is one piece pianist André Laplante often performs as an encore, much to our delight.

The translation of the poem reads as follow:

I cannot wage, yet know not peace;
I fear, I hope, I burn, I freeze again;
Mount to the skies, then bow to earth my face;
Grasp the whole world, yet nothing can obtain.
Pris’ner of one who deigns not to detain,
I am not made his own, nor giv’n release.
Love slays me not, nor yet will he unchain;
Nor life allot, nor stop my harm’s increase.

Sightless I see my fair; though mute, I mourn;
I scorn existence, yet I court its stay;
Detest myself, and for another burn;
By grief I’m nurtured; and, though tearful, gay;
Death I despise, and life alike I hate:
Such, lady, do you make my wretched state!

To listen…

Lekeu’s Sonata

25 July 2010

I have known and loved the Franck’s sonata for more years that I can remember but had never heard the Lekeu Violin Sonata before I got to spend some time in the recording studio with brothers Alain and David Lefèvre. From the first time I heard the piece, I just fell in love, deeply, madly…

To listen…


23 July 2010

I’m leaving you for about 10 days to ride the waves but, rest assured, I will be with you in spirit… While I’m gone, I’ll be sharing with you some of my favourite albums. Why not start the whole thing by a new reading of the ever classic Summertime, as performed by Tiger Okoshi and Lorraine Desmarais? You can also hear the two of them, live, at Club Soda, here…

Jazz things to do before you die…

21 July 2010

Lee Mergner, editor-in-chief of JazzTimes, has issued an interesting column: a jazz bucket list. Subtitled  “Forty jazz-related things to do before you die (or Keith Jarrett kills you),” the list includes visits to various jazz-related museums, listening to all of Miles Davis chronologically and dress accordingly for each period (this could be loads of fun actually) or spending $50 hunting for jazz albums at thrift stores and yard sales. It could also have included taking a jazz tour of a city, like in the album Montreal Variations

To read the complete list…

Music and poetry

19 July 2010

Poetry has inspired composers for centuries who set some of the most beautiful verses into music. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, as in this poem by Mark R Slaughter, called Violin.

She cried for all the broken hearts,
Painted everlasting winters –
Floral patterns etched in ice;
A frozen tear to
Soften up the bastard bones.

Bow made love to needy string
In cooing fling – wanton whispers
Fondled under pianissimos,
Caressing callous hearts.

Melodrama swayed in satin sound
– Yet the player wasn’t there,
Only creamy song, soothing, yearning,
Teasing bitter minds.

I sensed her persevering loneliness
For beauty of an evening:
Romance of a tune; laughing,
Sobbing at the fire.

Then a climax –
Writhing passion cutting deep –
Wounding macho flesh,

And all in a work of musical art:
Ephemeral stories, yarned of music
Honed impossibly through her tones.

To listen afterwards, maybe, Piazzolla’s Tango-Etude No. 1, performed by Angèle Dubeau on her Solo album.

Couperin’s Les baricades mistérieuses

16 July 2010

“It was through listening to the music of Bach, Couperin, Rameau and Scarlatti that I developed my love and fascination for the harpsichord. For several years now, I have harboured the idea of bringing together a collection of those works which touched me most particularly or which played an important part in my career as a musician”, says Luc Beausejour.

Those works are featured on the album Famous Works for Harpsichord which includes Les Barricades mystérieuses played on this video.

Celebrate Bastille Day in music

14 July 2010

Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14 each year, is commonly known as the Quatorze juillet (the fourteeth of July) and commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789.

If Italy than Germany played essential roles in the history of Western classical music, we should not forget that Paris was the musical mecca on several occasion, whether at the beginning of the 20th century or in the era of Louis XIV and Louis XV. While great and small courts were building imitations of Versailles everywhere in Europe, intellectuals and avant-garde artists were rushing to Paris, which had become the fount of culture. Literary salons were extremely popular and quickly became more open to the most recent musical works.

Why not try to recapture the essence of an evening in one of those fabulous Parisian salons, right before the Revolution and listen intently to Rameau, Leclair or even Telemann, as performed by Luc Beauséjour, Hélène Plouffe, Grégoire Jeay and Juan Manuel Quintana?

You may do so here…

Jeux d’eau

12 July 2010

If, like me, you don’t have air conditionning, you must have been looking for ways to refresh body and spirit in the last few days. Why not try music, especially if it’s Ravel’s Jeux d’eau. Maybe the mind and the ear will trick us in believing that this musical water could ease our anguish.

This is what pianist Francine Kay has to say about the work: “Jeux d’eau (The Fountain), is a striking example of Ravel’s youthful aesthetics, luxurious, sensual and evocative. The title is an allusion to Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este, 1883. Both compositions are virtuosic, and exploit the range of the piano. Ravel prefaces his work again with a quotation from the poet Henri de Régnier: “Dieu fluvial riant de l’eau qui le chatouille” (River God laughing at the water which tickles him). Ravel himself described it as “inspired by the bubbling of water and the musical sounds of fountains, waterfalls and brooks.””

To listen to the work…