Archive pour January, 2011

Ensemble Caprice wins two Prix Opus

31 January 2011

The Québécois classical milieu got together yesterday, Salle Claude-Champagne, to celebrate the excellence and vitality of our musical scene. Without much surprise, Gilles Tremblay’s opera L’eau qui danse, la pomme qui chante et l’oiseau qui dit la vérité was the clear winner of this gala, as it was named “premiere of the year” and “musical event of the year.” (Let’s remember here that close to 100 artists, all Canadian, embarked on this crazy but fabulous adventure.) Tremblay received the title of “composer of the year” as well. The jury members also chose to salute Ensemble Caprice, not once but twice; first for its remarkable performance of Bach’s B minor Mass (category “Concert of the year – medieval, Renaissance and baroque repertoire”) and then as “performer of the year.” It was the first time in the 14 editions of the gala that an ensemble was rewarded in this category.

Les coups de cœur d’Alain Lefèvre, a program presented at the Lanaudière festival last July, won the prize as “concert of the year – regions,” while pianist Serhiy Salov‘s album, The Sacred Spring of Slavs, got the “Recording of the year – modern and contemporay repertoire” statuette.

Two other Analekta albums were nominated, in the “Recording of the year – medieval, Renaissance and baroque repertoire” category: Francesca Caccini: O Viva Rosa (Shannon Mercer, Luc Beauséjour, Amanda Keemaat, Sylvain Bergeron) and Telemann and the baroque Gypsies by Ensemble Caprice.

Quebec City’s effervescent musical scene was highlighted, as the “specialised presenter of the year” was given to the Club musical de Québec, which celebrates its 120th season this year, and the Homage Prize awarded to Élise Paré-Tousignant, teacher and visionnaire, an essential part of the musical scene, including at Domaine Forget and Palais Montcalm.

The compleat list of winners is accessible here. Congratulations to the winners and the nominees!

Winnipeg’s New Music Festival turns 20

28 January 2011

Who says contemporary music can’t be a crowd pleaser? Starting this weekend, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra presents its 20th anniversary edition of its New Music Festival.

Running from January 28 to February 4, the program includes the return of Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Kronos Quartet and composers John Corigliano, Krzysztof Penderecki,  Gary Kulesha, past composers-in-residence Glenn Buhr, Randolph Peters and Patrick Carrabré.  The featured work this year is the world premiere of a new concerto for percussion and orchestra, written for Dame Evelyn Glennie by current WSO composer-in-residence Vincent Ho. Festival passes are especially affordable (from 59 to 99 $), making it easy to discover the music of today… today!

For those of us not residing in Winnipeg, don’t fret! CBC Radio 2 will record 6 of the 8 concerts. They should be available as podcasts after original broadcast.

John Adams’ Nixon in China in rehearsals at the MET

24 January 2011

John Adams’ opera enticing Nixon in China will have its Metropolitan Opera’s premiere starting next week. (The show runs from February 2 to 19, with a cinema live presentation on Saturday the 12.) “All of my operas have dealt on deep psychological levels with our American mythology,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. “The meeting of Nixon and Mao is a mythological moment in world history, particularly American history.”

The director Peter Sellars makes his Met debut as well with this 1987 work which recalls President Nixon’s historic 1972 encounter with Mao and Communist China. Baritone James Maddalena stars as Nixon, a role he created to widespread acclaim.

The composer himself talks about the rehearsal process on his blog. You can read it here…


21 January 2011

The weather calls for polar temperatures this weekend so what better way to forget about it all than to listen to some tango, especially if it’s Piazzolla’s?

But where does the word tango comes from? There is no agreement as to the etymology of this word. The word first appeared outside Argentina, in one of the Canary Islands and in other parts of America as a  “gathering of blacks to dance to drum music; also the name the Africans gave the drum itself”. The dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy of Letters, 1899 edition, talks as well as a second meaning as music for that dance.

The dictionary also mentions the doubtful etymology of Latin ‘tangir’ (to play instruments). The 1914 edition gives the etymology tangir or tangere, meaning “to play or to touch”, but later editions removed that mention. Tango can also mean “closed space,” “circle,” “any private space to which one must ask permission to enter”. The slave traders called Tango the places where black slaves where kept, in Africa as well as in America.

Whatever its etymology, tango only awaits to deeply touch us. You can listen to the Gryphon Trio in the “winter ” of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

Alain Lefèvre times three

19 January 2011

If we know the pianist well, we never got the occasion to appreciate Alain Lefèvre as well as a composer and a radio host, all on the same evening… that is, until the OSM had the idea to feature him in its “Great Québécois” series, on Thursday January 27.

The concert will start as a radio show, in which Alain Lefèvre will present a few symphonic works. He will also sit at the piano to premiere a Prelude by François Dompierre and dialogue with the OSM in a piano and orchestra version of Walter Boudreau’s Valse de l’asile (to become part of a piano concerto next year) and Gershwin’s Concerto in F.

Assistant conductor of the OSM Nathan Brock will also lead some of Alain’s compositions (orchestrated by Richard Savignac), including Lylatov, Un Ange passe, Dis-moi tout, as well as the very jazzy Cool Cole and Philip Black Blue. For those last three pieces, the pianist will be joined by double bass player Michel Donato and drummer Paul Brochu. An evening that promises to be like no others…

To listen to Alain Lefèvre in the Gershwin’s Concerto in  F…

The Romanticism

17 January 2011

Inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, the Romanticism hit all artistic domains with the same force. We can see it in painting (Delacroix, Turner, Goya), literature (Lamartine, Stendhal, Keats, Shelley) and, of course, music. Man (through his actions) and society stand at the very heart of that era.

The musical forms of the classic era become more flexible and new forms (nocturnes, impromptus, etudes) appear. Composers still mainly rely on the tonal system, though the return to the tonic becomes less systematic, borrowed harmonies are introduced and cadences are less intrusive. Composers love to lose themselves in the middle section of their works, sometimes “forgetting” the main themes, and the opposition between recitatives and arias tends to disappear in opera (for example, in Wagner). The orchestra, led by a conductor for the first time of its history, becomes bigger and brighter, and each instrument (and its timbre) represents an emotion, an atmosphere. Music’s goal: express anything.

A few milestones

1808        Beethoven’s Fifth
1824        Beethoven’s Ninth
1830        Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
1833        Chopin’s Etudes opus 10
1865        Wagner’s Tristan et Isolde
1871        Verdi’s Aïda
1875        Bizet’s Carmen

Funny answers from music tests

15 January 2011

Because it’s finally the weekend and you can’t help but laugh out loud when you read the rather creative answers students wrote on their music tests…

The principal singer of nineteenth century opera was called pre-Madonna.

Young scholars have expressed their rapture for the Bronze Lullaby, the Taco Bell Cannon, Beethoven’s Erotica, Tchaikovsky Cracknutter Suite, and Gershwin’s Rap City in Blue.
Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel; if they sing without music it is called Acapulco.

Refrain means don’t do it. A refrain in music is the part you’d better not try to sing.

Rock Monanoff was a famous post-romantic composer of piano concerti.

The Opéra de Montréal at the Museum

13 January 2011

The weather is much too grey and you’re trying to escape for an hour or so? Why not visit the free exhibit Opéra de Montréal Takes the Stage at the Museum at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (runs until May 1), put up to to celebrate the Opéra de Montréal’s thirtieth anniversary.

Fifty or so pieces are featured, from costumes (often magnificient) to set maquettes, accessories and props. To better appreciate the costumes, you can choose to go through the exhibit with the audioguide. A selection of five “soundtracks” and sound clips of the various tessiture – soprano, contralto, baritone, etc. – are also offered. Pedagogy at its best…

The Metropolis Case

11 January 2011

I love those rare novels in which music plays an essential role, Nancy Huston’s Goldberg Variations or Ketil Bjornstad’s Society of Young Pianists for example. Yesterday, I came across this brand new title, a novel by newcomer Matthew Gallaway, centered around the opera Tristan und Isolde. In The Metropolis Case, the author brings to life characters who share a common bound to the opera: Lucien, a Parisian opera singer who performs the title-role at the 1865 premiere, the talented diva Anna who takes on the role of Isolde at the Met in the 1960s and Martin, an HIV-positive lawyer who truly loves opera. In an attempt to feature a “total work of art” Wagner would have enjoyed, he weaves their destinies together, on a heavy backdrop of music of course. Too bad Christmas is over, I surely would have put it on my wishlist. One thing is for certain: when it crosses my path, it won’t stay on the shelf for very long…

You can read an interview with the author here…

Bach Panther

9 January 2011

When classical countrepoint meets a popular theme everyone knows, it could very well sound something like this fugue by Stéphane Delplace. It almost gives me the will to go back to university and follow another countrepoint class – almost being the operative word here.