Archive pour February, 2011

Bach on the pedal harpsichord

28 February 2011

With its two keyboards (one activated by the fingers, the other by the feet), le pedal harpsichord has a remarkably rich sound, that gives depth to every musical line and makes one “hear everything”. To highlight the pedal harpsichord’s particular features and give music lovers a point of comparison, Luc Beauséjour wanted to present a number of well-known works, including the Toccata in D minor BWV 565. But above all, he wished to present some of his favourite pieces that lend themselves well to comparison and contrast.

To discover and download the album…

Short Ride in a Fast Machine

26 February 2011

Tonight, 10 p.m., as part of the Nuit Blanche, the OSM offers a free concert at Complexe Desjardins, in which it will play, among other things, John Adams’ Fast Ride in a Fast Machine. This short piece is joyfully exuberant and brilliantly scored for a large orchestra. The steady marking of a beat plays an important role, allowing the various rhythmic and melodic cells to be superimposed in an immense wave of musical energy. About the title, the composer says: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”


25 February 2011

In music, when we speak of minimalism, some names arise: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt and John Adams, even though he rejects this label as being too reductive. “You can’t label me, and I admit that I never think of my music in terms of artistic “strategy.” I would probably prefer, like Steve Reich for example, to take a directional path where new elements deliberately transform the language with an obvious logic. But I can’t stop myself from making sharp turns, about-faces and doing “forbidden things,”  he told Le Monde in January 28, 1997.

Minimalism is an art movement that emphasizes extreme simplification of form and color, whereby a complex and highly detailed subject is reduced to pure geometric elements. The style appeared in the United States around 1965 as a direct outgrowth of the famous “Less is more” principle adopted by architect Mies Van der Rohe. It rejects both the intensely emotional nature of abstract expressionism and the figurative character of pop art. Artists associated with the movement include Kasimir Malevitch, Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella. (Here, Sunset Beach.)

Minimalists extracted the essential and excluded the unnecessary. Frank Stella’s painted stripes were not intended to strike an emotional chord in the viewer. Rather, the work of Minimalist artists tended to reflect on how objects are perceived and their relationship to space. The movement was the precursor to Conceptual Art, which emphasized that the idea behind a work was more important than the artifact itself.

Did you know that, in 2005, the famous strategy game Civilization IV featured 10 compositions by John Adams, including his Shaker Loops, as the background music for the modern age.

You can listen to it here, on Angèle Dubeau’s new album.

A John Adams portrait

23 February 2011

After devoting two critically commended recordings of Portraits, to Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, Angèle Dubeau launched last night a new album devoted to John Adams, considered by many as the most fundamentally American contemporary composer. To shed light on the composer’s multiple facets, the works chosen cover several decades of composition and were written for different ensembles: from the duo to the double quartet, and including the septet. We will be able to hear the emblematic Shaker Loops, a work that propelled him onto the international scene, the playful John’s Alleged Books of Dances and Road Movies, a reconsidered sonata for violin and piano.

“Just like the music of Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, John Adams’ music speaks to me. Bearing a particular imprint, it is music that captivates me, a complex creation but without the artifice of a composer who is becoming or has become history. I wanted also to propose compelling works, with different ensembles, like a musical portrait for my instrument.

I like its haunting rhythm, its communicative energy and frenetic energy, wondering where I might cast the anchor. I always enjoy working, polishing and refining the tone colours of music and La Pietà gives me the instrument, the possibility to shape this sound texture. Here, John Adams’ music has inspired me, like a prism of colour and light.

In this musical visit, I have expressed my desire to go beyond, to grant myself an adrenaline rush called challenge. Truly, playing this music requires daring. This could be my most ambitious project with La Pietà!”

To listen and download…

Top ten composers

21 February 2011

New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini has recently listed a ‘Top 10’ of classical music composers in history. (Living composers were not eligible.) A series of articles exploring the most influential, most celebrated, and sometimes most overlooked composers, was as well featured in the two weeks before the “winners” were announced.

The series certainly sparked a great interest from readers who commented on various articles more than 1,500 times. What makes a great composer? That is a question with so many answers and Tommasini didn’t shy away from debate. He even stated that it was one of his main reasons for embarking on the project.

So, the final list is made of:

1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), 2. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), 3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 — 91). 4. Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828). 5. Claude Achille Debussy (1862 — 1918), 6. Igor Stravinsky (1882 — 1971), 7. Johannes Brahms (1833 — 97). 8. Giuseppe Verdi (1813 — 1901), 9. Richard Wagner (1813 — 83), 10. Bela Bartok (1881 — 1945).

Is your favourite composer in the list?

You can read about the reasons behind the choices here…

Alain Lefèvre star of benefit concert

18 February 2011

To celebrate its 40th Birthday, the relief agenci Partage Humaitaire is organising a benefit performance by Alain Lefèvre, tonight, salle André-Mathieu, in Laval. The pianist will be playing Jardin d’images (Pictures garden), winner of a Felix at ADISQ’s latest gala.

Partage Humanitaire helps about 900 senior citizens in 16 centres. Details here…

You can listen to the album here…

James Ehnes: a compilation

16 February 2011

Numerous international awards, including a Grammy and six Junos, have marked James Ehnes’ career. In January 2002, he received the title of “young artist of the year” at the Cannes Classical Awards for his recording of Partitas and Sonatas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach. In 2005, as he released a disc of sonatas for violin and harpsichord by the same composer, he received the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in November 2010 and is the youngest Fellow ever to be elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

Analekta just released a compilation of some of his most interesting recordings on the label. You can listen to it here…

You may read an interview with him here…

Saxophone and piano

14 February 2011

The son of a wind instrument maker, Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) began making his own clarinets, completing one with 24 keys before the age of 20. After perfecting valved bugles – soon renamed Sax’s horns or saxhorns in his honour – he focused on the instrument which was to make him famous: the saxophone. As he explained in his patent in 1846, he wished to create “an instrument, which by the character of its voice can be reconciled with stringed instruments, but which possesses more force and intensity than the strings.”

In 1851, the French government appointed Berlioz to present a report on musical instruments. Quite mesmerized by the new instrument, he wrote: “Mr. Sax has also created the saxophone, a delightful brass instrument with a clarinet mouthpiece; it has a new timbre which lends itself equally well to the most delicate nuances and subtle half-tones as to the majestic strains of religious music. Mr. Sax has provided us with a complete family of saxophones, and if composers do not as yet appreciate the value of the new voice which they owe to the genius of the inventor, the cause is to be found solely in the lack of experience on the part of the players. The saxophone is a difficult instrument, the mastery of which requires long and dedicated study, and so far it has been played very little and imperfectly.”

Unfortunately, the saxophone arrived too late in the history of music to succeed in establishing a place for itself in classical orchestras, but composers do enjoy its distinct personality and have devoted various works to the instrument.

If you want to listen to a few works written for the instrument, you will enjoy Duo Gaulin-Riverin’s first album…

Adams on Nixon in China

12 February 2011

If you are lucky, you already have your ticket to watch John Adams’ presentation of Nixon in China live from the Met in a cinema near you. (A repeat performance is planned for March 12 if you couldn’t attend today). The composer will conduct his own score, in an exciting new production.

In this 2008 interview prepared by the Pittsburgh Symphony Adams talks about all of his operas, and especially about Nixon in China.

A rare Mathieu recording

9 February 2011

It was late yesterday afternoon, at the Monument national, that François Mario Labbé announced the list of recordings for the 2011 Analekta winter and spring. Among those, let’s mention a new recording in the Portrait series initiated by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà, devoted this time to the mythical John Adams, as well as an intriguing album of Bach music performed on the pedal harpischord by Luc Beauséjour or a compilation featuring Canadian bass Joseph Rouleau. I’ll let you know more when they are officially released.

Released yesterday at the same event was pianist Alain Lefèvre’s latest album, featuring a rare recording of André Mathieu’s Trio and Piano Quintet. Alain Lefèvre wants the audience to discover a masterful composer, who privileges a musical language in the tradition of the great French schools, anchored in the 20th century. A remarkable performance of Chausson’s superb Concert, a masterwork of the chamber repertoire, is also featured, in which Alain Lefèvre is joined here by his brother, violinist David Lefèvre, and members of the Alcan Quartet.

You can discover and download the album here