Archive pour August, 2011

The new hall already gets rave reviews

31 August 2011

A few rehearsals have already been held in Place des Arts’ new hall, soon to be official new residence of the OSM. Are acoustics what everyone thought they’d be? It seems so. Richard Roberts, concertmaster of the OSM said to the Gazette: “One of the greatest halls I’ve ever played in,” after a full day of rehearsal on Friday. Louis Charbonneau, timpanist with the OSM for many years, stated in La Presse that the OSM finally sounded as it did in the best European halls.

And what were the first notes heard in the new hall? The fierce and dissonant opening chord of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

You can read about it here and there

The “Archduke” Trio

29 August 2011

The year 2011 is an anniversary one and numerous concert organisations have dedicated programs to Mahler and Liszt. Other anniversaries worthcelebrating  were sadly forgotten… For example, 200 years ago, in one short month, Beethoven wrote his “Archduke” Trio.

The archduke referred to here is Archduke Rudolph, a talented amateur musician and younger brother of the Emperor of Austria. Beethoven dedicated his Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos, and several other important works to the Archduke. This time, in was to express his gratitude for the Archduke funding (with a consortium of aristocrats) in 1809 a lifelong annuity for composer.

Since he had written his first piano trio, opus 1, Beethoven has evolved drastically, quite obviously. For example, the string texture here is richer than ever and Beethoven was able to achieve a wonderful balance between piano and strings, the latter often serving as inner voices, the whole becoming almost as homogeneous as a string quartet.

Beethoven composed the “Archduke” trio at the same time as a multitude of masterpieces, including the opera Fidelio and the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. The work will be premiered three years later, Beethoven handling the piano part, despite the fact that he was by then almost completely deaf.

You can listen to it here, performed by the Gryphon Trio…

The new hall of the OSM: a few numbers

26 August 2011

Ten days before the official inauguration of the brand new hall of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and, of course, everyone is keeping (very) busy. This weekend, the acousticians will do a few calibration tests, with selected audience members becoming (silent) partners of the process.

I am sure that, as I was, you are curions to find out a little more about the hall before you let yourself in? Here are a few technical pointers.

  • The new hall has a seating capacity of 2,117 seated spectators including 200 seats in the choral seating area, when not in use.
  • The stage will accommodate up to 120 musicians and a chorus of up to 200 voices.
  • The auditorium meets noise criterion N1, in which no noise is audible to the human ear.
  • The hall follows the “shoebox” design, meaning it’s relatively narrow, high, long and straight, with audience seating on multiple balcony levels and surrounding the performer.
  • All surfaces in the auditorium are clad in wood. Quebec beech wood is the main material used in the design, serving both acoustic and visual purposes.

You will be able to discover all this from September 7 to 14, when the OSM holds its open doors week. Details can be found here…

Happy birthday Alessandro

24 August 2011

It is on this day, in 1684, in Venice, that composer Alessandro Marcello was born. The son of a senator, he never had to embrace the musical career, even though he completed extensive studies. Nevertheless, he held weekly concerts at his house and art played an essential role in his daily routine. In addition to composing, he played violin and sang, painted, wrote poetry, and was fluent in mathematics and philosophy.

Alessandro lived for a long time in the shadow of his brother Benedetto, more versed into political matters. He is most known today for his Oboe Concerto in D minor, used by Bach (alongside some of Vivaldi’s concertos), when he was trying to better understand the Italian way of approaching music.

The concerto was published in 1718 by Jeanne Roger, in a collection of works by several authors, including Vivaldi and Albinoni. It took a while for specialists to understand that this was the same work mentioned by Bach on the manuscript of his keyboard concerto BWV 974, which read as “from Eterico Stinfalico”… since this was the penname Alessandro Marcello went by as a member of the Academy of Arcadia , a circle of intellectuals inspired by Queen Christina of Sweden!

You can listen to it on Tafelmusik’s album Baroque Feast here…

Portrait of a jazz fan

22 August 2011

When one thinks of a jazz concert, one probably imagines a quiet crowd, constituted mostly of older people bobbing their head rather quietly, with a rather unusual male predominancy (not exactly what you find in the classical hall on any given day), quite pale. Is this true?

Over the course of the next few months, the Jazz Audiences Initiative will “tackle fundamental questions about how and why people engage with jazz”. The project team will “research and test new strategies for overcoming barriers to jazz participation and for building jazz audiences through more targeted marketing and programming efforts”. A big challenge, hum?

The questions addressed here are rather interesting:

  • What does “jazz” mean to people? How do people relate to jazz as an art form?
  • How do people develop preferences for different forms of jazz?
  • What are the pathways into the art form?
  • How much “taste diversity” is there within the jazz audience?
  • What kinds of live jazz experiences do people want?
  • How does setting affect preference and attendance?
  • What are the connections between attendance and personal practice?

The findings of the Listening Study can be browed through here…

Is the world of jazz fans evolving? If you’re interested by the question, you can find out more about this there…

Fête de la musique

19 August 2011

Some are going back to school these days and I must admit that seeing the first red maple leaf on the ground this morning made me take a side step. Is summer coming to an end? Impossible! After all, there are still quite a few warm weekends left, certainly enough to discover a new spot or two and take in one more festival.

For example, next week, from September 2 to 5, the Fête de la musique de Tremblant will be celebrating its 13th edition! This festival, the brainchild of violinist Angèle Dubeau, was the first festival to integrate various musical genres in one unique event.

Once more this year, the Fête de la musique presents more than 30 of the best musical groups from Canada as well as 60 free concerts and musical activities, to be held all over the pedestrian villages of Tremblant and Ville de Mont-Tremblant.

Among those, are “Mozart under the Stars” with the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, featuring works by father and son Mozart, as well as the Venetian Symphony by Antonio Salieri, that will come to life, one night only, thanks to actor  Albert Millaire, Tangopéra!, with Marie-Josée Lord and Quartango, the Cecilia String Quartet, winner of the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition, young cellist Stéphane Tétreault,  pianist Louise Bessette who will celebrate 30 years of career in music, as well as harpist Valérie Milot, violinist and arranger Antoine Bareil and friends who will present for the first time live their classical takes on Simon & Garfunkel’s greatest hits.

You can check out the details of the Festival here…

The OSM at the Edinburgh Festival

17 August 2011

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is taking in the sights and sounds of Scotland this week, as they perform at the prestigious festival. Last night saw a repeat performance of the program the orchestra gave in Orford recently, with Tan Dun’s rather fascinating Water Concerto for water instruments and orchestra, Debussy’s La Mer and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony. Tonight, the musicians and music director Kent Nagano take on Takemitsu, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Mahler’s magnificent Rückert Lieder, with mezzo Waltraud Meier. A chamber music concert is also on the schedule tomorrow.

Days only after coming back from tour, OSM’s concert master Andrew Wan will be featured in several chamber music concerts at the New Brunswick Summer Music Festival next week. You can learn more about the festival and Mr. Wan by accessing this article from the Daily Gleaner.

Steve Reich changes the cover photo of his upcoming album

15 August 2011

One of the fathers of minimalism, Steve Reich, intended to use a photograph of the burning World Trade Center as cover of his new album, due out on September 20, called WTC 9/11, which includes a 15-minute piece inspired by the attacks and their aftermath. Mr. Reich explained that since he lives near Ground Zero, the event hit – literally – close to home. Quite a few critics got more than a little agravated by the use of the image for commercial purposes, so Reich decided against its use in the end.

The composer released this statement last Thursday:

“As a composer I want people to listen to my music without something distracting them. The present cover of WTC 9/11 will, for many, act as a distraction from listening and so, with the gracious agreement of Nonesuch, the cover is being changed.

When the cover was being designed, I believed, as did all the staff at Nonesuch and the art director, that a piece of music with documentary material from an event would best be matched with a documentary photograph of that event. I felt that the photo suggested by our art director was very powerful, and Nonesuch backed me up. All of us felt that anyone seeing the cover would feel the same way.

When the cover was released on the Nonesuch site and elsewhere, there was, instead, an outpouring of controversy mostly by people who had never heard the music.

When WTC 9/11 was performed by the Kronos Quartet, first in Durham, North Carolina, at Duke University and then shortly afterwards outside of Los Angeles and then at Carnegie Hall and again at the Barbican Centre in London, the reaction of the public and press was extremely thoughtful and moving. To have this reaction to the music usurped by the album cover seemed completely wrong. Accordingly, the cover is being changed.”

You can read Anne Midgette’s thoughtful article on the matter here… Almost ten years later, the wound is far from being healed.

Beethoven becomes inspiration to poetry

13 August 2011

Poets have long inspired composers, as they set to music some of the most beautiful verses ever written. Sometimes, it’s the other around, as music inspire poetry. In Ludwig van Beethoven’s Return to Vienna, Rita Dove, Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995 and 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, writes about this moment when, after having poured his heart out in his famous Heiligenstadt Testament, he had to pick himself up and continue doing what he did best, write music. (more…)

The OSM new hall will open on September 7

11 August 2011

Rumours were spreading in the hot humid summer air, but everyone can relax as the new  OSM concert hall is schedule to open on September 7, for one of the biggest bashes the Canadian classical music scene will have seen in a long time. “There may be components of the lobby that are incomplete, but that’s always the case with buildings,” Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt Architects explains in an article published in The Gazette today. “There are pieces that take time to finish after the opening date.”

If you are looking for tickets for that inaugural concert, to feature Beethoven’s Ninth but also some contemporary Canadian works, forget it, unless you are considering illegal means or have friends in very high places. If you want to join the party nevertheless, though, you’ll be able to view the concert from the Place des Arts Esplanade (prettier than ever) and catch a few extras, including choir performances and dazzling numbers from Cirque Éloize. Details here…