Archive pour September, 2011

Music for every mood

29 September 2011

Some mornings, I must admit; I hesitate and am unsure about what I want to listen to when I open my mp3 player? You feel the same way? We are lucky because Analektathought about us and has launched, a few weeks back,18 thematic compilations.

You want to find peace of mind after a long day at work, like to travel in music when you are not yourself on the go or you want to learn more about the basis of the repertoire but don’t know where to start? You will find a package that suits the instant, at a very friendly price! The compilations are only available on the Web and are taken from the label’s large catalogue.

For a fall morning like this one, here is what the doctor recommends…

Tuning fork

27 September 2011

In the midst of all those anniversaries scheduled in 2011, this one will surely be forgotten. Indeed, it was 300 years ago that John Shore, a British trumpet player and instrument maker, is thought to have invented this tool.

A tuning fork is shaped as a two-pronged U fork. Usually made of steel, it resonates at a specific constant pitch (which depends on the lenghts of the two prongs used) when set vibrating by striking it against a surface, whether a table or an instrument.

Currently, the most common tuning fork is set to produce the note A and vibrates at 440 Hz. It is used as the tuning note by most orchestras. Baroque ensembles will generally used a different A to tune, between 392 and 415 Hz (the most popular frequency used) because it puts less strain on the older, more sensitive, instruments.

Happy birthday Dmitri

25 September 2011

It was 105 years ago today that Dmitri Shostakovich was born. Often considered the “Beethoven of the 20th century”, he wrote 15 monumental symphonies, true songs of the Soviet people, in which he seems to praise the regime (by using for example military songs and rhythms) but despises it in a disguised manner (by superimposing for example dissonances to those songs). He said: “Real music is always revolutionary, for it cements the ranks of the people; it arouses them and leads them onward.”

Even though he received many official awards from the government (in 1954, he will be named “artist of the Soviet people”), he constantly felt torn between his “official” work and his intimate work, filled with freedom, especially inspiring in his 15 string quartets or his two trios with piano. “Music is a means capable of expressing dark dramatism and pure rapture, suffering and ecstasy, fiery and cold fury, melancholy and wild merriment – and the subtlest nuances and interplay of these.”

You may listen here to his trios, as performed by the Gryphon Trio…

You can also listen to his Piano Concerto No. 1 and his Chamber Symphony as performed by Serhiy Salov and I Musici de Montréal.

Broken Hearts & Madmen

23 September 2011

I couldn’t wait to listen to this album and to discover how the Gryphon Trio and Patricia O’Callaghan would treat I Want You, an Elvis Costello classic that I love. I wasn’t disappointed by the clever arrangements, the sweetness Patricia O’Callaghan has, and the way the album was recorded, pop style, with live in-studio performances and close miking of the musicians.

Broken Hearts & Madmen is unlike any previous chamber music album. Who can say after listening to it that chamber music is passé and just for an elite! From Nick Drake and Laurie Anderson to Los Lobos and Lhasa, the range of material is admirably genre-stretching. Among others, it includes Cucurrucucu Paloma, Astor Piazzolla’s Yo Soy Maria, and a spirited flamenco rendition of Volver, the Carlos Gardel tango and title song for Pedro Almadovar’s movie starring Penelope Cruz. Just what the doctor ordered for the weekend!

An album that must be listened to right this instant…

Yegor Dyachkov in concert on Friday

21 September 2011

Cellist Yegor Dyachkov, whose talent was featured on a recent release, Interwar Duets (with violinist Olivier Thouin), will join Appassionata on Friday, in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major, as part of the inaugural concert of the Orgue et Couleurs Festival.

He is featured in a rather interesting interview here (in French), in which, for example, he explains he was “tricked” by his mother into playing the cello. Since at that time, he dreamt of working in a zoo, she convinced him that all animals liked music and that lions just loved the low soothing sound of the cello. When later, he stopped to ponder if he could ever play with and for the king of the jungle, it was too late, he was hooked. He also explains:

“As other art forms, music brings us back to us in one way or another, it brings us back to our humanity, to a universal experience. It can put us in touch with something mysterious, undefinable, yet essential. It moves the heart and delights the spirit. Music is the art form that transforms our time perception.”

Kurt Sanderling leaves us

19 September 2011

The German conductor Kurt Sanderling died yesterday in Berlin, one day short of his 99th birthday. “He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his family,” indicated his son Stefan, a conductor as well, in a press release.

Born in a Jewish family, Kurt Sanderling has led one of the most remarkable careers of the 20th century. Having fled Nazi Germany in 1936, he emigrated to the USSR and led the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (now St. Petersburgh) until 1960. He was best known for his readings of his close friend Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphonies. One year before the Berlin Wall was built, he went back to Germany and led the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchestrer for 17 years. He was as well music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle from 1964 to 1967 and was associated with the Stuttgart Symphony after the fall of the Wall. He had retired in 2002.

Here, he leads the Bayeurisch Sinfonie-Orchester in Shostakovich.

An article on the conductor from Classical Iconoclast

An article by Norman Lebrecht when Sanderling retired…

Luc Beauséjour performs the Goldberg tonight

16 September 2011

Tonight, 8 p.m., Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour performs Bach’s mythical GoldbergVariations. The artist filmed three clips introducing some of the variations in a more than humourous way. Bach would have enjoyed them I’m pretty sure…

Alain Lefèvre and the OSQ tonight

14 September 2011

The Orchestre symphonique de Québec launches its 110th season with flair tonight with a program featuring Alain Lefèvre, associate artist of the OSQ this year, in Rachmaninoff’ Fourth Piano Concerto (the 1926 version).

In honour of the 40th anniversary of the Grand Théâtre de Québec, the opening festivities also include a simultaneous outdoor screening of the concert, a pre-concert talk, and a special intermission performance on an outdoor stage by Alain Lefèvre of the solo piano version of Andre Mathieu’s Concerto de Québec.

You can hear it here…

Ondes Martenot

12 September 2011

Tomorrow and Wednesday, the OSM will perform, under Kent Nagano’s direction, Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, a colossal work featuring two soloists: a pianist (in this case Angela Hewitt) and an Ondes Martenot player (“ondiste” in French, here Jean Laurendeau).

The Ondes Martenot is a rather intriguing instrument, which can be considered as one of the most ancient electronic musical instruments, since it was introduced to the public for the first time at the Opéra de Paris by Maurice Martenot in1928. Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, André Jolivet and Olivier Messiaen all rapidly wrote for the instrumenet (more tahn 1500 classical works include the instrument and numerous pop artists have integrated the instrument to their songs). The instrument would continue to be perfected by its inventor until 1975.

Here is a demonstration from Jean Laurendeau, so that you can better understand the distinct personality of this instrument.

September 11 in music

10 September 2011

This weekend will of course be filled with various commemorations organised around the 10th anniversary of the sad events of 9/11. Several pop singers and groups have written songs inspired by the event, as well as some classical composers.

Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11 was launched most recently. The piece integrates voices of air traffic controlers and firefighters to the score for string quartet. The original cover (a photo of the twin towers collapsing) caused much fury and forced Reich and the label to go with Plan B, proof that the wounds are still very fresh.  Here is an excerpt, as performed by the Kronos Quartet.

Written one year after the tragedy, John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, one if not the most famous piece associated with the event, was to win the Pulitzer.  The work still moves the listener in a very deep way.

John Adams explains how he chose the material for the piece.

John Corigliano composed in 2005 One Sweet Morning, a choral work based on four poems about war. Though not directly linked with the events, it remains rather pertinent here.

Composer David Del Tredici added this movement, “Missing Towers”, to his homage to New York, Gotham Glory.

Later today, the San Francisco Opera will premiere Heart of a Soldier, an opera by Christopher Theofanidis starring baritone Thomas Hampson in the role of Rick Rescorla, security chief for Morgan Stanley who had anticipated the attacks on the towers and implemented evacuation procedures that saved many lives.