Archive pour October, 2011

The Devil’s beauties

31 October 2011

Can one imagine Halloween without thinking once of the devil? But must he be horrible? Isn’t he even more interesting (but dangerous) when he becomes seductive? This is what composer François Dompierre seem to believe with his piece Les beautés du diable, from the album  Infernal Violins by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà, a rather relevant work for today.

You might also want to start your day while listening to the Halloween compilation, which includes Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, associated since decades to vampire flicks.

Night on Bald Mountain

29 October 2011

Two days before Halloween and, already, tonight, we may see quite a few witches and ghouls on our streets. Time then to revisit a scary music classic, Night on Bald Mountain.

The work was composed in 1867 by Modest Mussorgsky, who drew his inspiration for this symphonic poem from Nicolai Gogol’s short story, St. John’s Eve. Mussorgsky revised the piece several times, ending up with one choral version and an orchestral interlude for inclusion in one of his operas. Other composers, including Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, liked the work so much that they decided to reorchestrate it. The conductor Leopold Stokowski arranged the version in Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

The composer left a program. Night on Bald Mountain opens with the subterranean sounds of unearthly voices, followed by the appearance of the Spirits of Darkness and then Chernobog, the god of night and darkness. His name means “the Black God.” The second section depicts the glorification of Chernobog and the witches’ Sabbath, or black mass. This was a nocturnal ceremony performed by witches, held at an isolated, often elevated, location, like the setting of Bald Mountain. At the end of the piece, the sound of a church bell in the village announces the dawn and causes the spirits to vanish.

Schoenberg and Strauss

27 October 2011

Richard Strauss’s influence on the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg and Webern) has been discussed on several occasions over the years, even more so in the last few. Alex Ross from the New Yorker states: “… I believe it’s still underrated, not least because the eternal politics of twentieth-century historiography — radical vs. conservative, etc. — keep getting in the way.”

In this interesting blog (with musical examples), he draws parallels between the universes of Strauss and Schoenberg, the latter having adulated the first in his youth, not so surprisingly.

You can read it here…

An 8th Félix for Alain Lefèvre

25 October 2011

Effervescence was in the air last night at the Théâtre St-Denis. Dresses were classy, smiles genuine. A few seconds before the recording of the gala started, you could hear quite a few “Congratulations for being nominated” all over the place. The event, hosted by Catherine Pogonat, flew by in a flash and at no point did we get the impression the evening was neverending. Presentations were to the point, often quite amusing, thank yous were kept to decent lenghts.

Alain Lefèvre won an 8th Félix for the album Mathieu: Trio & Quintet. Chausson: Concert, recorded with his brother David and the Alcan Quartet. When he stepped on stage to accept his award, he mentioned that this recording was a “fermata”, after 25 years spent spreading the news about the “Canadian Mozart,” André Mathieu. He also mentioned it was essential to remember our artists from the past, that it was a gesture of cultural patriotism. He also spoke of the necessity to champion not only Mozart or Wagner, but composers from our country as well.

Congratulations Alain for this well-deserved award and kudos to all the nominees in the three classical music related categories awarded at this gala.

You can access the list of awards given last night here…

L’Autre Gala tonight

24 October 2011

It is tonight that the ADISQ (Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo), in its 33rd year of existence, will announce the names of the winners at « l’autre gala » (a rather heteroclit evening which features rap, classical, jazz, but also humour and traditional music). It is hosted by Catherine Pogonat nad held at Théâtre Saint-Denis in Montreal for the first time. You can follow the event on MusiquePlus, Musimax starting and on the Web starting at 8 p.m.

Let’s recall that Analekta has received 7 ADISQ nominations, among them “Producer of the Year”, category in which the label won a Felix in 2010. The albums nominated are:

John Adams : Portrait d’Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà

Salsa baroque by Ensemble Caprice

Mathieu : Trio and Quintet, Chausson : Concert by brothers Alain and David Lefèvre

V,  by harpist Valérie Milot

Noël by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà

Gods, Heroes and Men by Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano

Happy birthday, Franz!

22 October 2011

It is on October 22 , 1811, that Franz Liszt took his first breath. He would transform irrevocably the concept of the concert as it was known until then, at least for pianists. He was the first performer to bet on the pyrotechnical abilities of the instrument, to change the angle the pianist would sit (profile facing the audience rathen than back turned), to play without a score, to take part in duels between pianists. No wonder he could state: “I am the concert!” Rock star before his time, cherished by duchesses and countesses alike, he soon would “wise up” and work on pushing back the limits of the tonal system rather than setting fire to the instrument. He said:

“The character of instrumental music… lets the emotions radiate and shine in their own character without presuming to display them as real or imaginary representations.”


“Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words.”

You can listen to the first of his Years of Pilgrimage, as performed by André Laplante or in his titanesque B Minor Sonata, with Nareh Arghamanyan.

Ensemble Caprice saluted by the press in Washington

21 October 2011

Ensemble Caprice is coming back from a short but intense tour in the US. They were in Washington a few days ago with their Vivaldi and the Gypsies program and their raw energy and wonderful artistiry certainly convinced the critic of the Washingtonian...

“That the experience was anything more than an intellectual exercise is due to the electrifying performances of the group’s best musicians. Lead violinist Julie Triquet gave virtuosic flourish to many of the Romani melodies, in which the technical demands at breakneck speeds were no less formidable than Vivaldi’s, requiring pitches to bend and slide, and the tone to growl and complain. The group showed admirable unity as the tempo was likewise distorted, slowing down and speeding up, the changes guided especially by the expert beat of percussionist Ziya Tabassian.”

To read the full review…


19 October 2011

If you are anything like me, it seems it becomes more and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, to win this unfair fight against darkness. Why not try to set foot in the new day at a different pace, for example by viewing the video of the very subtle reading by Roberto Occhipinti of Nick Drake’s classic, Riverman? It is the first of several magical songs performed by the Gryphon Trio and Patricia O’Callaghan on their most recent release, Broken Hearts & Madmen.

To listen to the other songs of this album…

Ensemble Caprice on tour

17 October 2011

Ensemble Caprice is very busy these days with a series of concerts in Washington and San Francisco, with two different programs: La Follia and the Gypsies and Vivaldi and the Gypsies. At the end of the month, the Ensemble will be back in Montreal for a series of concerts featuring the album Salsa baroque, in various Maisons de la cultural and music centres.

Details can be found here…

Learning about the accordion

14 October 2011

The accordion is much more than an instrument to hold a tune in a bar or play folk songs. In fact, a history of the accordion would not be complete if it didn’t include a substantial chapter dedicated to Russia, which, when it comes to crafting as well as perfecting technique, the creation of specific compositions and the key role played by performers on the international scene, has greatly contributed to the development of the instrument.

The accordion bowled over the Russian public at the Nijni-Novgorod Fair in 1830, and soon, its production began in the city of Toula and the instrument was included among those associated with folk music repertoire. In 1870, Beloborodov perfected a chromatic instrument with two rows of buttons. The instrument attracted composers, who began to dedicate their works to it. Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, for example, used four accordions in his Second Suite for Symphonic Orchestra in 1883.

In 1907, Khegstrem founded the First Russian Society for Harmonica Lovers (harmonica and accordion are interchangeable in Russian). The instrument, which from then on bore the name bayan, after the bard and magician Boyan, who sang historical and fanciful tales, allowed performers to exploit the most difficult works in the Classical repertoire.

As of 1926, conservatories and universities began to welcome the accordion in St. Petersburg (and the following year in Moscow and Kiev) and soon after that, specific competitions, publications and an extensive literature made their appearance.

A vital bridge between traditional folk and Classical repertoire, the bayan long remained synonymous with national pride. Indeed, the Soviet government did not hesitate to include the Jupiter factory in the Ex perimental Department of the Red Army. In 1966 the Soviets started to participate in international competitions, notably in Klingenthal (in the (former) German Democratic Republic), for decades winning all the first prizes. They continue to push back the technical boundaries of the instrument, while magnifying its expressive possibilities.

To find out how versatile the instrument can be, you will want to listen to Alexander Sevastian…