Archive pour January, 2012

Prix Opus

30 January 2012

The 15th gala of the Prix Opus was held yesterday afternoon in the very beautiful Salle Bourgie of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. No less than 28 awards were given out during this celebration of concert music, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Conseil québécois de la musique.

Several musical performances were included throughout the gala. The audience heard the Zaldivar Trio, the Bozzini Quartet in an excerpt from an Ana Sokolovic work to be premiered in October, composer Jean-François Laporte in Rituel, an intriguing and rather poetic work for flying can, the Fanfarniente, harpist Valérie Milot in two movements from a piece by Glenn Buhr, as well as a baroque group with Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière, Olivier Brault, and actors Jean-François Gagnon and Carl Béchard.

A very moving homage was rendered to Yuli Turovsky, who left I Musici’s musical direction last May for health reasons.  From the long list of winners, let’s mention the program The Art of François Couperin, a Clavecin en concert production, led by Luc Beauséjour, (“Concert of the year – medieval, Renaissance, baroque repertoires”), On n’est jamais trop classique, a youth program from the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (“Young audience production”) and pianist Louise Bessette, who celebrates in 2012 her first 30 years of career, nominated twice in the category “Disc of the year – modern, contemporary repertoires” who went home with the precious prize for her Serge Arcuri project.

Cloé Palacio-Quintin becomes “composer of the year” and  baroque flutist Vincent Lauzer (who has worked with Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivière of Ensemble Caprice) “upcoming artist”. Julie Boulianne’s work on the international stage was as well saluted.

Congratulations to all!


Critics convene

27 January 2012

Everyone loves to hate them, but critics remain an essential part of the music world. Alex Ross from The New Yorker, author of The Rest is Noise, was in Oberlin recently for the inaugural edition of the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism.

Part symposium for present and former critics, part workshop for ten young writers from the Oberlin community, the event also offered concerts for the student critics to judge (and seasoned journalists to discuss, no doubt), including performances by the Cleveland Orchestra. In his address to students, Ross quoted E. M. Forster: “The critic ought to combine Mephistopheles with the archangels, experience with innocence. He ought to know everything inside out, and yet be surprised.”

The post can be read here…

Stéphane Tétreault in love with his new Strad

25 January 2012

Young Canadian cellist Stéphane Tétreault just learned that he will now have the privilege to play on a Stradivarius, the “Paganini, Countess of Stainlein”, owned until he passed away on May 13 by Bernard Greenhouse, venerable member of the Beaux-Arts Trio.

The instrument was sold by Reuning & Son Violins to a patroness of the arts from Montreal, who whishes to remain anonymous, for a little over  6 millions  dollars.

“I am immensely touched and humbled to have been chosen to play an instrument that was cherished for so many years by Bernard Greenhouse, who has always had my great respect and admiration,” Tétreault stated in a press release.

The 18-year-old cellist studies at Université de Montréal with Yuli Turovsky. He will give a recital on February 4, at 2:30 p.m., at Théâtre Outremont.  The concert will be recorded by Espace musique and available on the Internet from March 2 on at

An article from The Gazette and one from The  New York Times.

Another great loss

23 January 2012

January seems to be a rather cruel month for music lovers. After Alexis Weissenberg (on January 8), Gustav Leonhardt has left us a week ago (on January 16), at 83. Harpsichordist, conductor, teacher (several of today’s greatest harpsichordists have studied with him, including Dom André Laberge and Geneviève Soly), he was constantly aiming for excellence, but didn’t like being put forward. A strong believer that music  should come from the inside and didn’t need to be transmitted through extravagant gestures, he stated: “The audience can climax, not the performer. He doesn’t have time for this.”

A thorough portrait from The Telegraph can be accessed here…

You can hear him here, in his last public appearance, last December 12, at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord à Paris.

Il Trovatore starts tomorrow

21 January 2012

The Opéra de Montréal’s third production of the season is  Giuseppe Verdi’s  Il Trovatore. Leonora will  be played by Hiromi Omura (who got rave reviews for her portrayal of Madama Butterfly in 2008, also heard in Simon Boccanegra in 2010) and the title role by Korean tenor Dongwon Shin. Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl,mezzo-soprano Laura Brioli and bass Ernesto Morillo will also be heard, as well as Gaétan Sauvageau, Karine Boucher, Riccardo Iannello and Jean-Michel Richer (the latter three are members of Atelier lyrique). The premiere is tomorrow night and shows will also be held on January 24, 26 and 28.

Do you know Il Trovatore? But, of course, even without knowing it, as this video demonstrates.

The Stradivarius perfection: a myth?

18 January 2012

There is no doubt about it, the Stradivarii are still a very hot topic. Have scientists finally discover the mysterious “secret” behing their exceptional qualities? Not really… Indeed, a recent study by French acoustician Claudia Fritz, from Université Paris-VI, hints that the instruments may not be as wonderful as everyone seems to think. During the 2010 edition of the Indianapolis International Violin Competition, she led a blind test with 21 very high level violinists: several competitors of course, as well as some experts and a couple of experienced instrumentalists. Throughout the process, participants wore welder’s glasses to mask any distinct caracteristics of the instrument and the room was filled with perfume so that the typical old wood scent wouldn’t be able to influence the violinists’ answers.

The study was two-folded. First, participants were invited to play, in a random order, on three modern violins made by famous luthiers, two Stradivarii and one Guarnerius del Gesu. Afterwards, they indicated which instrument they would  bring home with them. Secondly, two violins were shown and they simply had to find which one of the two was the 18th century one. Here, most failed miserably and, when came time to pick “their” instrument, only 8 out of the 21 picked one of the three “famous” ones. The instrument which appealed to most was a modern one and the one least chosen was… a Strad circa 1700.

When the study was published, early this month, many detractors stated that it was ridiculous to consider “taming” an instrument in a hotel room, in a few short minutes and that the qualities of an instrument would be revealed much later on. It so happens that I recently spoke with violist Antoine Tamestit who explained to me that the encounter he had with his Strad was far from love at first sight, that he considered on several occasions givin g it back to the Habisreutinger Foundation and that it took him more than a year before he developed a close connection with the instrument!

One thing is for certain: these mystical instruments have not revealed yet quite yet…

An article from The Star to read about this…

Beethoven’s Seventh under a new light

16 January 2012

I finally saw The King’s Speech last week. Yes, I know, everyone has seen it several times, got a copy of the DVD for Christmas, critics have hailed the film, and why would I wait so long to see it? I must admit, when everyone seems enthusiastic about something, I’m generally more cautious about attending. Well, in this case, I was more than pleased with the film, led by two remarkable actors, Colin Firth and Goeffrey Rush, and supported by some very beautiful photography.

It was also most interesting to examine how classical music was woven into the narrative structure. Mozart’s overture to Nozze di Figaro is used as background –  or rather drowning – music when Bertie, not yet king, records a monologue from Hamlet for Lionel  and excerpts from the sublime Clarinet Concerto accompany the speech therapy montage. Beethoven shows up twice as well, with excerpts from the slow movement of the “Emperor” Concerto but especially with the Allegretto of this Seventh Symphony, used when King George makes his first wartime speech, adding density and emotion to the moment. I must admit that the night after I saw the film, that particular music haunted me several times…

Here is the scene, for your enjoyment.

A time for us

13 January 2012

It will be launched officially on January 31 but, just for you, here a few glimpses of Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà’s newest album, A Time for Us. It features some of the most beautiful movie soundtracks, all favourites of the violonist. She explains how she went about in  selecting the pieces:

“I have chosen musical moments that speak to me, film music that is particularly appealing, and great musical pieces that inspire images.
My relationship to this music is not the kind chosen by composers, who have created emotions that are attached to images, to a reality conceived for film. Rather, I was inspired by pure music, ignoring conveyed images, and taking it elsewhere in order to recreate my own musical universe. What I feel when I play these works comes from the music, and my approach has been comparable in all respects to the one I favour when working on my repertoire. That is why pieces that are first of all functional go beyond their role by defying time and, breaking out of their framework, become masterpieces. ”

Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà will also soon present two concerts featuring film music, one in Montreal (February 28, at Maison symphonique de Montréal) and one in Quebec (March 22, at Palais Montcalm).

Farewell, Alexis Weissenberg

11 January 2012

Bulgarian-born French concert pianist Alexis Weissenberg, considered one of the great classical music performers of the 20th century, has died on Sunday at 82, in his home in Lugano, after a 30-year-long fight against Parkinson’s disease. “A virtuoso musician and a big-hearted man who spared no effort to cultivate new generations of piano players has left us,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said in a statement.  Bulgarian Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov described Weissenberg as “one of the greatest piano players of the 20th century” and said he felt “enormous pain” at the news of his death.

Weissenberg was a specialist in the music of Bach and Rachmaninov. In 1943 he entered the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed under Leonard Bernstein, and then continued his studies at New York’s Juilliard School of Music with Olga Samaroff.  He won the prestigious Leventritt Competition at only 17 and started a flamboyant international career in 1950.

He also taught at Harvard, founded the Alexis Weissenberg’s Piano Master Class in Engelberg, in  Switzerland, and was as well a composer.

An article from the Los Angeles Times and one from The Telegraph.


A century ago…

9 January 2012

The year 1912 saw the premiere of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, but was a rather eventful one. It is for example then that the Republic of China is established and, of course, that the  Titanic sunk, at 2:27 AM on April 15, off Newfoundland. In the exploration department, the  Englishman Robert F Scott and his expedition reached the South Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen had gotten there a month before. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ published Tarzan of the Apes and Vassily Kandinsky his experimental theatre composition The Yellow Sound. In the pop musical realm,  W. C. Handy wrote The Memphis Blues, one of the very first blues songs to become a hit.

Closer to home, the Parliament of Canada passed the Quebec Boundaries Extension Act, extending the northern boundary to its present location and Circular No. 17 banned the teaching of French in Ontario schools. The artists who were to become the Group of Seven met for the first time at the Arts and Letters Club de Toronto, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts established its first  permanent headquarters and the Winnipeg Art Gallery opened its doors.