Archive pour February, 2012

Buon compleanno

29 February 2012

Some birthdays can only be celebrated in style once every four years… when it is leap year, of course! It’s the case for Gioachino Rossini, born February 29, 1792 in Pesaro, who died on Friday the 13th! (Talk about destiny…)

Rossini wrote his last and grandest opera, William Tell,  in 1829 when he was only 37, at the peak of his fame, and had lived barely half his life. Yet for reasons never fully explained, he retired from the operatic stage thereafter and wrote little more. He chose to live the dolce vita and invent new recipees for his friends. After, he just loved food!

Sources mention that  on the night of the première of the Barber of Seville, the composer cut short the post-concert congratulations to plunge into a fiery description of a salad which naturally became an ensalada alla Rossini. Stendhal says in his biography that the “Di tanti palpti” aria from the opera Tancreda became known throughout Europe as the “Rice aria” because Rossini is said to have composed it while waiting for a portion of risotto in a Venice restaurant. The aria “Nacqui all’affanno et al pianto” from the opera Cinderella, was composed in similar circumstances in Rome. By the end of his life, he also composed some little known piano pieces entitled Radishes, Anchovy, Pickles, Butter, Dry Figs, Almonds Raisins and Hazelnuts.  

So why not celebrate Rossini’s birthday in style tonight with your own rendition of the Tournedos Rossini? You can get the recipee (and the behind the scenes story) here…

Of course, you’ll be listening to his six Sonatas for strings while doing all the prep work… Buon appetito!

Jimmy Brière in Debussy tomorrow

27 February 2012

Tomorrow night, music lovers who like to step off the beaten path can enjoy on the same program two concertos and two premieres, thanks to Orchestre 21. Paolo Bellomia will conduct Sokolović’s Concerto for orchestra (a commission of the OSM, premiered in 2007) and a new work by Hugues Leclair. Debussy is also well-represented on the program. (The concert is presented as part of the international Debussy symposium held this week at Université de Montréal.) The world premiere of an orchestration of Debussy’s sketches for Le diable dans le beffroi, a one-act opera based on a tale of Edgar Allan Poe will be heard, as well as his Fantaisie pour piano. Jimmy Brière will be the soloist.

Details here…

To listen to Jimmy Brière in Corigliano, Korngold and Rota…

Handel: 327 years young

24 February 2012

Georg Friedrich Handel was born in Halle, Germany, on February 23, 1685, a few weeks before Bach. (The two musicians never met, although Bach lived in this region all his life.) Handel’s father was a surgeon-barber, a common combination of professions in those days, although it seems rather funny to us today. Georg showed surprising musical gifts from a very young age. His father didn’t give his son much encouragement, but nevertheless the boy managed to hide a clavichord in the attic, probably with his mother’s help. One day fortune smiled on the young musician. The Duke of Saxe Weissenfels heard him and ordered the boy’s father to give him proper music lessons. The local organist became his teacher and taught him the basics of organ playing as well as composition.

In 1703, after a year of legal studies, Händel decided that his future lay with music. He moved to Hamburg, a more cosmopolitan city. There he taught music and played violin and harpsichord in the opera orchestra. By the time he was 20, he composed his first opera, Almira, which was warmly received by the public. Five years later, he decided to accept a permanent position with a German prince, but soon asked for a year off to visit London. He reworked some “old” material and came up with the opera Rinaldo, which took English audiences by storm. Although he never lost his great passion for travel, he finally settled in London in 1714, and it remained his home until his death in 1759. He is burried with kings and queens at Westminster Abbey.

Here, you can hear some of his italian cantatas, as performed by Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Luc Beauséjour.

The OSM new partener of the MIMC

22 February 2012

This is the 10th year of the Montreal International Musical Competition and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal will once again be the “house band” for the finals (June  5 and 6) and gala concert (June 8) of this edition devoted to voice. According to Mr. André Bourbeau, who co-founded the MIMC with Mr. Joseph Rouleau, “very few organizations, even at the international level, benefit from orchestras of this calibre. This is an invaluable opportunity for the young musicians from all over the world.” The official list of candidates will be announced in May, at the inaugural press conference.

As well, in the spirit of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, film director Santiago RuizTorres presents Sudden Flashes of Light, a short film on the piano featuring the winner of the MIMC’s 2004 Piano edition, Serhiy Salov. The film will be presented at the 30th edition of the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in Montréal, running from March 15 – 25.  Here is the trailer.

Bach’s St. John Passion

20 February 2012

Bach’s St. John Passion is one of the masterworks of the choral repertory. A very dramatic work, it displays the unfolding details of the suffering of Jesus – and their effect on those caught up in it – in personal terms. It is almost breathless in its progress through the sequential events of the Passion, and the chorales and arias heighten this intensity.

A new recording of this masterpiece is now available from The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. The oldest American Bach Choir, it gave the first complete American performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass in 1900 and of the Christmas Oratorio in 1901. Since its founding in 1898, the now-famous Choir has been attracting thousands of visitors from across the United States and beyond to the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival in Pennsylvania. You’ll understand why be listening to their reading of the work here…

Soloists include Julia Doyle, Daniel Taylor,  Benjamin Butterfield, Charles Daniels, William Sharp, Christopheren Nomura and David Newman.


That Nokia tune…

17 February 2012

In this day and age of technology, people attending concerts still forget to turn off their cell phones when they step in the concert hall. Annoying, both for the audience and the performer. The latter could easily  become aggravated by the situation or turn it into something else, like a short set of variations on an imposed theme, as did violist Lukáš Kmiť,  in the middle of his performance of Bach’s Suites.

Would Bach have been offended? Maybe less than we think. After all, the (in)famous Nokia tune is from a classical composition, Tarrega’s Grand Vals

You can listen to Helen Callus’ take on those famous Bach Cello Suites as transcribed for viola here…

Beethoven Fifth: as if it were the first time?

15 February 2012

You may, like me, be a little overwhelmed by the number of times Beethoven’s Fifth can come back to haunt you in a regular season. Enough, already, you may say! Dick Strawser  makes an interesting point in a recent blog.

“Basically, every time you perform a piece, someone is hearing it for the first time and someone is hearing it for the last time.

We think of Beethoven – especially the composer of this 5th Symphony – as a titan striding across the ages, a universal hero, perhaps the greatest composer who ever lived.

In Beethoven’s day, however, it wasn’t quite the same thing.”

He recalls that quite a few composers had their music more frequently performed in Vienna in 1806 when the Fifth was completed, for example Mozart, Haydn, Paer, Cherubini, Mayer, Righini and several others. You may know the first two really well, have heard of Cherubini, but Paer, Mayer and Righini?

A second performance of the 5th Symphony a year and a half later was reviewed for the leading German-language periodical, the Leipzig-based Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (General Musical Journal) by E.T.A. Hoffman.

“Radiant beams shoot through the deep night of this region, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy all within us except the pain of endless longing—a longing in which every pleasure that rose up amid jubilant tones sinks and succumbs. Only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope, and joy, tries to burst our breasts with a full-voiced general cry from all the passions, do we live on and are captivated beholders of the spirits.”

You may want to listen to the masterpiece as performed by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal while you read this very interesting and thorough blog.

The classical music Grammy winners

13 February 2012

You may already know that the undisputed queen of the Grammys is British superstar Adele – who won six precious little statuettes last night in Los Angeles – or that the death of diva Whitney Houston casted a shadow on the ceremony, but you may also wonder who won in the classical music categories, awarded before the big gala.

In the “Best Orchestral Performance” category, the Grammy was given to the flamboyant Gustavo Dudamel, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in  Brahms’ Fourth Symphony. John Adams’s Doctor Atomic took the “Best Opera Recording” statuette, Alan Gilbert leading soloists, choir and orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera.  “Best Choral Performance” was awarded to the album Light & Gold by The King’s Singers, Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann, Laudibus, the Pavão Quartet and The Eric Whitacre Singers, all under Eric Whitacre.

The award for “Small Ensemble Performancewent to Mackey: Lonely Motel – Music from Slide, featuring Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird. Rather surprisingly, “Best Classical Solo Performance” was awarded to Schwantner’s Concerto for percussion and orchestra  (Nashville Symphony and Christopher Lamb, percussion). Diva Divo  (Joyce DiDonato, Orchestra and Chorus of the ‘Opéra national de Lyon) won “Best Classical Vocal Performance” and Robert Aldrige’s Elmer Gantry became “Best Contemporay Classical Composition”.

On the Canadian side of the border, nominations for the Junos were announced last week. (The award show will be held on April 1.) The Analekta album featuring Bach’s Cantatas 70 and 154,  Concerto BWV 1060 Orchestral Suite No. 2 with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Daniel Taylor is nominated in the “vocal and choral” category.

A Time For Us at the top

10 February 2012

Only a week or so after its release, Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà’s new album, A Time For Us, rises to the number 1 spot in the Canadian charts. Indeed, the album stands at the pole position of Nielsen Soundscan’s Classical Chart, with no less than 3 times as more sales than its closest rival. It also stands at the head of iTunes Canada’s prestigious Classical Chart.

Critics seem unanimous. “Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà turn to the rich imagery of the most beloved film music,” was heard CBC Radio 2. “A Time For Us is an album with an impeccable musical integrity,” wrote Le Devoir.

Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà are presently touring across the province of Quebec. For more information…

Breaking boundaries: the solution for classical music?

6 February 2012

Classical music audiences are getting older, but not necessarily wiser and, most often, flock en masse to “safe” offerings rather than to try something a little off the beaten path. In an article published last Thursday, The Guardian goes so far as to include in the header: “Boundaries are being broken across the music world. The industry can capitalise on it if it embraces the spirit of change.” Wishful thinking or can real opportunities for broadening the listeners’ pool can  – must – arrise?

Max Hole writes:

“In a world where listeners no longer define themselves along firm genre lines, music is increasingly just that – music. As a result, we are now witnessing a musician-led movement gleefully adopted by listeners, in which classical is being rebranded from the ground up. Even the term “classical” itself seems obsolete in the face of what’s being produced and consumed.”

Further in the article, he states:

“Perhaps most crucially, young musicians need to be involved in the presentation of their music at a higher and deeper level.”

Indeed, it is too bad that most musicians don’t take the one-on-one route and share their love of music in schools (or even jails, as Alain Lefèvre does) or talk to the audience in an accessible, non-condescending tone.

To read the article…