Archive pour April, 2012

Happy Birthday Sergei

27 April 2012

Sergei Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka, a city in the former Russian Empire, now in Ukraine, on April 27, 1891. He received his first piano lessons from his mother. He displayed musical abilities early, writing short pieces when he was very young. At age nine, he penned an opera for children, The Giant. At 23 years old, to obtain his diploma from the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he was studying, he elected to perform his own First Piano Concerto for the jury rather than play the work of another composer.

Prokofiev travelled extensively during his life, living in Russia, the United States, and in Paris, France. He toured Germany, the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Italy. In 1933, he finally returned to the USSR for good.

Besides writing – in just one week! – both the text and the music to the kids loved Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev also composed operas, seven symphonies, nine concertos, the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, and also music for the Eisenstein films Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible.

You can hear his Violin Sonatas performed by young violinist Benjamin Beilman, grand winner of the Montreal International Musical Competition in 2010.


25 April 2012

I thought I was the only one who didn’t react positively to Bruckner’s music. When I see a symphony on the program, generally it’s a good enough reason to “forget” the concert. A movement or two, perhaps, but after this, I become saturated with sound and generally give up active listening.

In a  blog published a few weeks ago, Jessica Duchen, a  journalist for The Independent in London, confesses all about the love/hate relationship she seems to have with the composer. She starts with a  bang:

“I don’t like Bruckner. I may be a classical music journalist, a trained musician and so on, but I remain deeply, pathologically allergic to the Lumbering Loony of Linz. I’ve lost count of the well-meaning friends, relations and colleagues who have made it their personal mission to “convert” me. Alas, each attempt has been counter-productive.”

You can read the full article here. It certainly brought on a smile or two in my case.

The Symphonie fantastique… as understood by Schumann

23 April 2012

Berlioz et Schumann both lived in the 19th century but this is not the only parallel we can draw between the two composers. Indeed, both gained some notoriety as music critics. Schumann wrote for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New journal of music), which he founded in 1834, still active today, while Berlioz collaborated with Le Corsaire, la Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris and the prestigious Journal des Débats.

One of the first articles signed by Schumann was about Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique as a matter of fact. The analysis of the text is very elaborated – even though, at that time, Schumann had never heard the piece but had “dis/reconstructed” it from the inside out, with just the score. Throughout a series of articles, he starts a dialogue between Florestan (the passionate) and Eusebius (the dreamer) on the work.

You can read this fascinating analysis here in English… while listening toJean-Philippe Tremblay and Orchestre de la Francophonie’s recent album, of course…

Busy weekend for Ensemble Caprice

20 April 2012

Starting yesterday and up until Sunday, Ensemble Caprice performs every single day –  even two different programs on Sunday!

Thanks to the Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée, music lovers from the Greater Montreal region will leave the concert hall with a smile on their face, after having heard Salsa baroque, an uplifting program, based on the album by the same name. Moreover, on Sunday night, 7:30 p.m., Caprice teams up with Musica Orbium, under the direction of Patrick Wedd, in a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece, the Mass in B minor.

“Bach’s only Mass is a sublime work—grandiose, spellbinding and technically perfect,” explains Mr. Wedd. Many consider it the ideal piece of sacred music, to be approached with a humble spirit and a determination to serve the music above all. Nevertheless, there is also a lighter side to this work and there are moments of joy and of acceptance of the human condition. For the first time in its twenty years of existence, Musica Orbium accepts the challenge to do justice to this masterpiece, to express its many nuances and changing emotions in an atmosphere of sacred devotion.”

Details here…



A symphony orchestra in Congo

18 April 2012

Sometimes, you can find classical music in the least expected places, for example in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a symphony orchestra, the only all-black orchestra in the world, is led by Armand Diangienda, the orchestra’s founder. The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste is made up of over 200 musicians from all over Kinshasa, who believe that, against war, poverty, illness, classical music can be a refuge.

A German movie was made about the orchestra in 2010: Kinshasa Symphony (now available in DVD and Blu-Ray). A few weeks ago, it was the CBS network popular 60 Minutes which shed light on the orchestra. To hear Beethoven’s Ninth performed like this brings a whole new dimension to the concept of fraternity between all people…

La Pietà celebrates its 15th anniversary with a concert

16 April 2012

Time flies when you are having fun… Wednesday, Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà celebrates 15 years of excellence with a concert at Salle Bourgie in Montreal’s Fine Arts Museum at 8 p.m. The program, brainchild of founder and artistic director Angèle Dubeau, features works by Vivaldi, Holst, Glass, Lipsky, Rota and – of course! – Heidrich’s Happy Birthday Variations.

Angèle Dubeau explains: “When I started a recording project of Vivaldi concertos in 1997 and hand-picked fabulous female musicians to play with me, I could never imagine that La Pietà was going to occupy such an important place in my professional life and acquire almost instantly its enviable current position.”

As  a matter of fact, A Time for Us, Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà’s latest album, has been standing at the very top of the Nielsen Soundscan for 10 consecutive weeks now!

You can listen to it here…

A new album for Lorraine Desmarais

14 April 2012

On her latest album, just out, Lorraine Desmarais once again is joined by her faithful partners, bassist Frédéric Alarie and drummer Camil Bélisle. It includes recent compositions, most of them influenced by her recent international tour abroad, which took her to China, Mexico and France.  The moon plays an essential role here. She writes in the liner notes:

“At times a romantic moon, it evoked Latin influences ; at other times a full moon, its luminous energy flooded me with jazzy moonbeams ; and in the calm and quiet of its moon dust sprinkling down, some rather unheard of harmonies were born under my fingers,” she explained. “I can’t promise you the moon, but I hope that as you listen to the jazz and Latin moods of this recording, it will inspire you and fulfill your wildest musical dreams…”

Ideal for a lazy weekend. To listen and download…

Classical music as a narrative vector

12 April 2012

Of course, music plays an essential role in the movies. It serves as accompaniment, punctuation, adds emphasis. Sometimes, it is paramount, for example in the recent Oscar-winner, The Artist. Sometimes it becomes a secondary voice (as it is the case with Philip Glass’s soundtrack for The Hours). More rarely, it becomes an essential part of the narrative process. This is the impression from watching Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life last night.

In this case, classical music (from the 16th to the 21st centuries) can express everything, especially the inexpressible, whether the  latent (yet never fully explained) violence of the father, the rivarly between brothers, the mother’s sheer pain of losing a 19-year-old child. Yes, the director is somewhat overwhelming at times (did we really need to go back in time 40 000 years to understand the cycle of life?), but the splendid photography is at all times magnificently carried by works by Bach, Couperin, Schumann, Brahms, Peisner, Tavener, etc. No small feat…

Here are some of those images, supported by Tavener’s haunting Funeral Canticle.

Alain Lefèvre: defending music

10 April 2012

Well-known for promoting the legacy of André Mathieu, Alain Lefèvre has decided to devote himself to a new composer every year from now on. He will premiere François Dompierre’s 24 Preludes in Lanaudière in July, Walter Boudreau’s Concerto de l’Asile in 2013 with the OSM, but that doesn’t prevent him from also defending the repertoire of yesterday, as it is the case with his latest Rachmaninov/Scriabin project with the OSM, under Kent Nagano.

He talks about this recording and upcoming projects in the current issue of La Scena Musicale, page 34. (A review of the album can also be viewed on page 32.)

You can download and listen to the album here…

Happy Easter

8 April 2012

A few pages from Graupner to accompany your day.