Archive pour May, 2012

Let’s laugh a little

30 May 2012

Year in and year out, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival always offers substantial concerts with top notch artists. Tonight, it takes a sidestep so to speak with “A little nightmare music,” the brainchild of electic duo Igudesman & Joo,who steps foot in Quebec for the very first time. Very few groups are as effective in the classical music parody genre, because under it all, you can always sens substance and a search for excellence. Here are two excerpts from that particular show: a terrifying recollection of a piano lesson and, in the much lighter mood, I will survive. (More information here…)

Philippe Sly becomes Radio-Canada’s “Classical Revelation”

28 May 2012

A few days ago, bass-baritone Philippe Sly (who will take part in the MIMC starting tomorrow) was designated “Révélation classique de Radio-Canada”. His fairy godmother for the upcoming year will be radio host Françoise Davoine. This is how she speaks of Philippe: “I’ve discovered Philippe Sly when he won the Met National Council Auditions in 2011. I had invited then as a guest of the “Flash jeunesse” series on Espace classique. It was impossible not to be completely bowled over by this young man with the golden voice and the luminous expression. His kindness and simplicity are bewitching and let’s not forget his warm voice which can carry emotion with such natural!”

Here he is in Schubert’s Der Erlkönig.

Liszt with the score

26 May 2012

Of course, listening to a musical work is fine enough, but when you can read the composer’s intents on the score and thus better understand the choices the performer made when addressing them, it is even better. Here is an incursion into the wonderful world of Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage, “Switzerland,” with pianiste André Laplante  (you can download the album here after), score in hand, so to speak.

13 Canadians in the MIMC

24 May 2012

We learned on Tuesday night the names of  the lucky 26 singers who will wow jury and audience alike at the Montreal International Musical Competition (MIMC), which runs from May 29 to June 6. (The gala concert featuring the top winners will be held on June 8.)

A prestigious jury will hear 12 women and 14 men (including one countertenor), 13 of which are Canadian and 5 from Quebec. Favourites of the Montreal crowd should be  Caroline Bleau,  ex-member of the Atelier lyrique and bass-baritone Philippe Sly, 23 years old, who was in the studio recently to record his first album on the Analekta label (release planned in the fall).

To celebrate its 10 years, the MIMC moves to the two new concert halls: Salle Bourgie for the quarter- and semi-finals and Maison symphonique de Montréal for the finals. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal will then be led by Alain Trudel.

Those who wish to follow the Competition at home or the office will be once again able to do so at

You can meet and greet the 26 contestants (through short presentation videos) here…

To remember Dietrich

22 May 2012

Like most of you, I spent a few hours in the sun this long weekend, but still couldn’t forget about the passing of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau… His Winterreise has accompanied me part of the way (and a recent essay about the cycle by Georges Leroux, Wanderer), but also his rendition of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. I was especially moved to read a portrait written by Martin Kettle of The Guardian from 2005, in honour of his 80th anniversary.

“He had only to sing one phrase,” his frequent accompanist Gerald Moore wrote in his memoirs, “before I knew I was in the presence of a master.” Sviatoslav Richter, who accompanied him too, was in no doubt either: Fischer-Dieskau was “the greatest of 20th-century singers”, the Russian pianist wrote in his notebooks. John Steane, most probing and unsentimental of all critics, threw up his hands after listening to Fischer-Dieskau and, quoting Dryden on Chaucer, simply concluded: “Here is God’s plenty.” The writer John Amis concluded that Fischer-Dieskau is “a miracle and that is just about all there is to be said about it”.

“I am hard to please,” Fischer-Dieskau admits. He thinks “much is being lost about the good ways of making music”, and regrets the decline of “true legato singing” – a charge that critics occasionally made against his own performances. “When you have something to say in music the phrases must be clear – the beginning, the climax, and the ending.”

To read the full article…

Faust starting tonight

19 May 2012

The air of the jewels, the soldiers’s chorus, Gounod’s Faust is packed with hits dear to the art of many opera lovers. The new production presented by the Opéra de Montréal is also of particular interest  because, for the first time, a father and son team will perform the dual role of Faust (young and old), an added touch that surely will have some impact on the production (and was at the center of numerous kitchen table discussions, I bet!). You can discover Antoine and Guy Bélanger’s rendition of this mythical story starting tonight and on May 22, 24 and 26.

A giant has left us

18 May 2012

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a master of German lied today, 10 days short of his 87th birthday.The late soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf called him “a born god who has it all.”

“The death of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a great loss for the entire music world. Through his interpretations of vocals he decisively influenced the art of opera singing. Today’s vocals would be unthinkable without the influence of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,” the Bavarian State Opera administrator Nikolaus Bachler, said in a statement.

He was especially known for his mastery of works of Schubert, in particular the cycles Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin. He also took part in the premiere  of Britten’s War Requiem in 1962 at England’s newly built Coventry Cathedral. The part was specially written for him by the composer.

He had retired in 1992. He also taught and wrote several reference books.

He will be greatly missed…

Is education the solution?

16 May 2012

Are classical music and jazz suffering because we’re not educating our children properly? Isn’t it just a bit easy to blame everyting on the education system? Isn’t the governement part of a conspiration against Mozart, Mahler, Miles or Monk? An article published recently in the Huffington Post begs to differ.

“It’s hard to then claim that the government and the education system (and private donors who have helped to fund university and other programs) haven’t done enough,”  explains jazz pianist and composer Kurt Ellenberger. “Hundreds of millions (possibly billions) have been spent on jazz education since 1970, but those untold sums did not deliver a sustainable jazz audience. The education theory as it pertains to jazz is a failure in terms of its ability to generate an audience base for the music.”

He goes further:  “The education system can certainly expose students to classical music and jazz (hopefully enriching their lives by doing so), but it cannot make them love the music.”

Definitely something to ponder about. To read…

Techno Mozart

14 May 2012

Symphony orchestras have trouble regenerating their aging audience, it’s been said so many times. Is it even possible to reach out to young  audiences, get them in the concert hall… and keep them asking for more? What could work for the iPod generation? In Miami, the New World Symphony Orchestra seems to believe that the solution is in mixing the genres together, literally, as in sampling some classical music (played live) and then spinning it into something entirely different, definitely 21st century.

For a few weeks now, the orchestra has featured some “Pulse” evenings (but, in fact, isn’t music, whatever its genre, nothing more than a pulse?), in the New World Center, Frank Gehry’s brain child, which sound more like raves than classical concerts. It’s like hitting the “refresh” button on your browser, but with music of giants like Mozart and Stravinsky. What does it sound like?  Listen to this mp3 to find out… Purists are probably getting very upset right about now, but I believe a lot of “serious” composers would not have minded the idea so much.

You can read this article in the Wall Streeet Journal to know a little more about the project.


Seven portraits

11 May 2012

The SMCQ will conclude its Montreal season on an eclectic note next Thursday 7 p.m., with a concert featuring the joined forces of Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà and the SMCQ Ensemble. This evening of seven complementary works will draw one really interesting portrait of our times.

To start the evening, the SMCQ will first perform Claude Vivier’s Et je reverrai cette ville étrange and Régis Campo’s Pop-Art under Walter Boudreau’s direction.  Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà will then play some works by minimalists Glass and Pärt (featured on the three “Portraits” series albums), excerpts from John Adams’ Road Movies  (Angèle Dubeau will be joined by pianist Louise Bessette for this duo segment), Frank Zappa’s Zomby Woof  (in a new instrumental setting by Walter Boudreau) as well as the premiere of Ana Sokolović’s Girandole des danses imaginaires, a work commissioned by Angèle Dubeau.

The concert is part of a benefit event for the SMCQ. Wine and hors-d’oeuvres will be offered after the concert to those who wish to support the SMCQ a little more directly. Details here…