Archive pour June, 2012

The secrets of the orchestra (2/2)

29 June 2012

Everything you always wanted to know about the orchestra… but were afraid to ask!

How does the conductor know which instrument should play and when?

The conductor has everyone’s music in front of his in his score.  He must  be able to translate on sight (the clarinet for example plays in B flat) and read treble (G-clef), bass (F-clef) and C-clef (since both the cellos and violas read in a different variation of this clef).

Why do horn players spit on the ground during a concert?

Obviously, they aren’t exactly spitting. What they are doing is opening special valves on their instruments to release fluid onto the ground. You might think it’s saliva, but, in fact, it’s condensation that has collected inside the instrument—like a window that fogs up in a steamy room or when it’s cold outside. A few drops (not a large quantity of water) are drained in this way to prevent the instrument from producing a rattling sound.

The secrets of the orchestra (1/2)

26 June 2012

I’m sure you may have wondered about a couple of those when attending a concert…

How much does the orchestra need to rehearse?

Generally, the orchestra rehearses together three to five times before a concert, for about two and a half hours each time. Of course, this does not include the time each musician practices at home. The conductor expects all the musicians to know their music perfectly from the very first rehearsal so that all he needs to do is fine tune elements of the performance (subtle nuances, phrasing, tempo, etc.), which are really only minor adjustments.

What does “warming-up” mean? Why do the musicians play random sounds before the concert?

It might sound like a cacophony of unrelated noise, but if you listen closely to individual musicians, you will notice what they are playing is more organized than it might sound. Each musician has a different “warm-up.” A wind player, for example, must blow into their instrument to literally “warm” it up; they must also warm up their own bodies because playing a wind instrument requires strength and exceptional breath control.
A string player (like all the other musicians), on the other hand, must make sure their instrument is in tune and that it doesn’t need any adjustments.

Why do violinists’ bows all move in the same direction at the same time?

During rehearsals, the principal concertmaster will have demonstrated the bow strokes to the other violinists so that they know when to push their bows upward and when to pull them downward. The same note played with what is called an “up-bow” or a “down-bow” produces a slightly different sound, and that is why is important for all the violins to bow in the same direction at the same time.

Happy St. Jean Baptiste

24 June 2012

You all become a little bit more patriotic on June 24, Quebec’s national holiday. So why not take this a step further and listen to Québécois music today? I have the perfect album for the occasion, Opus Québec, featuring works by Claude Champagne, Jacques Hétu, André Mathieu, André Prévost, Jean Papineau-Couture and Rachel Laurin.

“This recording is dedicated to our own Quebec composers. These composers have always been a part of my musical universe,” explained violinist Angèle Dubeau in the program booklet. Join me in this voyage through time, from the very first works written for violin at the turn of the century, to our own era. It is a journey through our own music, one filled with emotion, and in our own image, one that serves as an unending source of spirit, vitality and beauty.”

You can listen to the album here…

Festival season opens

21 June 2012

The longest day of the year is also the Fête de la musique in many European countries. It is as well opening night for the Festival Montréal Baroque, which features a very eclectic program for its 10th anniversary.

The Maya calendar thinks 2012 is the end of our world as we know it and the Festival decided to take advantage of the theme of the Apocalypse. Some explanations are given on the Festival’s website: “The original meaning of the Greek word suggests transformation and revelation. Imagine the apocalyptic transformation when the princess dared to kiss the frog!Montreal Baroque will conjure up both the intimacy of the princess’s revelatory kiss and the grandiose scenario with the four horses of the apocalypse and the sound of trumpetsas the armies of the Gods open up the skies with thunder and lightning!”

Several free concerts are offered, but you won’t want to miss opening night (somptuous food and music, tonight), Le Carrousel du Roy, an equestrian ballet performed for the first time at Louis XIII’s engagement party, in 1612 (Saturday June 23), Graupner’s Last Words of Christ on the Cross with Les Idées heureuses (June 23) and Telemann’s Der Tag des Gerichts (Judgement Day) with Ensemble Caprice and singers, which closes the festival (June 24).

Details here…

Victor Fournelle-Blain wins the Prix d’Europe

18 June 2012

Victor Fournelle-Blain, a 24-year-old violinist from Sainte-Julienne,  took home the $ 25 000 grand prize of the 101th Prix d’Europe Competition yesterday.

Formerly a pupil of Johanne Arel at the Conservatoire, now studying with Ani Kavafian at Yale University, the violinist was not a newcomer to the competition. Indeed, he already had won three prizes last year, finishing just behind pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, a Yale colleague.

Soprano Florie Valiquette, pianists Justine Pelletier, Jeanne Amièle and Simon Larivière, percussionist Ben Duinker, clarinettist François Laurin-Burgess, cellist David Bordeleau, harpist Antoine Malette-Chénier and clarinettist François Laurin-Burgess were the other prize recipients.

Presided by soprano Marie-Danielle Parent (Prix d’Europe in 1980), the jury included pianist Raoul Sosa, composer Jean Lesage, cellist Hélène Gagné, as well as clarinettist and Ondes Martenot specialist Jean Laurendeau.

Play your bananas

15 June 2012

Two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have managed to develop a banana piano. I am not kidding! Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum were looking for a way of turning everyday objects into touchpads, from paper to water pails to playdough.  They have developed a kit called MakeyMakey, that can turn fruit, animals and even humans into keyboards.

How does it work? You just have to alligator clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, bananas, as it is the case here. When you touch the fruit, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages!

You can learn all about it and pre-order your kit here…

BBC has done a piece on this here.

Yuli Turovsky Invested into the Order of Canada

13 June 2012

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the insignia of Officer of the Order of Canada to Mr. Yuli Turovsky, during a private ceremony in Montréal, Quebec, two days ago, on June 11, 2012.

Congratulations to maestro Turovsky, founder, and former director of I Musici de Montréal chamber orchestra, and more recently founding artistic director of the Nouvelle Génération chamber orchestra!

Andrew Wan: humble virtuosity

11 June 2012

When he won the first prize at the OSM Standard Life Competition in 2007, critics had already taken notice. The following year, at 24, he became co-concertmaster of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Today, Andrew Wandeals with a very full schedule, with his OSM performances, his chamber music endeavours, his guest appearances with other orchestras and some teaching.

Ron Copes, violinist of the Juilliard Quartet, one of his teachers, explains how he was able to make it all happen: “In that process I saw him make the transition from being a student to being an artist, not as a player, but in his self-concept. I was very impressed with the willingness with which he embraced that task because often a student giving up that quality of being a student, no matter how wonderful they are, is a bit mentally risky.”

You can read a profile of the violinist in the current issue of La Scena Musicale (p. 26 and 27).

Philippe Sly takes all

9 June 2012

Fans were thrilled to learn last night at the MIMC gala concert that Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly, winner of the grand prize, also took hom the prize for best Canandian artist, the Prix Joseph-Rouleau, the prize for the best performance of the mandatory Canadian work and, perhaps most importantly, the coveted Audience Prize.

If you missed his finals’ performance, you can listen to it here (around 51 minutes).

His first album, on the Analekta label, should be released early September.

Philippe Sly wins the MIMC

7 June 2012

The 23-year-old Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly stepped on the highest step of the MIMC podium last night, in front of the American John Brancy (3rd prize) and the Swiss Olga Kindler (2nd prize). His choice of repertoire, more on the intimate than on the flashy side in the finals, served him well in the end. That also says a lot about what the jury members were looking for this year.

The second evening of the finals first brought back the dark tenor of Yuri Gorodetski (almost baritone-like in quality) who gave a very touching performance, a succesful mix between fragility and strenght. The handsome young man (who looks more like 19 than 29) could blossom into something really interesting.

Canadian soprano Andréanne Paquin sadly gave us a rather flat program before South-Korean tenor Won Whi Choi transformed his Mozart concert aria into something closer to Verdi. His full and sonorous voice proved ideal though in La bohème’s  “Che gelida manina”.

Soprano Olga Kindler played the odds with a very strong finish. (Up until then, a men-only podium was considered.) Her dark voice and power revealed ideal in Tannhäuser‘s “Dich teure Halle” and her comprehensive musicianship did wonders in transmitting the emotion in Massenet’s “Pleurez, mes yeux” and the density in Menotti’s Consul. A true diva.

The three winners will perform again tomorrow, 7:30, at Maison symphonique de Montréal. The program is soon to be confirmed but will as well include orchestral pieces with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Alain Trudel’s direction.  Winner of the People’s Prize and of the best performance of the mandatory Canadian work will be announced at that time.

I’m leaving you with Philippe Sly‘s charming self-portrait.