Archive pour July, 2012

Of Music and Paintings

30 July 2012

The retrospective “Of Music and Paintings” started on Friday at Cinéma du Parc and it runs until August 9. You won’t want to miss the following films.

The Music Lovers, the Ken Russell non-traditional and unforgettable  Tchaikovsky biography. I still have flashes of the train scene (and others) from when I saw it years ago. (Friday August 3, 9:15 p.m. and Thursday August 9, 7 p.m.)


From the same film maker, you might also be interested by Mahler, which I have never seen but have put down in my agenda. (Tuesday July 31, 9:15 and Tuesday August 7, 7 p.m.)


In a completely different register, Copying Beethoven will be presented on Saturday August 4 at 2 p.m.


A friend warmly recommended Impromptu, a little gem of a film on Chopin it seems. (Wednesday August 1, 7 p.m. and Thursay August 9, 9:15 p.m.)


And let’s not forget the classic of classics, Milos Forman’s Amadeus de Milos Forman, on Sunday August 5 at 3:15 and Wednesday August 8 at 8:45 p.m. I never dared watched the whole film since I saw it in the mid-80s but this may well be the occasion for a revival.

All the details of the festival are here…

Orchestre de la Francophonie in Domaine Forget

26 July 2012

It is a really busy week for the Orchestre de la Francophonie. Tuesday and tonight, the band plays at the SAT for their traversal of the Brahms’ symphonies (the concert is free, details here). Saturday night,  led by founder and music director Jean-Philippe Tremblay, it will give a performance at magnificent Domaine Forget, in Charlevoix. It will feature violinist Augustin Dumay and pianist Matthieu Fortin, and includes the world premiere of a new work for piano and orchestra by Julien Bilodeau (along with  Chausson’s Poème, Ravel’s Tzigane and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony).

The concert will be preceded by a screening of the film Augustin Dumay – Laisser une trace dans le cœur by director Gérard Corbiau. More details here…

You can listen to the Orchestre de la Francophonie’s most recent album, featuring Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, there…

A new John Cage biography

23 July 2012

He would have been 100 in 2012  and so a few John Cage related projects have seen the day. For example, John Cage die-hard fans will be happy to learn that the Rambler has put on the Spotify the (incomplete) complete John Cage Edition (you can access it here).

With vacation time finally here, you may want to spend a few hours with a biography, written by Kay Larson, who worked for 14 years as an art critic for New York magazine, Where the Heart Beats. Those who, like me, don’t care too much about linear biographies, will like the fact that this one centers on the ideas behind the works, including his philosophical awakening through Zen Buddhism. “I discovered,” he said in a late-period interview, “that those who seldom dwell on their emotions know better than anyone else just what an emotion is.”

Ben Ratliff of The New York Times has read it and sums it up in those words:

“The book is meticulous about dates, encounters and critical receptions. Still, there is no mistaking this for a straightforward biography. It concentrates on the most important period of Cage’s philosophical discoveries and starts drawing to a close in the early 1960s, when the composer still had more than a third of his life and work ahead of him.”

To read the full review…


Viola jokes

19 July 2012

Canucks have Newfies jokes, French have Belgian jokes, musicians have… viola jokes! There is such a huge collection of those, it seems endless. I never quite understood why the viola was the archenemy of all orchestra musicians – viola repertoire is quite fascinating, really – but you have to admit that some of the jokes are pretty funny. If you dislike another instrument, just replace viola/violist by your petpeeve. I share a few here…

What is the longest viola joke?
Harold in Italy

Why is viola called “bratsche” in Germany?
Because that’s the sound it makes when you sit down on it.

What do a viola and a lawsuit have in common?
Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

What’s the definition of a minor second?
Two violists playing in unison.

(This one actually kills two birds with one stone.)
A conductor and a violist are standing in the middle of the road; which one do you run over first, and why?
The conductor. Business before pleasure.

How was the canon invented?
Two violists were trying to play the same passage together.

Why don’t violists play hide and seek?
Because no one will look for them.

Those who invented those certainly didn’t listen to Bach’s cello suites on the viola.

Band camp for grown-ups

16 July 2012

Tickets’ sales for symphony orchestra are down but more and more adults go back to – or get into – music. Some have played for 15 years when they were young but their professional (or family) life prevented them from pursuing a musical dream, even part-time, others have always wanted to play and decide to finally take lessons when they are 50. Every story is different but all are inspiring.

Daniel J. Wakin, a reporter from The New York Times, is also an amateur clarinettist who trained with 150 others in a band camp of a different kind with players from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. After a week or difficult rehearsals, lessons, lectures and practice – much  practice -, they all performed under Marin Aslop and were certainly beaming from pride. An inspirational video to watch!

Lefèvre to premiere Dompierre’s Preludes

12 July 2012

On Saturday night, 8 p.m., pianist Alain Lefèvre (artistic ambassador of the Lanaudière Fesetival) will premiere François Dompierre’s 24 Preludes, written for him, at the Fernand-Lindsay Auditorium. Written in each one of the major and minor keys of the tonal system, like Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier sets, they nevertheless refer to today’s world and contemporary music. The composer explains:

“The themes are stated very simply and put the listener at ease. But then the plot thickens, changes tack and develops in a totally unpredictable way – with  the result that the getting-ready work, the learning of the language of each of the pieces, the gestation period indispensable to the success of a highly accomplished performance demand a high degree of attention on the part of the eventual instrumentalist. A challenge, it so happens, that my friend Alain Lefèvre took up brilliantly. It only remains for me to hope that others will take it up in turn.”

More info here…

Happy birthday Respighi!

9 July 2012

Ottorino Respighi  (born on July 9, 1879, in Bologna, who died on April 18,1936 in Rome) remains of the most brilliant orchestrators of all times. More than anything else, he believed that music must at all times transmit emotions. When in 1932 he signed a manifesto against modernism in music, he stated:

“We are against art which cannot, and does not have any human content, and desires merely to be a mechanical demonstration of a cerebral puzzle. A logical chain binds the past and the future: the Romanticism of yesterday will again be the Romanticism of tomorrow.”

Respighi knew how to create a unique atmosphere, giving both the chance to musicians to shine and to listener to appreciate musical painting to its fullest. Sophisticated instrumentation – almost cinematographic -, subtle chromatisms, inventive harmonies and powerful rhythmic sections are some of the tools he  used to paint scenes, whether they are real (as in his famous Pines and Fountains of Rome) or evocations of bygone eras.

It is the case with the first suite of his Airs et danses antiques, as performed by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà  here…

Valérie Milot in Orford

6 July 2012

Festival season is officially open! Why not pack a gastronomical picnic, leave work a little earlier and hit the road… in the direction of Orford perhaps? If you do so, you could catch Valérie Milot and the Camerato Orford in Debussy’s Danses sacrées et profanes pour harpe or Mozetich’s El Dorado.

The concert is tonight, 8 p.m., salle Gilles-Lefebvre. Details and tickets ici…

An American instrument

4 July 2012

To celebrate the American national holiday in style, why not discover a totally American instrument, invented by one of the founding fathers of the country, who signed the Declaration of Independance no less, Benjamin Franklin himself. He led a very busy life and was especially prolific in the science world. Among other things, he invented the lightning rod, the Franklin bells (a meteoroly instrument) and the bifocals. He is also one of the first men to have flown in a hot-air balloon.

Franklin invented the glass harmonica in 1761. It consists of “musical glasses” made of crystal, glass, or quartz, mounted horizontally on a motor-driven rotating spindle. To play it, you rub a wet finger around the rim of the glasses.

Music is still being written today for this unusual instrument, but Mozart actually wrote a few, including this one…

Calixa Lavallée

1 July 2012

You may know Calixa Lavallée (1842-1891) as the composer of Ô Canada, our country’s national anthem , but did you know he was also a conductor, a pianist and a teacher?

He studied in Quebec but soon moved to the US after winning a competition. He came back to Montreal briefly, before a public subscription enabled him to spend 1873-5 in Paris, where he studied piano with Antoine-François Marmontel and harmony and composition with Bazin and Boieldieu fils. Little is known of his stay in Paris, except that he composed a series of studies for piano, including  Le Papillon, on the study list of the Paris Conservatory , still performed by young Canadian pianists in competition. This work subsequently went through numerous editions in Europe and America, continued to appear in collections and anthologies, and was recorded several times, as early as 1908 by Frank La Forge.

Lavallée returned to Quebec City 25 Jul 1875 with, in his pocket, a letter from Marmontel: “I bid you a cordial farewell and wish you all the success you deserve by your continuous and courageous work. I am certain that your friends … will find your talent transformed from two standpoints: style and controlled virtuosity.”  In La Minerve (December 9 and 10, 1875), Guillaume Couture acclaimed the composer as “one of our national glories,” adding that he had learned how “to be by turns brilliant, elegant, fiery, tender and impassioned.”

He wrote extensively, for various formations and voice, throughout his life. You can learn more about Lavallée here…