Archive pour March, 2013

The Seven Words of Christ

29 March 2013

Whether you go to church or not, some periods of the liturgical year seem to lend themselves to musical associations. We think of Handel’s Messiah as a Christmas piece, but it was in fact intended for Easter. You might me tempted by an offering of Liszt’s Via crucis tonight at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. You may also decide to take this time for you and stay home and meditate on Christoph Graupner’s Seven Words of the Christ on the Cross.

This set of seven cantatas gives a good glimpse in the musical world of this contemporay of Bach. Each cantata is articulated around one of the seven words pronounced by Christ on the cross before he died. The author of the texts, Johann Conrad Lichtenberg, is none other than Graupner’s brother-in-law. Conceived as a set of sept works to be performed over a six-week period (from Lent to Easter), they nevertheless remain an organic whole, that can be apprehended as such. Graupner gave each cantata the same structure: dictum (the Word of Christ) – aria – recitative – aria  (sometimes as a duet) – recitative – chorale.

You can discover (or rediscover) it here, as performed by Geneviève Soly and Les idées heureuses…

Happy Easter to all!

Valérie Milot performs with London Orchestra tonight

27 March 2013

One imagines the harp as an instrument to be performed in the comfort of  a plush salon, that composers use from time to time when they want to splash a touch of colour in their symphonies or their ballets. The harp, especially when performed by an inspiring artist, can do much more than this, of course. To prove this, Valérie Milot will be the soloist of an orchestra program tonight, in London (Ontario), and will perform works by Debussy and Ravel (including his lovely Pavane pour une infante défunte). The London Orchestra, under Alain Trudel’s direction, will also play Saint-Saëns Symphony in A.

You can listen to Valérie Milot in the very evocative Légende by Henriette Renié, on the album Aquarelles.

Road Movie: a portrait of John Adams

22 March 2013

In this FIFA film, to be presented tonight at the Musée d’art contemporain (as part of a double bill with John Cage: Journey into Sound), John Adams speaks to us directly. A narrator comes in maybe once or twice, Adams being more than capable to express how he feels about music or how he deals with the challenges of life as a composer. The narrative thread is linear and adopts a chronological point of view, the montage is rather traditional but still, when musical excerpts are presented, the imagery often becomes magnificent, almost magical. (The segments accompanying The Dharma at Big Sur and Phrygian Gates are most spectacular.)

Other important works are featured of course, including Shaker Loops, Road Movies, his operas Doctor Atomic and Nixon in China, Eldorado, Hallelujah Junction (featuring photos by his wife, taken in the Sierra Valley), Gospel According to the Other Mary (reminding us that Adams is anything but mysoginist) and the very moving Transmigration of Souls, written in memory of victims of the September 11 attacks.

You may want to get your ear ready beforehand with John Adams – Portrait, by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà…

Love, actually

18 March 2013

Love stories – literary, clandestine and youthful – provide an intense background for the three works on the Cecilia Quartet latest recording, featuring Leoš Janáček, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata provided  Janáček with the starting point for his first string quartet. “I had in mind a poor woman, tormented, beaten, battered to death,” he wrote to Kamila Stösslová, his confidante and would-be mistress. The finale opens with agitated music that represents the jealous husband. As references to music from earlier movements recur, they are dominated by the poignant, pleading theme of the opening. 

The album can be discovered and downloaded here…

How do professional musicians listen

14 March 2013

The FIFA presents an interesing film focusing on Brendel the mentor, Set the Piano Stool on Fire on Saturday afternoon, but it’s sometimes also interesting to address the question of perfoming – or listening – with a more scientific approach. In 2008, Harvey Sachs published a fascinating study in which he asks Alfred Brendel, Emanuel Ax et Andras Schiff some very personal – and almost peculiar in some cases – questions about how they listen to music, whether it is the one they produce themselves or not.

Here are some of the questions asked: 

To what extent are you aware of listening to a piece’s form, harmony, and various “lines” while you are actually perfoming (as opposed to studying it)?

Do you ever think of the sounds you produce in terms of colour, shape, density, light/dark, or as if you were playing another instrument or singing?

Do you ever think of non-musical imagery (pictures, stories, etc.), as the Romantic often did, when you work on sound?

The answers are very revealing, I must say. The complete document can be read in PDF format…

The OSM performs Brahms’ German Requiem

11 March 2013

Busy week for the OSM! The Orchestra and his music director will launch the 13-14 season – the 80th of the orchestra – on Thursday, but also performs two different programs this week, including three performances of Brahms’ German Requiem, a very interesting work, written a good 10 years before his First Symphony was published. It is sung in German, not the usual Latin and Brahms forged his own text out of selections from Luther’s Bible, the Old and New Testaments as well as the Apocrypha. Interestingly enough, Brahms used the Bible more for its literary and philosophical merits than for its religious doctrines. His German Requiem thus becomes a meditation on death, concerned more with comforting the living. This is why he called it a “human requiem.”

The program is completed by the Montreal premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmerman, Stille und Umkehr(Silence and Return), one of the composer’s last works, composed in 1970 for celebrations of the 500th birthday of Albrecht Dürer, in Nuremberg.  The piece is almost hypnotic in nature and features shifting instrumental colours, a single, persistently reiterated note, passed around the orchestra, and a drum’s recurring blues rhythm together supplying the foundation for the whole piece.

Music strong at the FIFA

7 March 2013

Tickets for the International Festival of Films on Arts, to be held from March 14 to 24, are now on sale and they’re going fast! Here is a selection that should please the classical music lover.

James Levine: America’s Maestro: Sunday March 17, 1:30 p.m. – Place des Arts, cinquième salle

Road movie, a John Adams portrait: Tuesday March 19, 9 p.m. – Place des Arts and Friday March 22, 6:30 p.m. – Musée d’Art Contemporain

Wagner’s dream, about Robert Lepage’s work on the Ring: Sunday March 17, 6:30 p.m. – Place des Arts, cinquième salle

Die Thomaner – One year with the St-Thomas Choristers: Saturday March 23, 6:30 p.m. – Cinémathèque Québécoise

St. Matthew Passion – St. Thomas Boys Choir Leipzig. The work is performed with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Sunday March 24, 1:30 p.m. – Cinémathèque Québécoise

 Bruckner 5 – Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra: Saturday March 23, 4 p.m. – Cinémathèque Québécoise

Four Mahler symphonies filmed live in concert are also presented.

Riccardo Chailly in the Symphony No. 2 with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig: Saturday March 16, 6:30 p.m. – Cinémathèque Québécoise

Riccardo Chailly also leads the same orchestra in the Symphony No. 8: Thursday March 21, 6:30 p.m. Cinémathèque Québécoise

Claudio Abbado in the Symphony No. 9 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra: Saturday March 23, 4 p.m.- Cinémathèque Québécoise

Yannick Nézet-Séguin  and the Bavario State Symphony Orchestra in the Symphony No. 7: Sunday March 17, 4 p.m. – Cinémathèque Québécoise

You can view all this years’s offertings at, and can reserve tickets on the Website, over the phone at 514 874-9972 or at one of the FIFA kioks  in Espace culturel George-Émile-Lapalme, of Place des Arts (and from March 8 to 15 at the EV Building at Concordia, and from March 16 to 21 at the J. W. McConnell Building Atrium).

An album devoted to some cantatas by Rameau

4 March 2013

Les amants trahis, an album devoted to Rameau’s cantatas, featuring Hélène Guilmette, Philippe Sly and harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour, will be in store soon, but already, you can listen to it and download it on line.Amants trahis

While the cantata, a genre imported from Italy and adopted by many of Rameau’s contemporaries, such as Clérambault, Campra, and Bernier, had quickly won over French audiences, Rameau saw it primarily as a means of mastering opera. “One must be knowledgeable of the stage, have all the characters present, be sensitive to dance and its movements, not to mention all the props; to understand the voice and actors, etc.” he wrote in a letter dated May 29, 1744 in reply to a young priest named Mongeot who had written to him for advice. “Before undertaking so great a work, it is necessary to have done smaller ones, cantatas, entertainments, and a thousand trifles of the sort that nourish the spirit, kindle the imagination, and gradually make one capable of greater things.”

Anyone who know the Rameau of the Indes galantes will instantly recognize his passion for his art, his quest for excellence, his apparently limitless culture, his ease of conveying a message both with words and sound. As he wrote in his treatise on harmony, “A good musician should surrender himself to all the characters he wishes to portray, and like a skillful actor, put himself in the speaker’s shoes.” 

The title of the album refers to one of the works presented, Les Amants trahis, in which two abandoned lovers lament for their mistresses (the original score is written for bass and countertenor) one with tears, the other with mockery. Rameau reveals the true extent of his expressive palette in the work. A work (and an album) to discover right away by following this link…