Archive pour November, 2013

A few gift ideas

28 November 2013

Only four weeks left until Christmas: What should you give the music lover on your list? Naturally, recordings are always appreciated, and among the latest Analekta releases, one could mention, for example, Alexander Sevastian’s Tango Dreams and Gino Quillico’s Serata d’amore, sure antidotes to the grey, cold weather; Concertos for Harp by Handel, Boieldieu and Mozart played by Valérie Milot and the Violons du Roy; Adagio by the Ensemble Caprice; or A Child’s Christmas in Bethlehem, which offers many traditional songs, but off the beaten path.

You might also wish to offer concert tickets (or offer an album and a pair of tickets to a concert with the artist in question).

As for beautiful books, I would suggest discovering Ludwig by Christian Quesnel, a symphonic graphic novel around one of the most legendary composers, co-published by Art Global and Neige-galerie, a setting in splendid images of the first movement of Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, a work that lends itself wonderfully to illustration, with its multiplicity of textures, its dynamic force, its moments of suspended poetry, the way in which the whole seems closer to a symphony with piano (as do Brahms’s concertos) than a combat between soloist and orchestral mass. Quesnel’s drawing esthetic is intentionally steampunk and his Beethoven is not at all a disembodied being, removed from his century, who would be lost in the 21st century. Those who know Beethoven’s life will recall some key moments: the Goethe-Beethoven dialogue during the king’s passage (Goethe’s bowing while Beethoven, too proud, refuses to bend), the composer’s more or less happy childhood and the presence of his immortal beloved.

Yolanda Bruno wins the OSM Standard Life Competition

25 November 2013

Yolanda BrunoThose who were brave enough to step out in the cold to attend the finals of the OSM Standard Life Competition at Maison symphonique de Montréal were lucky to discover the musicianship and virtuosity of the Grand Prize Winner, Yolanda Bruno. The 24-year old violinist from Ontario now studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London (UK). Yolanda Bruno wins prizes worth a total of $20 000 grants, many performance opportunities, and will be the guest soloist of  the OSM this December 11 at Maison symphonique de Montréal as part of a concert conducted by Edward Gardner that will be taped and broadcast over Espace musique.

Nineteen competitors took part in the semi-finals of the Competition, which for this edition was devoted to stings and harp. For the first time this year under the presidency of Mr. Pierre Goulet, the OSM Standard Life Competition brought its 74th edition to a close after three days of semi-finals in Tanna Schulich Hall at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music and the final round at Maison symphonique.

The transformative power of classical music

21 November 2013

Benjamin Zander is a conductor who has led numerous orchestras over the years but always remained true to the one he founded in 1979, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a charismatic speaker who has given numerous key-note addresses. In this one, featured on TED, he talks about how we perceive music, of course, but gets really down to business in making us understand what makes classical music work, from the number of impulses per bar (he maps a very intersting route in a short analysis of the famous E minor Chopin Prelude) to how classical musicians transmit (or not) the message.

He strongly believes that classical music is for everybody, something dear to the hear of  François Mario Labbé, the founder of Analekta, as well. We shouldn’t be content with 4 % of the population listening to it rather than 3 %, but reach much higher and his goal remains to awaken possibilities in other people. For him, a concert’s success can be measured quite simply by the number of shining eyes he can see in the audience. Inspiring!

The end of Pleyel

18 November 2013

What sad news! After the multiple wheeling and dealings around Steinway, the mythical French piano maker Pleyel announced that it would close after 206 years and 250 000 pianos! That certainly is painful to read for any pianist, considering that Chopin himself was the first ambassador of the brand (he had a commission when students bought a Pleyel instrument), which was one of the first to develop the now indispensable double escapement. Liszt, Ravel and Stravinsky also played on Pleyel instruments, considered the “Ferrari of the piano”.

The company was founded in 1807 by Ignaz Pleyel, composer and music publisher, a student of Haydn. The official press release issued on November 16 mentions the fact that the company can”t match competitors’ offerings (China has of course become the most important producer and consumer of pianos in the world today): “The Pleyel company confirms that its production atelier in St-Denis hosting 14 employees will close, in view of recurrent losses and low level of activity.”

The actual president of the company, Bernard Roques, is looking for new ways to revitalise the Pleyel brand, maybe through an association with an international star from the music world or by crafting only upscale instruments. Let’s not forget that, just a few steps from the Paris store, still stands the mythical Salle Pleyel, still one of the most famous concert halls.


Lead an orchestra from a different city with the Mad Scientist Machine

14 November 2013

A conductor leads an orchestra in real time from another city. Impossible, right? Well, not quite… Technology is now so advanced that this  idea has just become reality, with a little help of course from the Mad Scientist Machine, the invention of composer, violinist  and computer freak Stefan Smulovitz! Indeed, thanks to a system of colour codes and LED-music stands, conductors can now lead an orchestra performing in Montreal from New York or Chicago! Talk about dematerialisation!

This computer program will be used live for the first time in Quebec tonight, in a concert to be performed at 8:30 at the Multimedia Hall of the Conservatoire de Montréal. Lisle Ellis and Sarah Weaver will lead from New York the 11 musicians of the Ensemble SuperMusique, Danielle Palardy Roger and the inventor himself, Stefan Smulovitz, from Montreal. The musicians will have a LED music stand, each colour becoming a signal containing specific instructions. (For example, white means that the musicians should perform long notes, while green is ‘”make some noise”.) Here, improvisation and music on the page join forces, for the conductor/composer or the musician performing.

More details on the concert here…

You can also check out the composer/inventor Website there…

The OSM renews Kent Nagano’s contract until 2020

11 November 2013

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) has announced this morning that Kent Nagano’s contract as the Orchestra’s music director has been extended until 2020. After serving as music advisor for two years, Maestro Nagano became the Orchestra’s music director in 2006. His first five-year term was renewed twice, most recently until 2016.

“Since Maestro Nagano has been with the OSM, he has not only measured up to his international reputation as an outstanding interpreter of the classical repertoire, he has also demonstrated his ability to bring people together around many key projects,” said Lucien Bouchard, chairman of the OSM’S board of directors. “He has contributed to raising the OSM’s profile while making a strong commitment to the community,” he added.

“My attachment to Montreal and the close relationships I have developed with the OSM’s talented musicians over the years are among the reasons that prompted me to renew my commitment to the Orchestra. Montreal is a friendly city that abounds with creativity and a vibrant culture where European and North American cultures mesh perfectly,” said Maestro Nagano.

Maestro Nagano received in 2012 the medal of honour from Quebec’s National Assembly and was named last week a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. The maestro will also be inducted into the Academy of Great Montrealers on November 14, in recognition of his contribution to the arts community.

Classical music in China

7 November 2013

Many say that the future of classical music is in China. Yes, it is true that after being banned during Mao’s time, classical music is making a very strong comeback. The numbers are astonishing: there are more young  Chinese pianists in conservatories all over the land than we are citizens in Canada. Yes, the interest is there, but it seems that one of the challenges is now to train the audience.

“As numerous others – from Google and the Home Depot on down – have discovered, exporting Western commerce and culture to China is often not as easy as it seems. The potential of a middle class burgeoning among 1.3-billion new customers continues to thrill, but the work of attracting interest is filled with pitfalls,” explained Nathan Vanderklippe in The Globe and Mail last month. “In a place where many are hearing this music for the first time, orchestra occupies no sacred space, no tradition of reverent listening. Classical music has arrived in a cultural market furiously trying out new things.”

You can read this interesting article and realise that classical music, like fine food and wine, can be after all, an acquired taste. Read on here…

Boris Brott to receive a PhD honoris causa

4 November 2013

Boris Brott

Conductor and artistic director of the McGill Chamber Orchestra, Boris Brott will receive tomorrow a PhD in Music, honoris causa. Arnold Steinberg, chancellor of McGill University, will also celebrate the work of Nathalie Bondil, head of Montreal Fine Arts Museum, at this ceremony to be held at Redpath Hall.

For more than 50 years, Boris Brott has played an essential role on the Canadian music scnene, whether as the founder of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of Montreal when he was just a teenager or, more recently, when he initiated the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, only school in Canada of its kinds, which trains professionnal orchestra musicians.

In 1992,when others would have considered retiring, he went back to school to study law at Western University and now teaches creativity and communicative skills to heads of  big businesses.

On the evening of the award ceremony, Mr. Brott will lead his orchestra in a program of Spanish and Portuguese music, featuring soprano Marie-Josée Lord, at Salle Bourgie.

Congratulations, maestro!