Archive pour December, 2013

Parla piu piano by Gino Quilico

30 December 2013

Ensemble Caprice and Arvo Pärt

27 December 2013

Valérie Milot & Les Violons du Roy

25 December 2013

You are in the middle of a family celebration? Great! Still, you are more than welcome to visit us on a regular basis throughout the holidays. 

We will let music do the talking with videos featuring artists and recent albums launched on the Analekta label. First off, the latest from harpist Valérie Milot, who joins forces with Les Violons du Roy.

Merry Christmas to all!


They have left us

23 December 2013

It is impossible to end 2013 without having a thought for those who left us this year.

In February: conductors James de Priest and Wolfgang Sawallisch, organist Marie-Claire Alain, pianist Van Cliburn

In April: cellist Janos Starker

In May: composer Henri Dutilleux

In September: pianist Guy Campion

In November: composer James Tavener


The Nutcracker

19 December 2013

Christmas carols are great, of course, but let’s not forget another holiday classic, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. As a matter of fact, these days, the Grands Ballets Canadiens celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fernand Nault’s adaptation of the score: impressive! This ballet certainly has become a true holiday classic, with his somptuous sets, the various character dances showcased and Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score. The ballet is filled with charming melodies and the work on orchestration and textures is nothing less than spectacular.

The ballet had its premiere in December 1892 at the Mariinsky Theater in St-Petersburg. Marius Petipa drew the first libretto out the version Alexandre Dumas derived from the original E.T.A. Hoffmann tale and presented Tchaikovsky with a detailed scenario, filled with rythmn and tempo indications, going so far as to indicate how many bars were needed for each number. Petipa fell ill during the process and his assistant Leon Ivanov had to complete the work. While he was writing the ballet score, Tchaikovsky decided to extract eight numbers from the lot and to male them it into a symphonic suite. Five of the pieces are dances from the second act of the ballet, when Clara is on her wonderful journey in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy.

Just as Clara’s enchanted Christmas tree becomes bigger and bigger at the end of the first act, The Nutcracker puts some essential magic into our lives this time of year. Let’s share a little bit with others around us.

I have a rather unusual take on the Sugarplum fairy Variation for you, performed by Alexander Sevastian on the accordion, available on the album Celebration: Christmas, available only for download here… I’m sure you won’t be able to resist the rest of the album either!


An almost magical piano

16 December 2013

Train stations can be an ideal ground to foster surprises, mostly happy ones of course. If a few have  hosted a couple of infectious flashmobs, this time, Chicago Union Station aimed for another register completely.

What if, while you were waiting more or less patiently for your train, you could not only play a bit of piano to take your mind off things, but that the instrument would respond to your playing, call to you, give you a chance to see life a bit differently? Of course, there is no real magic under all this (you will understand easily how art and fun get together here with technology and real people), but the idea was grand and needed to be shared!

If you had had the chance to visit Chicago last week? What would you have played?

Santa Lucia

13 December 2013

Today, December 13, we celebrate Saint Lucia Day. If it is mainly associated with the Nordic countries, Saint Lucia is nevertheless the theme of one of the most famous Neapolitan songs – actually, not the saint herself but a burrough in Naples, the Borgo Santa Lucia, famous for his view of the sea. It was eventually transcribed by Teodoro Cottrau, son of composer Guillaume Louis Cottrau (who also compiled numerous folk songs) and was first presented in 1849 as a barcarolla. It would become the first Neapolitan song to be adapted in Italian at the beginning of the Risorgimento.  

Several translations of the song exist (Elvis Presley included it for example on his album Elvis for Everyone in 1965) and in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, the original text was adapted to better suit the Saint Lucia celebrations.

The song is featured in several films, including La mano dello straniero (The hand of the stranger, 1954), Viva Las Vegas (as sung by Elvis), Yes, Giorgio (as sung by Luciano Pavarotti), A Night at the Opera (a Marx Brothers’ film) and An American Werewolf in London (just the end of the song though).

Santa Lucia and other unforgettable Italian songs are all part of Gino Quilico’s latest album, Serata d’amore. You can listen to and dowload it here…


André Mathieu in Carnegie Hall once more tomorrow

9 December 2013

Thanks to pianist Alain Lefèvre, André Mathieu’s music will once more be heard in New York at the Carnegie Hall tomorrow night, as part of a double bill featuring the repeat performance, 70 years later of  the Concertino No. 2, which was performed by the New York Philharmonic and Mathieu in 1942 in the mythical hall, as well as the New York premiere of his Concerto No. 4. The pianist will be joined for those two pieces by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, led by JoAnn Falletta.

The last ever performance of Mathieu in Carnegie Hall was in fact in 1943. Is it finally time that his music be rehabilited in the metropolis? Lefèvre is confident that the New York audience will just be bowled over by the power of Mathieu’s music. We will await impatiently the reviews on Wednesday morning.

The Gazette featured an interesting article on the upcoming concert in its weekend edition. You can read it here.

To listen once more to the Concertino No. 2…

To listen to his Concerto No. 4…



A Wagner/Tchaikovsky pairing by Serhiy Salov on Sunday

5 December 2013

On Sunday at 3:30 p.m., pianist Serhiy Salov will present a lecture concert  at Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur centered around two composers not often associated: Tchaikovsky and Wagner, both celebrating anniversaries this year. (The concert is free with a pass.) He will amongst other things demonstrate Wagner’s influence on Tchaikovsky and the symphonic character of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, through a series of his own transcription of the Prelude to Lohengrin‘s Act III, Wagneria (excerpts from three operas), the Waltz from the first act of Swan Lake and symphonic tableaux from Nutcracker. This will be completed by Liszt’s Isoldes Liebestod.Salov

He agreed to answer a few questions we had.

1-      How did the idea of juxtaposing those two composers, seemingly far-removed, come about?

The idea to present a Tchaikovsky/Wagner recital came to me since the musical community celebrates the anniversaries of these two geniuses this year. Nevertheless, I would never have paired them if I didn’t have the profound conviction that the German “Revolutionary” had an important influence on the other one, criticised by his fellow countrymen for his conservatism and his “occidental” penchant. This lecture recital will be the proof of that.

2-      Tchaikovsky thought of himself as being a Wagnerite against his own will. How do you feel this is reflected in his music?

Wagnerian operas’ harmonies, especially those in Tristan, haunt Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. His ballets contain sometimes as well images from the Ring. (One only needs to compare Brünnhilde’s sleep scene and Princess Aurora’s.) 

3- How do you think Wagner perceived Tchaikovsky? 

Here is a question not lacking in eccentricity… Keeping this in mind, I’ll answer you… with questions. 

Would Wagner have been flattered or offended by his Russian colleague’s quotations?

Would he have appreciated Tchaikovsky’s sensuality, after having himself demonstrated so often how sensual he could be?

Would he have felt empathy for the exacerbated sentimentality of the creator of the “Pathetique”?

Probably not, because Wagner’s tragic side is always attributed to a third party, whether a hero or a god, while in Tchaikovsky’s music, everything is lived from the inside, in a very intimate manner.

4 – You already dealt with transcription with your album around Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps. What do you like in the genre? Deep down, did you want to become a conductor?

Certainly not. It is a lot easier to learn how to lead and orchestra than to sentence yourself to years and years of transcription work. What inspired me – and continues to do so – is the purely pianistic challenge.

La Callas: still unforgettable

2 December 2013

Maria CallasStill mythical, more than 35 years after her death, La Callas would have been 90 today. Born on December 2, 1923, in New York, she died in Paris on September 16, 1977. She sung on all the great stages of this world with exceptional partners (including Boris Christoff, Mario del Monaco, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi et Giulietta Simonato) and recorded numerous reference versions of operas, many recognizable in just a few notes.  Nicknamed “the Bible of opera” by Leonard Bernstein, she was the first singer to really bring to the foreground acting skills. She was so consumed by a character that you often had the impression she had become it. She is also famous for the particular colour or her voice, her vast tessitura, her great virtuosity and her exceptional sense of musical line. For many, she will forever remain the iconic  diva.

Carlo Maria Giulini has described the appeal of Callas’s voice in those words:

“It is very difficult to speak of the voice of Callas. Her voice was a very special instrument. Something happens sometimes with string instruments—violin, viola, cello—where the first moment you listen to the sound of this instrument, the first feeling is a bit strange sometimes. But after just a few minutes, when you get used to, when you become friends with this kind of sound, then the sound becomes a magical quality. This was Callas.”

Google has created a Doodle to celebrate the anniversary of this inspiring artist.

You may also want to listen to Alain Lefèvre’s very beautiful prelude, La Callas, from his album Fidèles insomnies, here…