Archive pour January, 2014

Happy birthday Franz

30 January 2014

Born on January 31, 1797, Schubert would have been 217 ans tomorrow. He took the lied and and brought it to new heights, more than 600 times over. Three of his cycles remain untouchable masterpieces: Die schöne Müllerin, his Schwanengesang (Swan Song) and his Winterreise (Winter Journey), certainly a very appropriate work to listen to in this cold season.

He disappeared much too early, at only 31, but remains a gifted manipulator of sonority,  blessed with great sensitivity and imbued each work with an allegory or subtext that is not immediately obvious, whether he is depicting a landscape, the intensity of an instant or the depth of an emotion. Three themes anchor his work: nature, love and death.

 Schubert long suffered from stereotypes that tainted the perception of his work. Today, we imagine a frail but flamboyant man who could dash off delightfully frivolous waltzes and lieder at will. But his Viennese contemporaries ignored him and underestimated the depth and undisputable originality of his body of work. Only Schumann, who would become Schubert’s ardent defender, seems to have grasped the scope of his genius.  “As manifold as are man’ poetic dreams and aspirations, so variously expressive is Schubert’s music. What is eye sees, his hand touches, turns to music,” wrote Schumann in 1835. Indeed it was Brahms, Schumann’s protégé, who would publish for the first time, forty years after Schubert’s death, the gems entitled Klavierstücke (pieces for piano).


The winners of the 17th edition of the Prix Opus

27 January 2014

It was a big night for music awards yesterday, with the Grammys in Los Angeles and the Prix Opus at Salle Bourgie of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The 28 winners of the 17th edition of the Prix Opus were announced in an event hosted by Mario Paquet, Marie-Christine Trottier and Sylvia L’Écuyer, all radio hosts at Espace musique. Of course, music played an essential role in the program, with performances by an ensemble of four French horns and timpani. They were joined by a double bass and a guitar when the Prix Hommage was given out to jazzman Michel Donato, famed double bass player, duo and group partner, composer and teacher, very active in the milieu since 1960. The Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal closed out the event with style.

Amongst the prizes awarded, let’s mention those given out to Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan for their concert Rencontres virtuoses (concert of the year, modern and contemporary repertoires), Maxime McKinley (composer of the year), Éric Champagne (discovery of the year), Opéra de Montréal’s production of Dead Man Walking (musical event of the year) and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal with its second edition of La Virée classique (specialised broadcaster of the year).

On the recording front, the OSM also took home another trophy with Mahler: Orchesterlieder, featuring Christian Gerhaher under Kent Nagano’s direction, which won the Prix Opus in the category Record of the Year – romantic, postromantic, impressionnist repertoires.

You can view the complete list here…

Parallels between music and science

23 January 2014

When he received the Nobel Prize for Medecine last October, Thomas Südhof mentioned he owed it all to his bassoon teacher. In an exclusive interview to the magazine The Double Reed, he talks about his musical education and the importance of it in training the scientists of the future. For him, many parallels can be drawned between the two spheres. He states:

“You cannot be creative on a bassoon if you don’t know it inside out, and you cannot be creative in science if you don’t have a deep knowledge of the details. Second, the value of good mentorship. A good teacher challenges and criticizes, but does not chastise or put down a student, no matter what. !ird, the roleof performance in a profession. As a musician, you practice for thousands of hours to play for a few minutes—but when you play, you have to not only recapitulate the learned material, you have to expand on it and you have to communicate it to the audience. In science, it is basically the same thing—it is in the end a process which also depends on communicating with an audience and accepting and responding to its feedback. Finally, I learned to value traditions as a musician, but at the same time the importance of trying to transcend tradition. The tradition is the basis that allows you to progress, the starting point, but it cannotbecome a limitation, because then both in music and in science creativity and progress end.”

You can read more here…

Claudio Abbado left us

20 January 2014

Another giant of the 20th century has left us a few hours ago in Bologna. Claudio Abbado was 80 years old. He already had fought a stomach cancer in 2000 but had come back the following year, quite a bit weaker, but a fighter, as he resumed his activities. Cancer won in the end, just a few months after his last public appearance, on August 24, 2013, at the Lucerne Festival. He has a remarkable career and was head of the Berlin Philharmonic (Simon Rattle followed in his footsteps in 2000), as well as at the Scala in Milan (1971 to 1988), London Symphony (1979 to 1988) and at the Vienna Opera (1986 to 1991). He made several mythical recordings, whether at the head of the most prestigious orchestras or his “own”, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra or the Mozart Orchestra for example.

Born on June 23, 1933, in a musical family, he devoted himself early on to teaching (particularly chamber music). His conducting career quickly prevented him from having regular students, but he always remained true to his roots, well aware of the neccessity to foster new talents. He founded in 1978 the European Community Youth Orchestra and supported rising stars, such as his protégés Daniel Harding, Gustavo Dudamel et Diego Matheuz.

Throughout his career, he was never big on interviews and didn’t write his memoirs. The only book he signed was a kids’ book, Je serai chef d’orchestre (I will become a conductor), in 2007, in which he talks about his work.

You can read an homage by Norman Lebrecht here…

In this video, Abbado leads the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Mahler’s Third.


The MIMC launches a new improvisation prize

16 January 2014

Improvisation was something that every musician dealt with in the good old days, whether at the baroque, classical or romantic period. Without a doubt, Bach would improvise in church as well as at home (we know for a fact that his sons would practice this on a daily basis), Mozart improvised most of the time the cadenzas to his concertos, while Liszt and his contemporaries constantly paraphrased the popular opera arias of the time. If organists continue to integrate improvisation to their daily regimen, very few pianists continue to do so today.

The brand new Richard-Lupien Prize – the first of its kind on the major international competitions circuit – could very well change that. It will be presented on May 20th, as part of the upcoming MIMC 2014 edition, and it will be open to the public free of charge. The award will be given out every three years, alongside editions of the MIMC dedicated to piano. The winner will receive a $5,000 grant. The creation of this award was made possible through the generous contribution of Mr. Richard Lupien, who is seeking “to reward a pianist who can restore the glory of improvisation in the field of classical music”.

The jury will be made up of pianist and improviser Gabriela Montero; pianist, conductor, arranger, and composer Bruno Fontaine; and composer, conductor, orchestrator, broadcaster, and producer François Dompierre, who will also act as jury president. For him, improvisation is music’s twin sister, and both were born a very long time ago: “At the dawn of time, to fill his solitude, primitive man improvised a rhythm on his drum made of taut animal skin. Is God himself an improviser?”

The competition for this award is open to classically trained pianists of all nationalities, aged 35 years old or less on January 1, 2014. An initial selection is made based on a video accompanying the completed application, which must be submitted no later than February 24, 2014. A maximum of 10 participants will be selected to compete. Rules and conditions of participation, the registration form, and complete details are available online at



The Mozart Effect: myth or reality?

13 January 2014

In 1993, a rather controversial study had shown that listening to Mozart’s Two Pianos Sonata K. 448 for 10 minutes gave a focus group better  spatial QI results (8 or 9 points higher). The effect lasted only about 10-15 minutes though. Since then, several scientists have tried to prove by various means that this study was not to be trusted while others surfed on the wave of the sudden interest for Mozart’s music in the mid-90s to sell numerous CDs who vowed to stimulate the listener, whether an adult or a baby. (Mozart’s arrangements presented on those recordings were odd enough that a musician parent didn’t dare put the disc more than once in the player.) 

We felt we had heard everything about this, but it seems that some may have escaped us, for example the fact that the Mozart Effect was proven to be working in the case of epilepsy treatment. Indeed, after 23 of the 29 patients with focal discharges listened to the the Mozart sonata, their electroencephalogram showed a significant decrease in epileptiform activity.

You might be interested in reading thoroughly the article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine a few years back here…

Why not tailor your own Mozart effect while listening to his Concerto for flute and harp, amongst the offering on Valérie Milot and Violons du Roy’s latest album, there…



Some 2014 anniversaries

9 January 2014

If Wagner and Verdi fans were thrilled all throughout  2013, which multiple productions celebrating the 200th anniversary of their birth, 2014 should be a rather diversified year in that department.

We will celebrate Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Christoph Gluck’s 300th birthdays, Hans Leo Hassler’s 450th birthday, the 250th anniversary of the death of Jean-Philippe Rameau, the 200th anniversary of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, as well as the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss and Guy Ropartz.

Some music societies may be tempted to include in their programming the 100th anniversary of the premiere of  John Vaughan Williams’ A London Symphony, the 200th anniversary of the invention of the metronome by Mälzel and the 200th anniversary of the premiere of Beethoven’s Eight Symphony. 

Walter Boudreau gets Order of Canada

7 January 2014


On December 30, the Governor General of Canada announced 90 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The latter, one of our country’s highest civilian honours, was established in 1967, during Canada’s centennial year, to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Over the last 45 years, more than 6 000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.

Amongst the recent nominees (who will receive their medal at a later time), the music lovers will be happy to find Walter Boudreau, the director of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) for 25 years now. When one mentions the SMCQ, one immediately thinks of Walter Boudreau, as if the composer and conductor has become its posterboy. His leitmotiv? To share his passion for contemporay music with everyone and promote the talent of Québécois composers.


Monti’s Czardas by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà

4 January 2014

Gui d’Ussel from the album Trobairitz

1 January 2014

A very happy New Year to all!