Archive pour April, 2014

I Musici and Mattias Maute in a literary program

29 April 2014

On May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, I Musici invites Matthias Maute, pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin (who will be one of the competitors at the upcoming Montreal International Musical Competition by the way) and actor Marie-Thérèse Fortin for four concerts, presented in partnership with the Metropolis Blue Festival. Excerpts from love letters between Frédéric Chopin and George Sand will be associated to three major works of the Romantic repertoire: Schubert’s Quartettsatz, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto and Borodin’s Nocturne. Dick Koomans” The Jogger  (in a transcription for flute and strings by Matthias Maute) will conclude the program on a humoristic note.

This ongoing partnership between Metropolis Blue and I Musici aims to demonstrate how music and literature have always been intimately tied together. Marie-Thérèse Fortin as George Sand  will read excerpts from Sand’s letters to her lover, to be read in between the movements of the Chopin work.

The concert is held at Salle Tudor (Ogilvy store). For more information…


Fine food and music

25 April 2014

Harpist Valérie Milot will join forces with wind quintet Pentaèdre today in a vary tasty and original program of French music from the beginning of the 20th century. Works by Paul Taffanel, François Devienne and Georges Barboteu will be performed as well as the milestones Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy and Ma Mère L’Oye by Ravel. The program would already be enough to make one want to attend but there is a perk to the concert. Indeed, those who will show up at 5 p.m. will also be treated to wine and canapés, while those who prefer to come at 8 will be served chocolate and porto.

The event is held at Ogilvy’s Salle Tudor (1307, St. Catherine W, 5th floor)

Valérie Milot’s latest album with the Violons du Roy is by the way offered until May 21 with a 25 % discount. Take advantage of this offer here…


L’heure rose just out

22 April 2014

L'heure rose

After a collaboration with Philippe Sly in Les amants trahis, this time soprano Hélène Guilmette ventures into music that is too rarely performed, by female composers. Although very diversified, this repertoire is just starting to take flight and to be recorded. In 2007, soprano Hélène Guilmette, while skimming through sheet music on Rue de Rome in Paris, came upon works by Mel Bonis, a true revelation. She then had the idea of collecting pieces from various composers, in the hopes that it would  bring to light the work of these very interesting creators, somehow forgotten until now. In L’heure rose, she decided to take the listener on a subdued journey through the 19th and 20th centuries, in a charming portrait of an era, thanks to ten composers, which denotes well their vitality and their originality.

You can discover on this album also featuring pianist Martin Dubé music by Augusta Holmès, Cécile Chaminade, Mel Bonis, Marguerite Canal, Wally Karveno (still alive and kicking at over 100!), Jeanne Landry, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Amy Beach and Pauline Viardot.

To discover this very charming repertoire and download the album, it is here…

Music for Good Friday

18 April 2014

The reading of the Passion from one of the Gospels during Holy Week dates back at least to the 4th century but the text began to be intoned rather than just spoken only in the Middle Ages. Some 9th-century manuscripts have “litterae significativae” and later manuscript began to include notes to be sung. By the 13th century different singers were used for different characters in the narrative: a tenor would be the narrator, a bass the Christ and the alto would sing all other roles (Peter, Judas, etc.) In the 15th century, polyphonic settings of the turba (crowd or more exactly group singing) passages began to appear also. 

Despite the fact that Martin Luther wrote, “The Passion of Christ should not be acted out in words and pretense, but in real life,” sung Passion were common in Lutheran churches right from the start, in both Latin and German. The best known Protestant musical settings of the Passion are of course by Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote two Passions which have survived to this day, one based on the Gospel of John, the other on the Gospel of Matthew.  

You might want to listen to the St. John Passion as sung by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem – America’s oldest Bach society. The work has played an important part in its history. Indeed, in 1888, fresh from studying with Reinberger in Munich, J. Fred. Wolle conducted the Bethlehem Choral Union in the first complete American performance of this Passion in Bethlehem’s Moravian Church. Ten years later, the Choral Union morphed into the Bach Choir that came into being to perform the B Minor Mass in 1900.  

To listen and download…

John Luther Adams wins Pulitzer

15 April 2014

Become Ocean by John Luther Adams has been awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The work, premiered on June 20, 2013, by the Seattle Symphony was described by the jury as “a haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels.” The prize comes with a cash award of  $10 000.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: The Gospel According to the Other Mary by John Adams, staged version premiered on March 7, 2013, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Invisible Cities by Christopher Cerrone, staged version premiered on October 19, 2013, by The Industry and L.A. Dance Project in Union Station, Los Angeles.

Pulitzer Prizes in music have beenawarded since 1943.  Only four composers have ever received the award twice: Walter Piston, for his Third and Seventh Symphonies (1948 and 1961); Gian-Carlo Menotti, for his operas The Consul (1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955); Samuel Barber, for his opera Vanessa (1958) and his Piano Concerto (1963); and Elliott Carter, for his String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 (1960 and 1973). 

The 118th Rome Prize winners were announced just a few days ago as well. Two composers are in the lot: Andy Akiho (Luciano Berio Rome Prize) and Paula Matthusen (Elliot Carter Rome Prize). The Guggenheim Fellowships also came out and here are the recipients in composition: Jamie Baum, Gene Coleman, Steve Coleman, Jesse Jones, Arthur Kampela, Mikel Kuehn, Eric Nathan, Elena Ruehr, Elliott Sharp, Stephen Taylor and Wang Lu.



Love’s Minstrels

11 April 2014

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly’s new album features a collection of sweet, sometimes even a bit sour English songs, which remind us of time gone by. Life was of course very different at the turn of the 20th century but going back in time in music can be a rewarding experience, even though sometimes tinted by a real nostalgia.

Love's Minstrels

Many of the composers presented on the album were keenly aware of the disappearance of folk music and strove to incorporate this vanishing voice into their compositions. Some, like Willan, gave old classics a new setting, others, like Vaughan-Williams and Holst kept the essence of the British folk song but dressed it up with more contemporary attire. England at the turn of that century was a curious mix of ancient life-ways and new technology: automobiles passing horse drawn carts; high speed mechanical forges and machine works drowning out the quiet creak of the spinning wheel or the butter-churn’s rhythmic splash.

Perhaps one element uniting these composers was the desire to present the world not as it was, but as it could be: that music could immerse us in a longing, dreaming romanticism and idealism in that most brutally realistic century. Their music can act as a kind of reassurance or heart’s ease; beneath the contexts and situations of modern life live the seeds of archetypal experience, symbolized and fi gured forth so masterfully in this highly personal, wonderfully pastoral music.

You can listen and download the album here…

Philip Glass goes back to Kafka

8 April 2014

The Royal Opera has announced a few days ago details of its 2014/15 season. There are seven new main-house productions including a new opera from Philip Glass, The Trial – based on the famous Kafka novel – with a Christopher Hampton libretto. The world premiere will be held on October 10, 2014, and the show will run for six London performances and then will tour in Wales and England in October and November.

First published in 1925, Kafka’s best known work has been adapted on screen as well as in theater over the years. It is the story of Joseph K’s (terribly contemporary) nightmare. Joseph is a bank employee arrested and forced to defend his innocence against a charge for a crime about which he knows nothing. The opera is a  co-commission and co-production with the Royal Opera House, Theater Magdeburg, Germany and Scottish Opera.  It is written for 8 singers and12 players. The leading role of Joseph K will be played by baritone Johnny Herford. The rest of the cast features soprano Amanda Forbes, Rowan Hellier, Paul Curievici, Michael Bennett, Gwion Thomas, Nicholas Folwell and Michael Druiett.  The opera will be directed by Michael McCarthy, with design is by Simon Banham and lighting by Ace McCarron. Michael Rafferty directs the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble.
It is not the first time that Glass dives into Kafka’s universe. He wrote In the Penal Colony, a chamber opera in one act premiered in 2000 (for two singers and a string quartet) and wrote Metamorphosis, a set of five piano pieces, Nos. 3 and 4 having being used as incidental music for two productions of the Kafka play.
You can get re-acquainted with Glass’ music here, in the first of three Portraits devoted to contemporary composers by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà.



A new kind of battle of the bands

4 April 2014

Thank God it’s Friday, so let’s be light once again… Two videos, one featuring an all-male cast, the other a female quartet. The men are performing a rather original new take on the famous Carmen hit, all the traditionnal instruments having been replaced by some very creative home-made alternatives. The latter invites you to something that could ressemble a cat fight if it were not so efficient and brilliantly performed, that will make you travel from Vivaldi to Mozart to Kurt Weill.

First, here are the guys from Zic Zazou

… and the ladies, from Hamburg, the members of Salut Salon…

Humour in music

1 April 2014

This winter that doesn’t end keeps you from laughing? Let’s ignore it at least for today, after all April’s Fools Day and let’s talk about something that may seem off-the-wall to the generally very serious classical music lover: humour in music. Yes, despite it all, some pieces were written to make you laugh. Of course, you can think of Rossini’s Cats’ Duet, but there are several others.

For example, Mozart wrote Ein musikalischer Spaß (A musical joke), a divertimento for two French horns and string quartet, a tongue-and-cheek take on some let’s say rather labourious performances by some of his contemporaries. Here and there, you will find repetitions devoid of any meaning, clumsy writing and mecanical musical gestures. The horns’ dissonances refer to poorly noted scores as well as approximate performance abilities and the piece ends in an almost cacophonic way. (This would be the first noted example of polytonality.)

You can also consider Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the animals as one enormous joke, this zoological fantasy not only featuring animals but people Saint-Saëns and his friends who attended the premiere knew. It even seems that, when the piece was premiered – in private settings, of course! -, Saint-Saëns wore a tutu on top of his suit. He refused that the piece be played while he was alive, probably because he was afraid of possible retaliation.

More subtle perhaps because impossible to detect when you listen to a work are the eccentric indications Satie left in his piano scores: “Very shiny”, “Open the head”, “Consult with yourself”, ‘”Bring it further”… It comes as no suprise from a man who used to introduce himself by: “‘My name is Erik Satie, like everyone else.”

Let’s not forget here Glenn Gould’s So you want to write a fugue? That indeed is the question answered in this surprising exercice in counterpoint. The four singers are accompanied by a string quartet. Numerous winks are featured, including quotes from Bach’s Brandenburgh Concerto No. 2 and Wagner’s Mastersingers. If harmonically, this fugue reminds us of Mendelssohn, the humour is indeniably 100 % Gould.

I’m leaving you with an old  Victor Borge clip, both piano and comedy virtuoso. The transition between both worlds came naturally. To tame his stage fright, Borge would make a few jokes before performing. The laughter from the audience convinced him to stay on that track. His DVD The Best of Victor Borge sold more than three millions copies.