Archive pour September, 2014

Celebrate International Music Day tomorrow!

30 September 2014

Each year, on October 1st, the UNESCO celebrates the important role music plays in our democratic world with International Music Day. Even though, it is much less celebrated than Music Day in the world, it remains one of the important legacies of violonist Yehudi Menuhin, without a double a true giant of the 20th century, close friend of Wilhelm Furtwängler, who passed away in 1999. He initiated International Music Fay in 1975, when he was president of the International Music Council. The day is intended for music lovers and musicians to think about the role music plays in the democratic world and to promote UNESCO’s values.

You might want to celebrate that day while listening to The Heart’s RefugeDaniel Taylor with the Theater of Early Music and the Schola Cantorum‘s latest album. In just a few short weeks since its launch on September 9, the album went to the top of Canada’s Soundscan in the classical music category, a rare accomplishment for a recording of sacred music!

You can listen to it or download it here…


A Mozart rap?

26 September 2014

Mozart probably would have found unusual the sampling of his famous Rondo alla turca as a tool to inspire teenagers, but I’m pretty sure he would have enjoyed the technique. American rapper and producer Mac Lethal must have been quite surprise to get this letter from a music teacher: “Dear Mr. Mac Lethal. My name is Mrs. Francine, I’m a 53 year old high-school music teacher, and I love your YouTube videos. The problem is, I can’t play them for my students because they contain too many bad words. Would you consider making a fast rap video for my students, to inspire them to be great? With no bad words?
Sincerely, Mrs. Francine. P.S. Do you like Mozart?”

The answer was almost immediate and here is the result. Who said classical musical was outdated?

Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto

23 September 2014

Brahms was only 14 when his teacher Eduard Marxsen  announced to him that Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) had died and stated in front of witnesses that his young student would replace him. Three years later, he was to meet virtuoso violinist Eduard Remenyi and began touring with him. Brahms would then discover gypsy tunes and utilize them regularly from then on in his work. It is also thanks to Remenyi that he would meet the famous violinist Joseph Joachim, who was to become his friend and wrote a letter of introduction on his behalf to composers Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt. The meeting he had in 1853 with Schumann would change Brahms’ life, the young composer quickly becoming the couple’s protégé, saluted as a “new art Messiah” by Schumann in an article.

Brahms only wrote two piano concertos, despite the fact that he knew intimately the instrument. It is after a trip to Italy in the spring of 1878 that Brahms began sketches for his Second Piano Concerto at his summer place in the Austrian Alps at Pörtschach. The sketches were then laid aside, and it was not until three years later, again following an Italian visit, that Brahms completed the work on July 7th, 1881. On that day he wrote to his friend Elisabet von Herzogenberg: “I have written a tiny pianoforte concerto with a tiny, tiny wisp of a scherzo.” 

This of course was a statement way too modest, considering the complexity, seriousness and epic breadth of this concert. Its technical difficulties are fearsome, but even the pianist who masters these must bring to the music a profound intellect and musical maturity. The orchestral contribution is every bit as important as the pianist’s, and the soloist must accept his role as “first among equals.” Both the four-movement design and the use of a scherzo (the “extra,” second movement) are rarities in the pre-twentieth-century concerto repertory. A further uncommon element in this concerto is the exceptionally long but ravishingly beautiful cello solo in the Andante third movement. One of the most magical moments in all Brahms’s orchestral music occurs during the long clarinet duet preceding the recapitulation. The English writer Sir Donald Francis Tovey poetically described it as “a few notes spaced out like the first stars that penetrate the skies at sunset.” 

You can listen to Anton Kuerti performing the work here…

Butterflies and the flute

18 September 2014

International music competitions can be intense and the Carl Nielsen International Flute Competition, held this week in Odense, in Denmark is no exception. If teachers do train you to ignore distractions, coughing like crazy while you’re playing or just pacing back and forth, I doubt that any would have thought of addressing the question: “What will you do if a butterfly perches itself on your eyebrow while you are playing the Sancan’s Sonatina?” 

But this is exactly what happened to Chicago-based flutist Yukie Ota on Monday in the first round of this very important international flute competition. Indeed, while she was playing (quite beautifully and the judges heard it as well as she made it to the second round), a lovely butterfly first landed in her hair and then settled on her left eyebrow (probably to drink her perspiration, an expert explained). Was she startled? Not one bit. She just took a brief glance at the lovely creature (a Peacock butterfly it seems) and continue to make wonderful music.

The winners of the competition will be announced on Saturday. You can stream the flutists’ performances live on the Nielsen Competition website.

Shoka: Japanese Children’s Songs

16 September 2014

It is today that the OSM and Kent Nagano’s latest – rather unusual – recording project hits the stores. The album is devoted to Japanese children’s songs.Japanese songs

The Empire of the Rising Sun has always held a strong appeal, whether one thinks of the majesty of Mount Fuji, the sublime poetry of haiku, the subtlety of ikebana, the charm of prints, the enchantment of the no theatre or the raw energy of taiko. But perhaps nothing touches the soul more directly than traditional Japanese songs, passed down from mother to daughter. Troubled at the thought that the relative inaccessibility of certain texts could prevent the dissemination of these jewels, Kent Nagano wanted to offer them a unique showcase, as did Joseph Canteloube with harmonization of his Chants d’Auvergne. He then contacted the composer Jean-Pascal Beintus, with whom he had collaborated on Wolf Tracks, so that he would arrange these pieces for solo violin and orchestra. However, the two partners soon realized that it would be much better to maintain the shape and style of songs, with touches here and there of American or European orchestrations, reminding us of the multiple influences Japan dealt with

Some pieces evoke the tragic fate of women and children bartered against funds, at the opening of borders in the mid 19th century, on the initiative of the American Commodore Matthew Perry. Trying to hide their pain, mothers transcend music, singing to their daughters melodies evoking sad parts of their history. Others tell of the daily life of girls. One thus finds the story of a girl asking her sister why she is crying on the day of her wedding, who then replies that it is because she has to marry a man from the West she does not like. Let’s not forget about the girl with the red shoes, who disappeared overnight. Rumour has it that she was brought outside the country. Using metaphors and child words, the songs become fairy tales, harmless at first, terrifying in their essence, leading to a necessary catharsis.

You can listen to and download the album here…

ADISQ: 8 nominations in 4 categories for Analektae

11 September 2014

 Analekta has received 8 nominations at the gala de l’ADISQ 2014, another way to salute the excellence of the label’s recordings and the unique role Analekta plays in the Canadianclassical music market for more than 25 years.

In the  “Classical album of the year – orchestra and big ensemble” category, 3 Analekta recordings are nominated:

  • Blanc by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà, a touching program of serene works, magnificiently performed;
  • Handel-Boieldieu-Mozart : Concertos for harp by Valérie Milot and Les Violons du Roy under the direction of Bernard Labadie;
  • The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal undere Kent Nagano for Beethoven : Symphonies nos 1 & 7.

In the “Album of the year – Classical/Vocal” category, 3 albums are also nominated:

  • The mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne with Luc Beauséjour and Clavecin en concert  for Handel & Porpora;
  • Adagio by Ensemble Caprice under Matthias Maute;
  • Gino Quilico for Serata D’Amore.

The album Der Prinz by MG3 Montreal Guitare Trio was also picked in the “Album of the year – Instrumental” category, as well as Russian Operas by Joseph Rouleau in the “Anthology of the year” category.

The ADISQ (Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo) will announce the names of the winners at a gala to be held at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts on October 22 at 8 p.m. (The show will be broadcast by MusiquePlus, Musimax and on the Web.)

Mozart: what a life!

9 September 2014

Even if you don’t know anything about classical music, you’ve surely heard of Mozart. Why? Well, perhaps it’s because he wrote music in just about all genres: 41 symphonies, 18 operas, more than 30 concertos, sacred works (including the famous Requiem), chamber music, and 19 piano sonatas. In total: he wrote more than 600 different works in a very short space of time, because, sadly, he died when he was only 35.

Mozart’s music has a universal quality that appeals not only to North Americans but also to Europeans, Asians, and even African tribes, as was discovered a few years ago! And his prodigious childhood continues to be a source of fascination to both young and old.

Some key dates

January 27, 1756: Born in Salzburg. Wolfgang was the son of the musician Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl. Only two of their seven children would survive infancy: Wolfgang and his sister Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl.

1762-1766: The two Mozart children both showed a precocious talent for the violin and harpsichord, and they were soon performing in the great cities of Europe. They could be heard in Vienna, Munich, Paris, London, Brussels, Geneva, Amsterdam, as well as several smaller towns. Wherever he went, people celebrated the child Wolfgang’s gift. He had absolute pitch—the ability to identify any note—and an extraordinary memory that allowed him to play entire pieces of music after hearing them only once. In addition, he had already composed several short pieces and could improvise on any theme.

1767: Mozart wrote his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus, at the age of 11. The following year, he wrote the opera buffa La finta semplice in three months, and a comic opera, Bastien und Bastienne.

1773-1777: No longer a child, Mozart set out to look for a job. He entered into the service of Archbishop Colloredo, for whom he would compose much church music and a few concertos. But he quickly wearied of the rigid constraints imposed on him by Colloredo, and left his employment in 1777.

1778: Mozart fell in love with the singer Aloysia Weber, but she did not reciprocate. Mozart would marry her sister Constanze on August 4, 1782.

Early 1780s: The composer met with great success. It was during this time that he wrote some of his best known operas, including The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Marriage of Figaro, whose overture you will hear during this concert.

Unfortunately, from 1787, success eluded Mozart, and he would be largely forgotten. The fortune built by the Mozart family soon dried up, and he had to resort to borrowing money from his friends.

1791: Mozart worked on what would be his last opera, The Magic Flute, which met with great acclaim. Sadly, the composer would die on December 5, 1791, and would not be able to reap the benefits of his rediscovered success. He was buried two days later in a common grave.

You want to listen to Mozart? The offer is huge! Chamber music? Vocal music? Concertos? Get inspired here…

The Heart’s Refuge

5 September 2014
The album will be in stores only on Tuesday, but you can already listen to it and download The Heart’s Refuge, a very inspired project featuring the Theatre of Early Music, the University of Toronto’s Schola Cantorum and Daniel Taylor. This choral music album features music that is not so well known but is truly magnificent, written in the midst of one of the most tormented period in history, the 30 Years’ War. The album features work by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707), Johann Christoph Bach (1642 – 1703), Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1623 – 1680),  Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722) and Nicolaus Bruhns (1665 – 1697).  
Refuge du coeur
During the 17th century, Lutheran musicians produced a magnificent repertoire of sacred music. To do so, they borrowed forms developed and constantly refreshed by Italians, the first masters of Baroque music. German composers, however, adapted what they borrowed to their own language and outlook, carefully giving their works quite unique qualities of harmony, contrapuntal density, variety of form, and expressive power. 
Much like one restaures a masterwork and brings back the original colours back to life, Daniel Taylor and the musicians of the TEM worked with dexterity to bring those works to their human and historical dimensions. When you listen to this album, it is about like discovering an ancient world through a rather unusual magnifying glass.


2 September 2014

Shostakovich is often considered the ‘”Beethoven of the 20th century”. He wrote 15 monumental symphonies, considered true songs of the Soviet people, in which he seemed to salute the regime (for example by using military songs and rhythms) but made fun of it in a disguised manner (for example by adding dissonances to the songs). Even though he was rewarded several times with the State Prize and the Lenin Prize (in 1954, he was even named “artist of the Soviet people”), he constantly felt torn between his “official” work, praised by the heads of the regime (and the pressure he felt to be able to write them) and his intimate works, filled with freedom, for example his chamber music, especially his 15 string quartets. “When you listen to my music, you will discover the truth about me, the man and the artist,” he stated.

“Most of my symphonies are funeral monuments,” once said Shostakovich. “Too many people have perished God knows where in this country, and no one knows where they are burried. Even their loved ones don’t know. Where could we erect a monument? Music alone can do it. I dedicate all my music to them.”

You can also discover the composer with his Piano Trios, as played by the Gryphon Trio. “The capacity to create music that transforms the listener, having heard it, into a different person,” writes scholar Laurel Fay, “…was, in Shostakovich’s view, the loftiest aspiration any composer could harbour.”