Archive pour January, 2015

Awards season

30 January 2015

Winter might be going strong, but great news bring warmth to our heart, like the fact that four Analekta albums are nominated for a Juno! Here are the lucky nominees.

– The Heart’s Refuge: Theatre of Early Music, Schola Cantorum & Daniel Taylor
– Handel & Porpora: The London Years: Julie Boulianne, Clavecin en concert & Luc Beauséjour

– Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 7, Departure – Utopia: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal & Kent Nagano

Blanc: Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà

Winners will be announced on March 15. The award ceremony will be broadcast live from Hamilton.

But before this musical celebration, let’s not forget the Prix Opus ceremony, to be held Sunday afternoon at Salle Bourgie, that celebrate the excellence in Québécois classical music. There also, several Analekta nominees. Fingers crossed! We’ll tell you about the winners on Monday! 

MG3 in the middle of a tour

27 January 2015

MG3, the Montréal Guitare Trio, is on the road these days, as part of a mini 7 concerts’ tour of Quebec. They were in Laval and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu last week and will perform tomorrow at the Centennial Theatre in Sherbrooke, on January 29 in Montreal at Salle Bourgie, on January 30 janvier in L’Assomption at Théâtre Hector-Charland, on January 31 in St-Hyacinthe at the Centre des Arts Juliette-Lassonde  and on February 4 in Granby at the Palace.

Of course, the trio will perform excerpt from its most recent album, launched in February 2014 on the Analekta label, Der Prinz. (You can listen to it and download it here.) This album celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Trio, featuring guitaristsMarc Morin, Sébastien Dufour and Glenn Lévesque. The album showcases 10 pieces, including five original compositions inspired by world music, but the album is also an homage to various artists, including folk jazz guitarist Nick Naffin, alias “Der Prinz”, as well as Radiohead, Ennio Morricone (the unforgettable Cinema Paradiso) and mythical Canadian rock band Rush, with their hit Tom Sawyer.

Trumpet concertos with Paul Merkelo

23 January 2015


Analekta just released a new recording of French trumpet concerti by Paul Merkelo (who has for 20 years served as the principal trumpet of the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal) and the OSM, led by music director Kent Nagano.  The repertoire?  Post-Second World War concerti by Henri Tomasi (1901-1970), Alfred Desenclos (1912-1971) and André Jolivet (1905-1974) – a period characterized by a resurgence in French culture and a fascination with jazz. 

This project, a long-held dream of Mr. Merkelo, was underwritten in part through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launched in November 2013.  The campaign met its goal within one month :  evidence of the passion of the performer, and the strength of his community of supporters. 

Intriguingly, the recording will be made available not only as a CD and download, but also in audiophile-quality vinyl.     

To listen and download the album…

Classical music gets a new treatment in Birdman

20 January 2015

Oscars are fast-approaching and the lists of finalists were made public last week. Some films stand out nominations wise and that is the case of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, an intriguing – and demanding – film that makes you believe that it is made from only one long sequence-shot. This most ambitious project by Mexican director can be perceived as a reflection on cinema itself as well as critics (in this case theater critics, but one can very easily adapt this train of thought to other medias) and stands as well as an homage to giants of the past, including Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock. 

If the film was disqualified from the Oscars (because it is not only made up of original material), the soundtrack is especially fascinating. The director dared to juxtapose in a most unorthodox fashion the jazz drums of Antonio Sanchez (who can be seen at the end, giving us the illusion that maybe this all happened while he was rehearsing in some back room of the St. James) and classical works that are often taken in opposite stance. You can for example hear Mahler (his Ninth Symphony and “Ich bin der Welt anhanden gekommen”), Tchaikovsky (two symphonies), Rachmaninov (two excerpts from his Second Symphonye), Ravel (the “Passacaille” from the Piano Trio) and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer  (Prologue: Chorus of the Exiled Palestinians). If one can understand how Tchaikovsky’s pathos can be easily juxtaposed to desperate moments from Riggan, a true has-been who tries to make it on Broadway after having being forgotten after numerous superheroes’ movies, the utilisation of Ravel left me stunned, music becoming a parallel narrator telling a tale that is almost contradictory to the one we see on stage. As the film as a whole, this most certainly gives us the impression that we are thrown, willingly or not, in somebody’s else dream – or nightmare. Fascinating!


Unusual instruments

16 January 2015

Some instruments are truly fascinating. While reading yesterday about the subcountrabassoon yesterday (this one has certainly an unusual story), I started to think about other “strange” ones… Here are two.

The Mark tree was invented in 1967 by a studio musician named Mark Stevens. It is an instrument consisting of a series of between 20 and 40 metal tubes hung from a long wooden bar by thin nylon cords. The tubes are arranged from shortest to longest, or highest pitch to lowest pitch, in a single or in double rows. The instrument is played by brushing your hand or a stick across the bars in either direction, causing the tubes to randomly strike the adjacent tubes and produce pitches from their vibrations. A damper bar is use to stop the tubes from continuing to hit each other.  Mark Tree


The rain stick is a percussion instrument that can be classified as an idiophone (an instrument that produces sounds from the material of the instrument itself). It is found in many indigenous cultures, and is generally thought to have been invented by Chilean tribes in South America. It has also been used as a “talking stick,” passed around from person to person to designate who has the right to speak during important discussions.

It consists of a tube about one metre long, usually made from dried cactus, reed, bamboo, or rattan, with small pins or thorns stuck into it in a spiral pattern on its inside surface. It is then filled with stones or dried beans, and the ends are sealed. The instrument is held vertically, then turned upside down like an hourglass, causing the pellets to cascade over the pins to produce a sound like falling rain. For more realistic rain effects, several rain sticks of varying sizes can be used. The largest produce a deeper sound, and the smaller, a brighter sound. Rain Stick

Für Elise

13 January 2015

Even if you have never taken one piano lesson in your life, you most probably know Beethoven’s famous – sometimes infamous – Für Elise.

This short piano piece, one of Beethoven’s bagatelles, was written in 181o. It is not certain who “Elise” was, but it has been suggested that the original work may have been named “Für Therese,” for one of the two Thereses in his life—Therese von Brunswick, the woman he fell in love with, and Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza, who refused his marriage proposal in 1810—and that title was simply incorrectly transcribed when the work was published in 1865.

The piece is in rondo form, based on a refrain, the “A” section, that alternates with a “B” section and a “C” section, resulting in an A-B-A-C-A structure. The “A” section is the one that is well known, while the “B” section is technically more difficult. Listen carefully in this section to hear the right hand playing a figure of repeated thirty-second notes (so named because thirty-two of these equal one whole note!). The “C” section is built around repeated notes in the left hand. Near the end of this section, you will also hear several arpeggios (when the notes of a chord are played in sequence over several octaves) and a chromatic descending scale (when all the keys on the piano, whether black or white, are played in sequence). 

Anniversaries to celebrate this year

9 January 2015

2015 should be a busy year with all those anniversaries.

200 years ago…

On January 25, 1815 Ludwig van Beethoven played at a concert to celebrate the birthday of the Tsarina at the Congress of Vienna. This was his last public performance as pianist.

On February 22, 1815, a large concert was given in Boston with massed choirs and instrumentalists to celebrate Washington’s Birthday and the Treaty of Ghent.  The event led to the founding of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society.


150 years ago

On  April 28, 1865L’africaine, a grand opéra by Giacomo Meyerbeer, was performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra, four days before the first anniversary of the composer’s death.   

On June 9, 1865, composer Carl August Nielsen was born in Sortelung, Denmark.

On  June 10, 1865, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde was performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich, conducted by Hans von Bülow.  

On  August 10, 1865, Alexander Glazunov was born in St. Petersburg.   

On October 1, 1865, Paul Dukas was born in Paris.

On  November 28, 1865, Brahms’ Trio in E flat for violin, french horn, and piano was premiered in the Zürich Casino, with the composer at the keyboard.

On December 17 , 1865, Schubert’s Symphony no.8 “Unfinished” was performed for the first time, in the Vienna Musikvereinsaal, 43 years after it was composed.


100 years ago…

 On January 1, 1915, the first issue of The Musical Quarterly was published in New York.

On January 28, 1915, Maurice Ravel’s  Trio for piano, violin and cello was performed for the first time, at the Salle Gaveau, Paris.

On March 14, 1915,  Alexander Scriabin’s Vers la flamme op.72  was performed for the first time by the composer himself. Five days later, he would premiere his Piano Sonata No. 6, in Moscow. The composer would die in Petrograd, on April 27, from septicaemia. So many people wanted to attend the funeral that tickets were issued.

On April  15, 1915El amor brujo, Manuel de Falla’s ballet, was performed for the first time, at the Teatro Lara, Madrid.   

On June 6, 1915, American composer Vincent Ludwig Persichetti was born in Philadelphia.

On  October 28, 1915, Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie was premiered in Berlin, the composer conducting.   

On December 2, 1915, Claude Debussy’s En blanc et noir was performed for the first time, at Chez Durand, Paris, the composer and Louis Albert performing.

On December 8, 1915,  Jean Sibelius’ Symphony no.5 by Jean Sibelius was premiered in Turku, directed by the composer on his fiftieth birthday.


50 years ago…

On January 27, 1965, three works by Steve Reich were performed for the first time at the San Francisco Tape Music Center:  It’s Gonna Rain for tape, Music for Two or More Pianos or Piano and Tape, and Livelihood for tape.

On February 3, 1965, Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for violin and piano by George Crumb (35) was performed for the first time, in Buffalo with the composer at the piano.

On March 14, 1965, Györgi Ligeti’s Requiem for soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra was performed for the first time, in Stockholm.   

On  April 26, 1965, Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 4 was premiered in New York, almost 50 years after it was completed.

On May 5,  1965, John Cage’s Rozart Mix for magnetic tape was performed for the first time, at the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts.

On  May 7, 1965, Olivier Messiaen’ s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum was premiered in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, as part of a commemoration for the dead of both world wars.

On May 21, 1965, Terry Riley’s Tread on the Trail was performed for the first time, at the San Francisco Tape Music Center

On  July 15, 1965, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms was premiered in Philharmonic Hall, New York the composer conducting.

On  October 24, 1965Voices for Today for boys’ chorus, chorus, and organ by Benjamin Britten, commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the United Nations, was performed for the first time, simultaneously in Royal Festival Hall, London, UN General Assembly Hall, New York, and Maison de l’ORTF, Paris.

New Order of Canada appointments

6 January 2015

Congratulations to a number of people linked to the musical community for their recent appointments to, or promotions within, the Order of Canada.   

  • Montreal cellist, teacher, and artistic director of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Denis Brott, recognized for his role in establishing the Canada Council of the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank;
  • Tubist, educator, music education advocate, and founding member of the Canadian Brass, Chuck Daellenbach;
  • Soprano Suzie LeBlanc;
  • General Director of the Opéra de Québec, Grégoire Legendre;
  • Trumpet virtuoso, educator, and regular commissioner of new works for trumpet, Jens Lindemann;
  • Conductor and founder of the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Lorraine Vaillancourt.

Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

Happy 2015!

1 January 2015

May the upcoming year be filled with joy, laughter, health… and music of course! Here are a few quotes from composers to inspire you in this new year.

“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.” (Brahms)

“There was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original.” (Haydn)

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” (Bach)

To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.” (Schumann)

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” (John Cage)