Angèle Dubeau founded La Pietà in 1997, an all-female string ensemble featuring some of Canada’s best musicians. What she could not have known at the time was that this experiment, originally [...]
They spoke about it
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)1-3 Sinfonia per archi R.V. 146 in G Major4 Antonio Vivaldi”La Folia” Sonata da camera No.12 for two violins and cello in D Minor Just after his ordination as a priest, Vivaldi entered the Pietà in September 1703, as maestro di violino. His contract, meant to be renewed yearly, called for him to teach the violion and the viole all’inglese—of various sizes, this instrument had sympathetic strings much like the viola d’amore—and oversee the purchase and maintenance of the instruments. He worked under the direction of the maestro di coro, Francesco Gasparini, who gradually increased his responsibilities to include leading ensembles and composition. Thus, it was in 1716 that Vivaldi was named maestro di concerti, even though he had prided himself on this title for several years. In 1713, after the departure of Gasparini, he received an additional stipend to compose religious works of all types, motets, masses and oratorios. Even when his contract was not renewed in 1709, the working relationship was never completely severed, and his works continued to be played. Vivaldi occasionally took a leave of absence from the institution, mainly to organize productions of his operas outside Venice and Italy, but even then, he was obliged to produce several concertos each month. This collaboration ceased in 1740 when Vivaldi traveled to Vienna at the invitation of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. He died a year later from “internal inflammation.” Vivaldi’s first compositions coincide with his arrival at the Pietà. Dedicated to Count Annibale Gambara, the twelve sonatas of opus I were published in Venice in 1705. These were the obligatory trio sonatas, a form established by Corelli and favoured by young composers for their first forays. Vivaldi paid tribute to the master, but also showed himself his equal: the last sonata in the collection is made up of perilous variations on La Folia, a theme Corelli used in the final sonata of his opus V. The Sinfonia takes its place among Vivaldi’s concertos without soloist in which the composer spotlights the strings. Sometimes called concerto ripieno, sometimes sinfonia, and very similar to the opera overture, this type of concerto is written in four parts. Particular to Vivaldi, we find homophonic writing, often brilliant and occasionally in minor keys, fugue-like. By the way they unfold and by their attention to detail as well as to overall effect, these concertos, described by Walter Kolneder as “orchestral studies,” laid the foundations for the classical symphony. 5-8 Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) Ancient Airs and Dances: Suite No.1 From the composer of the famous Fountains of Rome comes this charming suite on ancient airs and dances. Throughout his life, Respighi was fascinated by the rich musical heritage of his country, Italy, and strove to bring it up to date with a highly personal palette of varied and shimmering textures. For the three suites that make up the Antiche aire e danze per liuto—of which the first, dating from 1917, is performed here—the composer drew from a collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century lute pieces compiled and published in 1903 by his fellow countryman, Oscar Chilesotti. The Suite No.1 comprises four Italian dance pieces “freely arranged” by Respighi: Ballo detto Il Conde Orlando by Simone Mollinaro (c1565-1615), Gagliarda by Vincenzo Galilei (the late 1520s-1591), father to the famous scientist, and Villanella and Passo mezzo e mascherada, whose authors are unknown. Louise-Andrée Baril re-orchestrated the suite in such a way to highlight several of La Pietà’s musicians, including Angèle Dubeau and Thérèse Motard, as well as Andrée Azar in the third movement. Moreover, she calls to mind sonorities of old by sometimes replacing the piano with the harpsichord. 9 John Williams (1932- ) Schindler’s List From one of Hollywood’s most productive film composers comes this main theme to Steven Spielberg’s outstanding movie, released in 1993. Close in spirit to Jewish music, a number of the movie’s pieces—the present one included—were written for the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. 10 Stanley Myers (1930-1993) The Deer Hunter: Cavatina This touching lyrical theme was composed for Michael Cimino’s powerful drama, The Deer Hunter (1981), dealing with the horrors of the Vietnam war. 11-17 Béla Bartók (1881-1945) Romanian Folkdances Seven brief dances, ranging in nature from the most melancholy to the most high-spirited. The Hungarian composer Bartók had a marked interest in his country’s folk music and its relation to the traditional music of neighbouring countries. From 1906 onwards, he regularly criss-crossed Hungary with an Edison phonograph in search of peasant music, which he diligently recorded with the aim of publishing and arranging it. He himself collected in Transylvania the folkdances whose melodies and rhythms can be found unaltered in his Romanian Folkdances. Originally set for the piano in 1915, the tunes benefit from Bartók’s added accompaniment. He orchestrated the dances in 1917, and they have since been arranged for a large variety of instruments. The version presented here is a combination of previous arrangements, with the piano adding its voice to the orchestra here and there. The original titles can be loosely translated as Stick Dance, Shawl Dance, ‘On the Spot’ Dance, Horn Dance, Romanian Polka and Quick Dance 1 and 2. 18 François Dompierre (1943- ) The Devil’s Beauties19 Ennio Morricone (1928- ) Once Upon a Time… the Devil20 Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) Danse macabre Since the dawn of mankind, music has maintained fascinating and singular relations with the Devil. For example, the following dare-devil works scoff at him or, quite the opposite, are inspired by him to conjure up spellbinding, entrancing sonorities. Camille Saint-Saëns conjures up scenes of infernal whirlwinds in his magnificent tone poem Danse macabre, Op. 40 (1874). But, as if to dissipate the hellish inferno, he arranged a grotesque version of the work under the title Fossils in his popular Carnival of Animals (1886), a private joke of which the serious composer was quite embarrassed. Note here the clattering of bones rendered by the technique known as col legno, where the string is struck with the wood of the bow. François Dompierre talks of the Devil in his own way: on the silver screen, he sees him in the disquieting atmosphere and melodies from Ennio Morricone’s music to Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). And the composer has us discover the Devil’s peculiar and provocative beauty in a work whose theme had haunted him for a long time, and which he wrote especially for La Pietà: Les Beautés du diable (The Devil’s Beauties). 21 François Dompierre (1943- ) Exil The oral traditions of all nations conceal many treasures just waiting to be discovered. A number of folk tunes fetch even deeply rooted emotions, entangled in the nadir of our souls. I am familiar with two such admirable, truly melancholy tunes, both of which are the product of a vanquished people: the French Canadian (from whatever region) and the Irish. This is not by chance. My people have much in common with their Irish brothers, who like them were acquainted with occupation, humiliation, and exile. It is precisely the topic of exile that I wished to deal with here by the juxtaposition of two folk melodies: Un Canadien errant and Oh Danny Boy. If you listen carefully, you will notice that it is possible to sing both these wonderful melodies at the same time, in a single breath… 22 Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) Spanish Dance Before the Hungarian Gypsies, here are those of Andalusia, in what might be called a ‘typical’ vision of Spain, as seen through the eyes of a Russian—or Soviet—composer, to whom this impassioned dance is attributed. 23 Vittorio Monti (1868-1922) Czárdás The world of the Gypsies beckons to us still in the poignant and fiery strains of this marvellous Czárdás. One would think the composer of such a piece to be part of their world, but that is not the case. Rather, Monti was an Italian violinist who in the course of his life played with the Lamoureux orchestra in Paris and later conducted a music hall orchestra. This at least enabled him to know how to please and how to start people dancing! The original version of this popular piece is for violin or mandolin and piano. Prompted by her close acquaintance with the musicians of La Pietà, Louise-Andrée Baril decided in her orchestration of Czárdás to share the principal melody amongst the leaders of each section in the orchestra.