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
What sweeps us off our feet, casts a spell upon us, and charms us? What befuddles, disconcerts, and bewitches us? What is the cause of so much anguish, but also of even more bliss, joy, and pleasure? What else but passion, an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling” as states the dictionary, although words often only limply convey its full meaning. Music, on the other hand, seems to entertain intimate ties with passion. That was all it took for Angèle Dubeau, a passionate artist if ever there was one, to decide to make these strong emotions the theme of a record, this record, where she proposes nothing less than a voyage to the heart of these extreme emotions as were experienced by eight composers as diverse as passion itself.
A glance, a flower, a few words: that’s all it took for Carmen to seduce Don José… “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”… Love is a rebellious bird… Since 1875, that’s all it has taken to carry us all away into a world of consuming passion, thanks to Georges Bizet (1838-1875) who, literally entranced by his subject, would take over two year to deliver his masterpiece. Yet by its over-realistic portrayal of a soldier’s love for a fickle Gypsy, Carmen caused a huge scandal at its premiere, a reaction that did nothing to improve the composer’s health, already weakened by years of attempts to have his works played. Bizet died the evening of the 33rd performance, June 3, 1875. Was he yet another victim of the sultry Gypsy? That’s been a burning question for more than 100 years.
Pablo de Sarasate: Navarra ? Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
Each in his own way, the violinist of Spanish origin Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) and the Romanian composer George Enescu (1881-1955) were driven by an intense love for their native land. That undoubtedly explains why a single bow stroke from Navarra suffices to transport us like magic into the magnificent landscapes of Sarasate’s Spain, or that we see Gypsy dancers and musicians like those that accompanied and fascinated Enescu’s childhood take life in the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1.
De Falla: Siete canciones populares españolas
A jilted lover (Canción), a heartbroken suitor (Asturiana), two misunderstood lovers (Jota), a mother who sings her child to sleep (Nana)… these are the many and chaotic paths of passion taken by the Siete canciones populares españolas set to music by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). This may seem like a strange initiative from a man whom all described as austere and ascetic, but it goes to prove that, deep inside, de Falla’s embers must surely have been smouldering.
Chopin: Posthumous Nocturne in C sharp minor
“His constitution is too refined, too exquisite, and too perfect to survive at length this tedious and burdensome earthly life,” wrote George Sand about her lover Frederic Chopin (1810-1849). Such an appraisal doesn’t point much to the “passion” of the Polish-born composer, but one has only listen to the Posthumous Nocturne in C sharp minor to realize all the inner passion that drove Chopin when he composed his works, those fine, radiant gems whose blazes shall always set our spirits aglow and our hearts afire.
From the very first notes of Nigun, the middle section of the three-movement suite Baal Shem, performer and listener alike are seized by the heart-wrenching sounds of this music written by the Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959). The music’s secret certainly lies in the reminiscence of the composer’s mother—to whom the work is dedicated—but also in Bloch’s lifelong endeavour to translate into music the Jewish spirit, which he felt to be an enigmatic and ardent spirit, resonating throughout the Bible.
Collins Foster: Jeanie with the light brown hair
The American popular songwriter Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) had a rocky marriage indeed with Jane Denny McDowell. It was apparently after yet another reconciliation with the woman he loved that he wrote Jeanie with the light brown hair for her. What a splendid song this is, which takes on exceptional meaning when one considers that, after the couple had broken up several months later, Foster would slowly decline over ten years until hitting the bottom of the barrel, finishing as a poor drunk on the streets of New York City.
Porgy and Bess, de Gershwin
A mere few notes overheard beneath a window were enough to change George Gershwin (1898-1937) from the tough kid he was into someone completely engrossed in music. Through the years, this transformation was to give us some of the most beautiful melodies of all time (Embraceable you, The Man I Love, Fascinating Rhythm) and explains why, after having read DuBose Hayward’s novel Porgy one sleepless night, Gershwin decided then and there to make it the subject of an opera. The project was to take around a decade to materialize and it wasn’t before September 30, 1935 that first resounded the strains of Porgy’s love for Bess, barely two years before a brain tumour was tragically to end the composer’s life.
© Daniel Turcotte
Translation: Jacques-André Houle
A few words by Angèle Dubeau
“Passion cannot be calculated, but it can be shared. Expressed through intensity of feeling, it reaches its peak when experienced empathetically.
Drawing upon the passionate writing of the great composers, the musicians of La Pietà and myself have put our hearts into each note, each melody. And because we are speaking of a whole range of emotions, this passion comes across in every register, from simple moments of musical tenderness to passages of the utmost intensity.
Yes, I am a passionate woman!”