Angèle Dubeau, O.C., C.Q., O.M., C.A.L.Q., DFA
One of the most prominent violin virtuosos of her generation, Angèle Dubeau has led an exceptional career for over 40 years in the great concert halls of [...]
After the violin’s first source of life, the burgeoning forest, where it matures and waiting for its chance to sing, after the skilled, patient hand who gives it shape, completing the chain of balance, comes the violinist, seeking to tame harmony. What a marvelous instrument is the violin, what a delight it is to express one’s emotions on this sculpted piece of wood reborn out of the soul’s resonance. For 30 years now, I have travelled the world performing with my violin, and it has never failed to give me immense pleasure. Indeed, the joy of being on stage, especially before an audience, is both my raison d’être as a musician and a tremendous source of energy.
Of course, I have at my disposal the works of composers who, over the last 300 years, have enriched the instrument by creating an extensive repertoire whose occasional technical pitfalls have helped refine the instrument.
Led by my experience, my tastes, and my curiosity, I browsed through the violin repertoire from its origins to the present. I agonized over some of the choices, but in the end, I selected only the works that I love best, sources of enrichment and human emotion.
As a starting point, I chose L’Arte del violino, from 1733, the year in which my famous instrument, the Des Rosiers Stradivarius, was made. There are 24 of these famous caprices that inspired Paganini.
From there, we embark on a voyage through time and space featuring a broad spectrum of composers and styles, from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods; to contemporary music; to folk, jazz and tango. For me, this is the perfect way to express the passion I feel for my instrument and to honour the creative spirit: alone, without artifice, and with a single voice—my voice—flowing through the soul of my violin.
Over the course of the 16th century, luthiers in the region around Milan, Italy perfected a new instrument that represented the culmination of a long evolution, one of the brightest jewels of our civilization’s musical heritage—the violin. The instrument combines a set of qualities that make it unique. It can sing with the expressiveness of a human voice but also dazzle us with keyboard-like virtuosity; its four strings give it polyphonic options, whereas most other melodic instruments are confined to playing a single line; its bow allows it to shape each note with an infinite variety of articulations; and its almost perfect acoustic properties lend its sound extraordinary intensity.
Given these qualities, it is not surprising that the violin has attracted so many musicians from so many different styles over the years, accumulating a vast repertoire along the way. In her explorations of this repertoire, Angèle Dubeau has travelled paths both fascinating and rarely frequented, and so to celebrate thirty years as a musician, she offers this exquisite homage to the violin.
George Enescu (Georges Enesco in French) (1881–1955): Orchestral Suite No. 1 (Op. 9), I. Prelude, version for solo violin
Enescu’s career was multi-faceted: he was also a virtuoso violinist, an excellent pianist, a well-known conductor and an exceptional teacher. His students included such notable violinists as Christian Ferras, Arthur Grumiaux, Ivry Gitlis, Ida Haendel and Yehudi Menuhin.
Enescu composed three orchestral suites. Dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns, the four-movement Suite No. 1 (Op. 9) was composed in 1903 and premiered in Paris on December 11, 1904 under the baton of Gabriel Pierné. The piece opens with an intriguing prelude played in unison—a rare example of monophonic composition in the orchestral repertoire; all the musicians play exactly the same notes, at different octaves according to their instrument’s register. The Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály made his students study this prelude as a model of monophonic writing.
On this recording, Angèle performs the first violin part of the prelude as a sort of free-flowing cadenza.
Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992): Tango-Etudes Nos. 1, 3 & 4
Astor Piazzolla needs no introduction. Born in Argentina, he emigrated along with his family to New York, remaining there for 11 years and taking his first bandonéon lessons. He later travelled to Paris to study composition with the great Nadia Boulanger, who advised him to cultivate the tango in his compositions. Taking her advice, Piazzolla developed a highly personal musical language, at once modern and passionate, based essentially upon the tango, in much the same way that Bartók drew upon traditional Hungarian music. And this new intensely expressive, even disturbing, style, in which the violin, the piano, the contrabass and the bandonéon share the stage, Piazzolla dubbed nuevo tango.
Piazzolla composed many works for his own nuevo tango group, including masterpieces such as Libertango, Adiós Nonino, Milonga del angel and Contrabajisimo. He transcribed some of his works for bandonéon and orchestra and also wrote a Concerto for Bandonéon and a “tango opera” María de Buenos Aires. His six Tango-Etudes for solo flute or violin were composed in 1987.
Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695–1764): Caprice No. 9 in C major
A disciple of Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), Locatelli would nevertheless push the technical boundaries of the violin even further in his own works. He had brilliant career as a soloist, which took him throughout Italy, Austria and Germany, before he settled down in Amsterdam in 1729.
In 1733, he published his Opus 3, entitled L’Arte del violino, a collection of 12 concertos for violin and orchestra. After the first and third movements of each concerto, in the place of cadenzas, Locatelli inserted spectacularly difficult caprices for solo violin, making a total of 24 for the opus. Locatelli wrote them in such a way as to make it possible to play them out of context as independent pieces. However, after his death, Locatelli’s concertos and caprices were all but forgotten.
Then around 1798, a young, extremely gifted Genoese violinist came upon a copy of L’Arte del violino by chance and had a revelation. The violinist was none other than Nicolò Paganini (1782–1840), and he began to study the collection intensely, especially the caprices, which inspired him to compose his own 24 Caprices for solo violin (Op. 1), a work that would influence generations of virtuosi to come. In his first caprice, Paganini pays homage to Locatelli by quoting his Caprice no. 7, in a sense completing the circle.
Locatelli’s Caprice No. 9, performed here by Angèle Dubeau, occurs at the end of the first movement of the fifth concerto of L’Arte del violino.
Srul Irving Glick (1934–2002): Serenade and Dance for solo violin
Srul Irving Glick was the son of Russian emigrants who moved to Toronto in 1924. Jewish liturgical music had a great influence on the compositional style of Glick, whose father was a cantor for various synagogues in the Toronto area. After attending the University of Toronto, he spent two summers in Aspen, Colorado, where he studied under Darius Milhaud. He was one of Canada’s most prolific composers, leaving a legacy of symphonic, choral and chamber works. Serenade and Dance for solo violin was written in 1995 for violinist Jacques Israelevitch as a birthday present. The piece is a meditative and poetic work of great beauty. “I had the chance to speak with Mr. Glick only a few days before he passed away. He expressed the joy he felt knowing that his music would survive him, and that he would be there above me, like a butterfly, every time I played his music.”
Dave Brubeck (1920–): Bourree
The great pianist and jazz composer Dave Brubeck was a gifted child. Born in California, he was four years old when his mother gave him his first piano lessons. He began his career as a pianist at the age of 13. Brubeck studied composition with Darius Milhaud, who suggested he use jazz in his compositions. He founded a jazz quartet and gained popularity in 1959 with the release of the album Time Out, especially with the legendary song “Take Five,” written by the band’s saxophonist, Paul Desmond. Brubeck also wrote works for orchestra and chamber music. In 1969, he composed a huge oratorio for solists, choir and orchestra entitled The Gates of Justice. Written in 1999 and recorded here for the first time, “Bourree” for solo violin is a happy union of jazz and classical writing, modern and refined.
After listening to Angèle’s recording of “Bourree,” Brubeck spontaneously replied with the following note.
Certainly, one of the more memorable concerts in the long history of the Montreal International Jazz Festival was the unusual pairing of the Dave Brubeck Quartet with La Pietà, led by Angèle Dubeau. On that occasion Angèle surprised and delighted me with a fantastic solo performance of my recently composed “Bourree” for solo violin.
In the summer of 2000 “Bourree” was premiered at the Hoxton Festival in London by Simon Blendis, a young British violinist who commissioned the piece in the honor of the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death. His idea for the commission was to ask five contemporary composers to each choose a movement from Bach’s E Major Partita for solo violin that inspired them. Being a jazz musician who grew up playing dances, it seemed logical that I should choose a dance movement, “Bourree.” This is also the reason there are references to Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” You can hear it in the 16th notes played near the beginning of the piece and repeated throughout in various juxtapositions.
A week after the premiere in London, Angèle performed the North American premiere in Montreal, where it received an enthusiastic reception, especially from its composer. On this recording Angèle once again plays the “Bourree” with great force and interpretive fire. Brava!
– Dave Brubeck
Bartolomeo Campagnoli (1751–1827): Divertimento for solo violin (Op.18 no. 7)
Campagnoli was born near Bologna five years before Mozart, and he died the same year as Beethoven. He was a violinist of the great Italian school established by Corelli and his successors, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Pugnani, Veracini, Tartini, Geminiani, Nardini, and Viotti. In fact, Campagnoli was a student of Nardini and had met Viotti. He toured Europe numerous times before taking the position of concertmaster with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipsig in 1797. At the time, the Gewandhaus was already one of Europe’s most prestigious orchestras, so the Campagnoli’s appointment says much about his abilities. He remained in Leipzig until 1816.
One of Campagnoli’s great qualities was undoubtedly his great dedication to young musicians. While he could have led the grand life of a soloist, he preferred to dedicate himself to teaching and writing numerous pedagogical works (etudes, methods and exercises). Indeed, the title of one of his methods is by itself an entire curriculum: Nouvelle méthode de la mécanique progressive du jeu de violon distribuée en 132 leçons progressives pour deux violons, et 118 études pour un violon seul, op. 21 (Leipzig, 1824)!
His generosity also applied to his family, starting with his two daughters, Albertina and Giannina, who were excellent opera singers. In fact, he resigned his position in Leipzig in 1816 to better oversee their careers. Three years later, this mission had been accomplished, and his daughters were members of the Hanover Opera Company. He was then offered another concertmaster position, this time in Berlin, at the venerable age of almost 70.
Campagnoli’s violin method was described by a contemporary critic named Schmidt as a “happy union of German know-how and Italian soul.” His musical language is full of joyous energy that reminds one of the melodic stylings of Rossini and Paganini. In addition to his pedagogical works, Campagnoli composed three flute concertos, a violin concerto, 41Caprices for viola, and numerous works for his own instrument, including six Fugues, 30 Preludes, and the seven Divertimentos (or sonatas) which make up Opus 18.
Alan Ridout (1934–1996): Ferdinand the Bull, for narrator and solo violin
A well-known figure on the British music scene, Alan Ridout was a student of Gordon Jacob and Michael Tippett. A resident of Canterbury, he wrote primarily sacred music for Canterbury Cathedral (canticle settings, passions and organ music) as well as etudes and study pieces. He taught the cathedral boys’ choir and wrote operas and musical stories for them. Ridout also composed symphonies, concertos and chamber music, writing either atonally or tonally, depending on the requirements of the piece or the audience.
In 1936, the American author Munro Leaf (1905–1976) published The Story of Ferdinand, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This adorable tale of a bull who preferred smelling flowers over bullfighting stirred up controversy when some deemed it pacifist and anti-military; indeed, the book was banned in Nazi Germany and by other military regimes. Elsewhere, however, it became very popular, so much so that two years after its publication, Walt Disney based a short animated film on the book entitled Ferdinand the Bull, which remains one of the great classics of animation. With great whimsy and originality, Ridout composed his own adaptation of the story in 1974, as a musical story for solo violin and narrator.
Angèle Dubeau also had the inspired idea to ask Yves Beauchemin, author of such wonderful books as Charles le téméraire and Antoine et Alfred to bring this gentle bull to life in la langue de Molière! And so the disc features a French version of the tale, narrated by Pierre Lebeau. As a bonus track, Angèle offers you the original version of this musical tale narrated by Blair Williams.
© Claudio Ricignuolo
Translation: Peter Christensen