Hailed as a “hero” (Los Angeles Times), a “smashing” performer (Washington Post), “a pianist who breaks the mold” (International Piano) and “who stands out from the typical trends and artifices offered [...]
They spoke about it
Romanticism and its Multiple Facets
Romantic composers felt it was essential for music to be able to express everything. To achieve that goal, they pushed the limits of the instrument, broadened the spectrum of technique and favoured a profusion of ideas and textures. Throughout his career, Canadian pianist Alain Lefèvre has made this repertoire his, breathing vitality, eloquence and poetry into it. He will be heard here in three works by André Mathieu, a composer with whom he has been closely associated in the last few years, but also in a Liszt transcription, pieces by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov, Walter Boudreau and a rendition of Richard Addinsell’s ever-popular Warsaw Concerto.
“The first piece I ever heard by André Mathieu was his Prélude romantique,” confides Alain Lefèvre. “I was fifteen then and was stunned by its beauty.” This infatuation never completely vanished and it led him to champion Mathieu’s works here as well as in the United States, Europe and Asia. “There is something in Mathieu’s music that sweeps all of us off our feet, something uncontrollable. I believe in Mathieu’s genius,” states the pianist.
Though composed in 1943, the Concerto de Québec is permeated with relents (?) of Rachmaninov (who strongly believed the “Canadian Mozart” would be his successor). Alain Lefèvre here performs two versions of the work, the first with orchestra (the concerto’s first movement) and the second for solo piano, essentially the slow central movement (part of the soundtrack for the Canadian film La Forteresse suspendue) with bits and pieces of the other two movements.
Composed by one of Canada’s leading composers, Walter Boudreau, La Valse de l’asile is part of the incidental music for Claude Gauvreau’s play L’Asile de la pureté (The Asylum of Purity). “The presence of this piece on the program is my way of putting André Mathieu into historical context,” says Lefèvre. “Listeners will sense intuitively that this painfully sad, almost surrealistic little waltz serves as a kind of benediction not only on all that André Mathieu stood for, but more importantly, on what he might have become.”
Transcription, a favoured means for music lovers to grasp a greater knowledge of opera and symphony, was a very prosperous business in the 19th century. Franz Liszt saw it mostly as a way to make his the essence of a work he admired. Several of Bach’s works inspired him, namely this fugue taken from the Prelude and fugue in A minor BWV 543.
Sergei Rachmaninov remains without a doubt one of the 20th century’s legendary pianists, with his towering and faultless technique, a phenomenal fingers’ independence that would bring polyphonic clarity to his playing and an infinitely delicate touch in the most intimate moments. In his Moments musicaux, Rachmaninov achieved new summits, virtuosic as well as poetic. The Fourth and the Sixth moments explode with fervour, while tumultuous motifs share the stage with epic themes and powerful chords.
Alain Lefèvre was inspired by Ravel’s orchestral version when he approached Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a summit of the piano repertoire. That is why he chose to transpose instrumental timbres in a surprisingly diversified piano register. “Gnomus,” a portrait of the magician Chernomor, a deformed gnome, carries us through its threatening dissonances and chromaticisms into a world almost as phantasmagorical as the one portrayed in Night on the Bald Mountain. On the other hand, nostalgia reigns in “Il Vecchio Castello,” a piece infused with an atmosphere of timelessness supported by the unflagging repetition of a tonic pedal.
The soundtrack to the movie Dangerous Moonlight (1941) brought fame and fortune to British composer Richard Addinsell. The Warsaw Concerto, part of the movie score, was such an instant success that it became the war-horse of most pianists for decades to come and it has been recorded more than one hundred times. The Concerto is openly romantic, as its sumptuous harmonies and lyrical soaring attest.
© Lucie Renaud