Hailed as a “hero” (Los Angeles Times), a “smashing” performer (The Washington Post), “a pianist who breaks the mold” (International Piano) and “who stands out from the typical trends and artifices [...]
They spoke about it
I have always composed to tell a story, a story that helps listeners find their own. When you have had, for almost half a century, a special connection with the greatest masterpieces, you need a large dose of humility and innocence in order to give music lovers these special moments of life, as everything I compose starts simply with a smile, a phone call, an emotion.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC?
Classical? Absolutely not! Popular? Neither! Crossover? Oh no, not at all. So? I am really walking a fine line here. Maybe the answer lies hidden in the fact that composing has always been an outlet for my sorrows, fears and passions. A music critic at Le Devoir said: “There must be a demand for romanticism […] (but) Fidèles Insomnies (Blissfully Sleepless) cannot be categorized”. I believe I must agree with him.
THE BLANK PAGE
Writing is not something I choose; the themes come flooding to my mind. Quite often, I wake up in the middle of the night and save on my phone a theme that pops to the surface just like that, without even looking for it. Then, the work really begins. When I sit down at the piano, all the pianistic knowledge I have accumulated goes into action hand in hand with all the information stored in the back of my mind, suddenly all made available to shape, enrich and bring these themes to life. If the theme does not come by itself, the piece will not be, because composing is a relaxing time and paradoxically it is also some kind of exorcism or auto psychoanalysis.
THE WORLD OF MUSIC AND AUDIENCES
It saddens me to see a particular audience turn up its nose at Maurice Jarre, Michel Legrand or Alexandre Desplat or even our own André Gagnon, who has written marvellous pieces. How can we not break down in tears after just a few bars of Brel’s Ne me quitte pas? Because what we retain most from it, is that it is a gorgeous theme and I believe that inspiration is a state of grace. I can’t help but reiterate that André Mathieu has been blessed more often than not. I see my own pieces like films for the ear, images for the piano.
Although my compositions tell simple stories, the day-to-day discipline to which I have submitted myself to for decades cannot not interfere in the making of these pieces. All these digitally illuminated networks add their own colours to the story and bring structure to it. Though they hold pleasant titles, both amateur and professional pianists who have tried to play them have come to realise just how dauntingly diffi cult they are.
The journey of life is all but predictable. Wanting to give the illusion of being in control of things through food discipline, healthy lifestyle or even spiritual practice, one must acknowledge that life always wins at the game of life. In the middle of the piece, one finds the extremely brutal tragedies of being a human, whether it is illness, heartbreak, old age or betrayal. Le chemin is a little bit of it all.
(For Marie-Josée Dupuis and Maurice Pinsonnault)
Parsifal le chat
At first, this piece was supposed to be titled Le chagrin. When their cat died, two close friends, Yannick and Pierre, were devastated. Their sorrow made me realize that there is no quantifying grief; there is only the indescribable pain suffered following loss or abandonment. It is not race, age or humanity that determines the extent of grief, but rather the love that was shared. Parsifal le chat has become some sort of prayer for a furry little friend that brought lots of joy to two humans.
(For Yannick and Pierre, in memory of their affectionate cat, Parsifal)
This piece underwent a rather difficult process. The second theme came to me in the fall of 1979 while I was as miserable as mud in Paris. In the early morning, I was out jogging in Parc Monceau and the street lights’ glow gave a certain mystery to the streets of Paris. This theme never reached a conclusion and was put on a back shelf. Finally, a few months ago, a new theme popped into my mind that also wouldn’t come to a conclusion or connect to another. I then thought of bringing these two lonely orphans, these two similar yet different themes, together. That is how Ciné Lumière came to life; one of the most mysterious and at the same time most evocative pieces.
(For Monique Poulyo and Michel Dupuis)
There are two ways of looking at life: to wear rose-coloured glasses or to be aware of the pain of others. My greatest problem is that I am more sensitive to the needs of others rather than my own. I have no merit, this is who I am, it is simply in my nature! Rive Gauche is a reminder of the brief moments in Paris when I felt lighter. It is also a shout of joy, thanks and love, inspired by Paris.
(For Robert Peck and Maria Pantazi-Peck,
in memory of their beloved dog, Plato)
This piece came along after I saw a documentary dedicated to a woman called Elourdes Pierre who has been caring for children. What I admire most about her is how fully aware she is of her own
responsibility towards their future. Élou understands that it is the future that is compromised if they are not given every reason to believe in life and that ruining these kids’ future is to give up on hope.
(For Alain Simard and Elourdes Pierre)
Paris de mes souvenirs
It was written in Paris. In 1982, I found a theme for the great violinist Christian Ferras who had invited me to go on tour with him during the fall. Ferras knew I composed and had accepted to perform it as encore for our future joint recitals. Sadly, this great violin master took his own life and this piece lay hidden at the bottom of a drawer for many years. In the fall of 2014, I had the pleasure of playing alongside Angèle Dubeau at the Fête de la Musique de Tremblant and I was so moved by her magnificent playing that it inspired me to complete this work in remembrance of all the affection I had for this legend.
(For Angèle Dubeau in gratitude of her great musical
Au bout de mes rêves
This is the story of an encounter with an exceptional woman, Fabienne Dor, who also died in a dramatic and brutal manner after suffering a long illness. Fabienne was an exceptional and flawless
individual, one of the most righteous person I have ever met, a great lady. In spite of the circumstances, I didn’t want this piece to be sad, but rather happy and full of light. Johanne Martineau wrote the lyrics for my music and as an ultimate gift, it is Fabienne’s daughter, Léane, who recorded it for her mother ten years ago. She records it here now for everyone to hear.
(In memory of Fabienne Dor)
Mad About You (A Nod to Elton John)
In the circles of influence that were King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Elton John, almost all, if not all these musicians were trained in classical music, and I tried to trace everything they borrowed from classical music and blended into pop music. With this spectacular sense of style, E.J. has always been able to fi nd that little something special that will have a tune work its way to your mind and stick with you. This nod is a journey back in time where I can enjoy trying to find a way of rocking the piano, just like Billy Joel or the great Elton would.
(A tribute to Elton John)
The title of perhaps the most popular jazz album of all times, this piece is a tribute to the great Dave Brubeck (1920-2012). I once made a promise to myself to always include a piece of jazz to albums of my own compositions because I find the piano techniques in jazz music fascinating. If Horowitz and Rubinstein travelled to Harlem to hear Art Tatum, and that Glenn Gould loved Bill Evans, I humbly stand in the shadow of my precursors and state that Bill Evans’ Alone Again is a masterpiece that I love and admire. True inspiration.
(For George Hanson)
© Georges Nicholson
Translation: Lucie Martin