Thérèse Motard won Premiers Prix in performance and chamber music at the Conservatoire du Québec in Montreal, and then, on a Canada Council for the Arts grant, studied with some of New York’s most [...]
Song of the Birds: Cello Favourites
They spoke about it
When lifelong friends finally make their first record together, what should they play? Cellist Thérèse Motard and pianist Louise-Andrée Baril simply chose pieces they enjoy: music that is warm and touching, lyrical and melodious. Most of it is never heard in concert, other than as an encore appended to a recital of profoundness and pyrotechnics. Here, it is savoured for its own sake, for the pleasure it brings both performer and listener.
Song of the Birds
Catalan carol (arr. Pablo Casals)
In this old Catalan Christmas carol, the newborn Christ Child is serenaded by the sweet twittering of the birds.
Popper: Serenade—Spanish Dance, Op.54, No. 2
David Popper (1843-1913) was born in Prague, the son of a cantor. The greatest cellist of his day, he expanded his instrument’s technique and was renowned for his sweet and silky tone. He established the cello department at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and composed dozens of salon pieces that have withstood the test of time.
Fauré: Après un rêve, Op.7, No.1
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) wrote this haunting melody Après un rêve about 1878. It consists of one long lyrical and tender phrase, moving forward continually, never stopping for breath.
Rachmaninov: Sonata in G Minor, Op.19
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) dedicated this sonata to his cellist friend Anatoly Brandukov, and the two musicians gave its first performance in 1901, shortly after it was written. The piano dominates throughout, recalling Rachmaninov’s famous Second Piano Concerto, composed at nearly the same time.
Ravel: Pièce en forme de Habanera (arr. Paul Bazelaire)
In 1907, a voice teacher at the Paris Conservatory called for contemporary composers to write songs so his students could be exposed to modern vocal style. The Vocalise-Étude en forme de Habanera was one offering of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) —a wordless melody accompanied by a seductive habanera rhythm. Transcribed for almost every conceivable combination of instruments, it has become one of Ravel’s most popular melodies.
Panizzon: Autumn Rhapsody
Vivianne Panizzon, a native and resident of Cornwall, Ontario, has always taught, performed and composed music. Autumn Rhapsody, from an imagistic series composed in 1998, served as the theme song of the Histo-arts Festival, a multi-disciplinary summer festival held in the area surrounding Cornwall.
Godard: Berceuse from Jocelyn
The opera Jocelyn, considered by some to be masterpiece of Benjamin Godard (1849-1895), was premiered in Brussels in 1888. It is remembered, however, only for this Jocelyn, a perennial favourite that shows the composer’s lyric talents at their best.
Saint-Saëns: The Swan
The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is surely his most popular work, and perhaps the best-known piece ever composed for the cello. It is the only one of the thirteen numbers from the Carnival of the Animals (1886) that Saint-Saëns allowed to be published during his lifetime. In it, he crystallizes his ideal of classical serenity.
Stravinsky: Serenata from the Suite italienne
The music of the Suite italienne is drawn from Stravinsky’s 1920 ballet Pulcinella, which in turn is based on themes of Pergolesi and other eighteenth-century Italian composers. The transcription for cello was made in 1932 at the prodding of, and in collaboration with, the great Russian-American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.
Glazunov: Song of a Minstrel, Op. 71
The Song of a Minstrel, for cello and orchestra, dates from 1900; Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) made this version with piano some thirty years later. It shows him in his most characteristic mood of restrained melancholy.
Von Paradis: Sicilienne
Blind from childhood, the Austrian Maria von Paradis (1759-1824) achieved fame as a composer, singer and pianist (Mozart wrote her a concerto). She founded a music school for girls and eventually devoted herself exclusively to teaching. In form, this enchanting Sicilienne looks back to the Baroque; in its expressive spirit, it anticipates the Romantic.
Joaquín Nin (1879-1949) was born in Cuba of Catalan heritage. Having studied piano in Paris, he became known for his sensitive Spanish-flavoured piano compositions and subtle arrangements of old Spanish songs. As a musicologist, he edited early Spanish keyboard music. The Granadina was originally for voice and orchestra.
Londonderry Air – Irish folk song
The celebrated Londonderry Air, a most beautiful Irish melody, was first published in 1855 by George Petrie, a Dublin collector of folk tunes, in his Ancient Music of Ireland. The words it is now generally sung to (“Danny Boy”) are by F.E. Weatherly.
Schumann: Träumerei, Op.15, No.7
Schumann’s fiancée, concert pianist Clara Wieck, happened to remark to him that sometimes he seemed to her like a child. The little piano pieces called Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15, completed in 1838, were his ready response. Robert Schumann (1810-1856) cautioned her when playing them to “forget that you are a virtuoso.”
Bazelaire: “Chanson d’Alsace” and “Berceuse” from the Suite française
Paul Bazelaire (1886-1958) earned his Premier Prix in cello at the Paris Conservatory at the age of eleven. In addition to his brilliant career as a performer, Bazelaire was a composer, the author of books on cello technique and a professor at the Conservatory for nearly forty years. The Suite française is a setting of five popular French melodies.
Chopin: Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op.9, No.2 (arr. Louise-Andrée Baril)
It is in the nocturne, a form of short piano piece that emerged in the nineteenth century, that Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) is at his most romantic. Published in 1832, the E-flat Nocturne, with its languid melody, was the most frequently played of the composer’s pieces in this genre during his lifetime.
Song of the Birds Catalan carol (arr. Pablo Casals, add. Louise-Andrée Baril)
A special thanks from the performers to their respective children, Amélie Tremblay-Motard and Louis-Michel Desjardins-Baril, for taking part in this second version of Song of the Birds.