On October 3, 2002, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre symphonique de Québec, OSQ) celebrated its 100th anniversary. Since its foundation, the OSQ has been associated with countless Quebec City [...]
Dancing for 100 Years
They spoke about it
From his very beginning, when man wanted to express his feelings, he sang. After singing, the next step of showing his emotions was through dance. This disc is a tribute to dance and to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra (OSQ) on its 100th anniversary.
The oldest orchestra in Canada expresses itself in music written for dance. Fast and vigorous, slow and nostalgic, sensuous and diabolic: this is the realm of dance!
Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904): Eight Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 & 72
It was in the great wave of popularity that greeted Brahms’s first collection of Hungarian Dances that Antonín Dvorák composed his Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 in 1878. Since 1874, Brahms had been able to follow the native Czech composer’s career, for he sat on a jury in Vienna which awarded a bursary to Dvorák during four consecutive years until 1877.
That same year, Brahms recommended Dvorák, who had become his friend, to his publisher. After a collection of Moravian Dances, Simrock commissioned Dvorák to write two collection of dances from Moravia and Bohemia “in the style of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances.” Dvorák’s immediate reaction was to ask his mentor for permission to “plagiarize” the genre he had so successfully pioneered. In reality, however, the two composers proceeded from different perspectives in writing their dances. While Brahms based his compositions on arrangements of what he presumed to be authentic folk tunes, Dvorák borrowed only the essential melodic and rhythmic elements of his country’s dances, fashioning original works from them. Once the four-hand piano version had been published, Dvorák arranged the whole collection for orchestra.
The two versions were in fact so successful that virtually from one day to the next, their composer who thus far had been living in dire poverty, suddenly became rich and famous. Dvorák grudgingly completed another set of eight Slavonic Dances, his Op. 72, under the insistence of Simrock who wished to repeat the popular and financial triumph of the first set.
This time, however, Dvorák showed more business acumen and obtained ten times the fee he had received for his Op. 46. The Op. 72 dances followed the same route to success as the earlier ones, starting off as pieces for piano four-hands followed closely by an orchestral version.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945): Rumanian Folk Dances
Early in his career, Bartók worked with his compatriot Zoltán Kodály to preserve the rich oral tradition of Central European folk music. The composer’s output became centred around a constant dialogue between popular and classical idioms, both also influenced by the new trends in Modernism expressed in the works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Debussy, among others. Alongside his recognized masterworks, Bartók consistently penned several arrangements of folk songs or dances, either for choir, piano, or orchestra. First written for the piano in 1915, the Rumanian Folk Dances were orchestrated by Bartók himself two years later, in 1917.
Claude Champagne (1881-1965): Danse villageoise
Composer, teacher, and administrator, Claude Champagne was noless than a pioneer of symphonic music in Canada. His style was directly influenced by the French fin-de-siècle school and he followed the models of Franck, Fauré and Debussy. However, in works such as the Suite canadienne (1927) or the Symphonie gaspésienne (1944), Champagne endeavoured to give his music a national stamp whose source was the traditional folk music of his own ancestors, among them his grandfather, a renowned fiddler.
The Danse villageoise is one such work, and it exists in four different versions: the original version for violin and piano (1929); a version for string quartet (1936); another for strings, harp and piano (not dated); and finally, the version for orchestra, written after 1954.
François Dompierre (b. 1943): Les Diableries
After his studies in composition at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in Montreal, François Dompierre enjoyed, from 1963 to 1977, a flourishing career as arranger, conductor, and record producer for a number of prominent “chansonniers” of the Quebec scene (Félix Leclerc, Claude Gauthier, Pauline Julien, to name a few). Around 1976, however, Dompierre began diversifying his interests and alongside a large corpus of movie soundtracks, he also composed a number of ensemble works such as Les Diableries for violin and orchestra.
Les Diableries was the imposed piece for contestants at the Montreal International Violin competition in 1979.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Six Hungarian Dances
Johannes Brahms’s Hungarian Dances were originally conceived for piano four hands and published separately in two pairs of volumes. The first two volumes of the collection (dances 1 to 10) appeared in 1869, and the next two (comprising dances 11 to 21) were published in 1880. The composer had discovered the exotic world of Hungarian dance as early as 1853, when he was barely 20 years of age, during a tour with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi.
In the fifteen years or so between the time of this discovery and the publication of his first volumes, Brahms had amassed and arranged an impressive collection of these dance melodies, which he enjoyed using in concert improvisations. When Simrock, his publisher, realized the extent of their success, he insisted on publishing them. The composer responded by making a four-hand piano version of his improvisations, in order to perform them with Clara Schumann. As he admitted to Simrock, however, “Music one has so freely played for such a long time is not so easily notated.” Indeed, the charm of the Gypsy-tinged dances, their “savage” character, their sudden shifts from robust rhythms to languorous rubato passages defy the limits of the written score. It was the great success of the 1869 collection that prompted Brahms to issue the 1880 collection.
© Guy Marchand, for Traçantes, the research, text writing, and translation service of the Société québécoise de recherche en musique. Translation: Rachelle Taylor