Archive pour la catégorie ‘Elsewhere on the Web’

Boulez at 90

27 March 2015

He was born on March 26, 1925 and undeniably changed  the word of composition and conducting. Through the years, he was rewarded with 27 Grammys, far more than any big rock or pop star. His 90th birthday was celebrated with splendour at the Philharmonie de Paris yesterday and an exhibit devoted to his works – mostly through his milestones  Second SonataLe Marteau sans maîtrePli selon pliRituelRépons and Sur Incises – can be experienced until June 28.

A student of Messiaen, he devoted the first segment of his life exclusively to composition but soon realise that having his works conducted by someone else was often very complicated and this is why he turned to conducting. After all, who better than the composer who understands from the inside out his music to conduct it? He could program some of his works next to cornerstones of the repertoire (he has been celebrated for his Mahler symphonies for example) and he got to lead major orchestras in London, New York, Chicago and Cleveland (for more than 40 years now, he has a very close connection to the orchestra), conducting a width swath of classical music from Handel to the contemporary British composer George Benjamin.

You may want to read and listen to this NPR profile to know a bit more…

In The Telegraph, Ivan Hewett also pays tribute to classical music’s most contentious revolutionary. Read The modernist maverick here…

An orchestra is essential to a city’s music scene

17 December 2014

We were quite saddened to learn last week that Orchestra London would be cancelling two mid-December concerts in response to an acute cash-flow crisis.  According to reports in the London Free Press, representatives from the orchestra are scheduled to report to London City Council later this week, in an effort to obtain short-term relief and save the remainder of the 2014-15 season, while a new business model and plan are developed.

Young cellist Fiona Robson, 17, wrote an essay on Orchestra London’s impact for the London Free Press earlier this week, a real cry from the heart.

“I’ve been taking cello lessons from an Orchestra London member for eight years, and her colleagues have coached me in chamber music and orchestra. Watching your teacher perform is different than seeing them demonstrate in the studio; it is truly inspiring.

So is listening to and learning from the amazing soloists who come to play with the orchestra: Shauna Rolston, Janina Fialkowska, Annette-Barbara Vogel, Jan Lisiecki, Tom Wiebe.

This orchestra is an invaluable part of music education, and music education is important. It teaches creativity, cognitive skills, teamwork, history, dedication. It teaches everything.

If the orchestra disappears, how can the musicians stay here? It’s a major part of their livelihood. If they leave, what do the students do? We need our teachers.

Simply put, if the orchestra goes, it will undermine London’s music community.”

To read the complete article…

Incarceration and musical inspiration

4 November 2014

MusicBox has just started yesterday what promises to be a very interesting series about teaching music theory in a maximum security prison. How did a then student teacher react when she was confronted with men who committed extremely violent crimes, but nevertheless wanted to know the rudiments of music to be able to express themselves in other ways?

The Music Theory and Appreciation course at Auburn Correctional Facility was implemented through the Cornell Prison Education Program. Through this program and for the past 15 years, incarcerated men can get associate’s degree (through Cayuga Community College) in genetics, constitutional law, medical anthropology, Asian meditation, writing, theater, economics, and music theory. The program aims to increase an incarcerated man’s chances of reintegrating into society upon release and lessens recidivism. Is this something all correctional facilities should consider?

Julia Adolphe writes:

“Each of the seventeen men seated around the room looked at us with calm curiosity and a sincere respect. Their eyes were wide like a child’s discovering the world, yet their capacity for intellectual and philosophical exchange transcended that of the average student. They were a striking mix of total inexperience and naïvety, having spent the majority of their lives within the narrow confines of prison, and a source of devastating experiences, having lived in dangerous communities, witnessing horrors, and committing the terrible acts that led to incarceration. One man, presumably involved in gang violence, told me that prison had saved him. He believes that if he had not been arrested and removed from his situation, he would be dead by now.”

To read more…

Fascinating statistics about artists

17 October 2014

Hill Strategies Research has recently released A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada, a report on the state of the arts in Canada, built on data collected by Statistics Canada. It contains some fascinating information. Did you know for example that…

  • One in every 129 Canadian workers is an artist.  The number of artists (136,600) is slightly higher than the labour force in automotive manufacturing (133,000) and slightly lower than the labour force in the utilities sector (149,900) and telecommunications (158,300).  Musicians and singers are the largest sub-group:  they make up 25% of the artist work force.
  • Artists are much more likely than other workers to hold multiple jobs. In 2011, 11% of artists reported having at least two jobs, compared with 7% of cultural workers and only 5% of the overall labour force.
  • The rate of self-employment among artists is many times higher than the self-employment rate among the overall labour force.  Women represent 51% of artists and 50% of cultural workers but only 48% of the overall labour force.
  • Artists tend to be older than the overall labour force: there are fewer artists than the overall labour force under 25 years of age (12% vs. 14%) but many more artists 55 and over (25% vs. 19%).
  • Canada’s artists and cultural workers have much higher levels of formal education than the overall labour force. The percentage of artists with a bachelor’s degree or higher (44%) is nearly double the rate among the overall labour force (25%), while 38% of cultural workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

You can access the complete report here…


Stage fright and addiction

22 August 2014

One generally doesn’t associate drugs and classical music. Everybody knows that the “wild” musicians are the rock stars, right? Is is not as simple as this, as demonstrated Addicts’ Symphony, a documentary to be presented on the British Channel 4 network next Wednesday. Here, drugs are not taken because the musicians decided to “party hard”, but mainly to help with panic attacks about playing in public. The subject of beta-blockers, a common “help” to deal with stage fright for symphony musicians, is still a pretty hush-hush subject. Others will choose to drink or take Valium, amphetamines, cocaine or heroin, we learned in the documentary.

Ten musicians spoke about their problems and, along the process, were coached by the London Symphony Orchestra with the goal of performing a concert alongside them.

The Addicts’ Symphony is the brainchild of James McConnel, a composer who fought his own battle with alcoholism – and whose son, Freddy, died from a heroin overdose aged 18.

You can read more about the phenomena in this recent article in The Guardian…


Film music: some dynamic duos

12 August 2014

The Criterion Collection just released a box set with all the important Jacques Demy films. Movie buffs may be excited to take an in-depth look at some of the classics he produced, but music lovers will be most thrilled to hear once more all the wonderful soundtracks Michel Legrand wrote for Demy’s films. Legrand and Demy’s partnership is far from being unique of course in the history of the cinema. The Sergio Leone films would have been certainly less iconic without Ennio Morricone’s scores as Steven Spielberg’s blockbusters, if it were not for the very powerful music John Williams wrote for those. Let’s not forget either Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota or Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.

A look – and listen – back to some of those most memorable teams can be found here…

Nino Rota’s score for Amarcord as a bonus.

Samuel Beckett and music

8 August 2014

“Music always wins” may have seemed like an unexpected statement coming from Samuel Beckett, a Nobel prizewinner in literature, celebrated for his iconic plays as well as his novels, written in English or in French. But it comes as no surprise that he would include this line in his radio play Words and Music when one digs a bit more into Beckett’s life. He made music on an almost daily basis, listened to it constantly, whether alone at home or with friends. He was an avid concert-goer, whether he lived in Dublin, London, Berlin or Paris. He just loved the pianists Yves Nat, Alfred Cortot, Artur Schnabel, Solomon Cutner and Rudolf Serkin.

His piano playing, even in his youth, was considered “intense”. His cousin Morris Sinclair remembered well “with what conviction and elan he would play the last movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique. The intensity of his absorption was almost ferocious.” In the late 1960s, when his sight was beginning to fail, Beckett wrote a humorous description of himself: “… bought a little German piano (a Schimmel) in the country and take it out on Haydn and Schubert … my nose so close to the score that the keyboard feels behind my back. Get it by heart in the end and lean back.”

He loved the works of his contemporaries, including Poulenc, Debussy, Ravel and Bartók (whose Microkosmos he would play), but Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert were without a doubt his holy trinity. He wasn’t fond of the other two Bs: Bach and Brahms (though he played some of his intermezzi). 

You can learn more about the importance of music for the author in this very interesting article, published last week in The Guardian

Stéphane Tétreault on Medici

26 June 2014

For his France debut, as part of the Flâneries Musicales d’été de Reims, young cellist Stéphane Tétreault goes big! Indeed, his recital with pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone will be broadcasted live on today at 3 pm . A premiere not to be missed! The young musicians will play Haydn, Brahms and Rachmaninov.

Launched in 1990, Les Flâneries Musicales d’été de Reims hosts more than 50 concerts each summer, featuring young stars as well as internationally renowned artists. The city’s architectural and natural heritage is taken advantage of, with concerts being performed in Basilique Saint-Remi, the Counts of Champagne’s domain, the Cathedral, the Opera, the Manège, the Cirque de Reims and the Palais du Tau. Since 2012, pianist Jean-Philippe Collard acts as artistic director of the festival. He initiated a “Débuts” series, a stepping stone for young talents, in which Stéphane Tétreault and Marie-Ève Scarfone will be heard today.

While waiting for the live, you can listen to Stéphane and the OSQ in some concertos here…  

If Mozart had a Facebook account

6 February 2014

Yes, of course, even if he’s dead, you can “like” Mozart on Facebook. (By the way, if you do, it seems that it means you have a higher IQ. Not sure how this can be measured but, oh well…) But did you stop to think what would Mozart’s Facebook page have looked like? Like everyone else, he would have shared information about his wedding, the birth of his children, the premiere of an opera. He may have had exchanges on his wall with Haydn or even Beethoven. (Why would he have chosen not to respond to an invitation to meet up in Vienna? This escapes me…)

In those days when the social network celebrates its 10th anniversary and even designed “personal” down memory lane videos for all of its users (Big Brother is watching), Classic FM took it a step further and gave us a glimpse of what Mozart might have posted online. Mozart's FB



4 ways to hear more in music

3 February 2014

You love the music you love, but do you know why? What makes you tick? What prompts you to listen to it over and over again? If you listen even more intently, you may even love it even more, since the more you understand how composers manipulate material — rhythm, melody, harmony and colour — the better your experience will get.

This very insightful blog from Anastasia Tsioulcas offers a series of questions that could help you better understand how music works, for example:

About rythm

  • Does the music move quickly, or slowly, or somewhere in between?
  • Do certain rhythms pop up again and again? 


  • How big is the range of pitches you hear?
  • Is there a main melody that the composer returns to again and again or uses as a springboard, or are the ideas more diffused?


  • Do the lines move in the same direction as or away from each other (or some of both) — and when they come to rest, how does it sound? 


  • How does the composer partner up instruments?
  • Does she or he use very familiar combinations, like a string quartet or a much more unusual array?  

You can read all about it (with musical examples), here…