La Scena Musicale

Monday, 2 May 2016

Cette semaine à Montréal (2 à 8 mai) / This Week in Montreal (May 2–8)

English follows

Fin de Saison : La Chapelle Historique

Le dernier concert de la série Beethoven : Les sonates pour piano et violon avec le violoniste Olivier Thouin et le pianiste François Zeitouni aura lieu le 8 mai à 15 h.


L’OSM et Danse Danse présentent Anatomie d’un souffle, une soirée de danse et de musique sous le souffle du Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique. Avec l’organiste Jean Willy Kunz et la compagnie de danse Le Carré des Lombes, dans une chorégraphie conçue par Danièle Desnoyers sur une œuvre de John Rea et des compositeurs Frescobaldi, Alain et Messiaen. Maison symphonique, 6 et 7 mai, 20 h.

Les Violons du Roy

Le chef Jonathan Cohen retrouvera l’ensemble pour interpréter des concertos de Bach avec la violoniste Isabelle Faust. Salle Bourgie, 6 mai, 19 h 30 et 7 mai, 15 h.

Jayson Gillham à l'OCM

En collaboration avec le Concours Musical International de Montréal, l’Orchestre de chambre McGill recevra Jayson Gillham, Premier prix au CMIM piano 2014. Gilham interprétera le Concerto pour piano no 12 de Mozart et le Concerto pour piano en ré majeur de Haydn. Salle Bourgie, 3 mai, 19 h.

Nouveau Trio de Jeunes Solistes à Pro Musica

Récemment formé de trois musiciens ayant réalisé une brillante carrière de solistes, le Trio Boréal rassemble le clarinettiste Uriel Vanchestein, l’altiste Juan-Miguel Hernandez et le pianiste Wonny Song. Enchaînant les cours de maître et les ateliers, le jeune trio s’engage à attirer de nouveaux publics partout dans le monde. Œuvres de Prokofiev, Vanchestein, Francaix et Chostakovitch. Salle Bourgie, 8 mai, 15 h 30.


End of Season at the Chapelle Historique

The last concert of the series Beethoven: The Sonatas for Piano and Violin with violinist Olivier Thouin and pianist François Zeitouni will take place on May 8 at 3 pm.


MSO and Danse Danse present Anatomy of a Sigh, an evening of dance and music to the sound of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique. With organist Jean Willy Kunz and Le Carré des Lombes dance company, in a choreography by Danièle Desnoyers to music by John Rea, ­Frescobaldi, Alain, and Messiaen. Maison symphonique, May 6 and 7 at 8 pm.

The Violons du Roy

Conductor Jonathan Cohen joins the ­ensemble to perform Bach concertos with ­violinist Isabelle Faust. Bourgie Hall, May 6 at 7:30 pm and 7 at 3 pm.

Jayson Gillham with the MCO

In collaboration with the Concours Musical International de Montréal, the McGill Chamber Orchestra hosts Jayson Gillham, first prize at the CMIM piano edition in 2014. Gillham will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 12 and Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major. Bourgie Hall, May 3, 7 pm.

New Trio of young musicians at Pro ­Musica

Recently formed by three musicians who’ve had brilliant careers as soloists, the Trio Boréal brings together clarinetist Uriel ­Vanchestein, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, and pianist Wonny Song. Stacking up the master classes and workshops, the young trio is actively attracting new audiences across the world. Works by Prokofiev, Vanchestein, Francaix, and Shostakovich. Bourgie Hall, May 8, 3:30 pm.

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Lebrecht Weekly - Mahler: 3rd symphony (DSO Live)

2/5 stars

What can New York expect of its next music director? Jaap van Zweeden’s recordings can be counted on your fingers and most are – like this release with the Dallas Symphony – live concerts. Mahler’s third symphony is a large and unwieldy piece with a mezzo soloist and women’s and children’s choruses, a test of organisation for any conductor before he or she can begin to think about interpretation.

On first hearing, this performance is efficient and attractive with sustainable speeds and some fetching solos from the concertmaster, Alexander Kerr. The vocal soloist Kelley O’Connor lacks heft and any dimensiom of the ominous in her Nietzschean admonition but that may be a balancing fault in the hall rather than a conductor or singer shortcoming. The choirs do their bims and bams with every possible display of enthusiasm, and then some.

It takes a second hearing to determine what’s missing. In a word: character. Van Zweden takes a pace so safe that he struggles to introduce any kind of individuality to the shaping and phrasing of the 90-minute work. Everything is present and correct and there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Nor is there any sense of Mahlerian irony and ambiguity, the possibility of worlds beyond the literal score. By the time you reach the finale – the first of Mahler’s great adagios – it feels like you’ve taken a long hike and got absolutely nowhere that you want to spend the night. In the great roll of Maher 3 albums – Kubelik, Horenstein, Tennstedt, Abbado, Chailly – this does not pass my audition test. New York, I fear, could be in for a dull half-decade.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Lebrecht Weekly - Deutsche Grammophon: The Mono Era, 1948-57 (51-CD Box Set)

3/5 stars

Slower even than one-horse EMI, Deutsche Grammophon was the last label of consequence to adopt stereo recording in the late 1950s. Its circumspection is, in retrospect, comprehensible. In austerity-minded Germany, a second living-room speaker would have been deemed an anti-social luxury and DG’s mono quality was, by any criterion, world-class. Under the leadership of camp-survivor Elsa Schiller, DG had buried its Nazi past beneath a blaze of new talent and high performance. The DG represented in this massive box of rarities is a label under post-War reconstruction, fascinating in its rigour and frugality.

This is DG in the age before Herbert von Karajan. The pale yellow covers are often plain and the interpretations unflashy. Several of the artists are unfamiliar, buried by the oncoming celebrity avalanche, and the repertoire is relatively safe, with an emphasis on Mendelssohn, retrieved from Nazi oblivion, but no hint yet of Mahler. The audio quality is exemplary and the house style feels secure. Elsa Schiller knew her market.

Two conductors presided in pre-Karajan Berlin, Wilhelm Furtwängler at the Philharmonic and the Hungarian Ferenc Fricsay at the American-funded radio orchestra. For gossamer string playing, Fricsay’s orchestra often outshines the Berlin Philharmonic. A pair of cello concertos, Haydn and Schumann, with the Italian soloist Enrico Mainardi, conducted by Fritz Lehmann, will serve to prove my point. Lehmann has faded from musical memory and Mainardi would nowadays be considered underpowered, placing serene beauty above muscularity. Music lovers were spoilt for choice of cello styles before stereo imposed a louder homogeneity.

Some of these mono retrievals, unheard for yonks, are quite indispensable. Karel Ancerl conducting the Shostakovich 10th with the Czech Philharmonic just 20 months after its Moscow premiere. The Leningrad Philharmonic playing Rachmaninov with Kurt Sanderling. Maria Stader and Rita Streich singing opera arias. The first Amadeus Quartet recording. A tender-voiced Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Brahms valedictions. All were Schiller discoveries, her hallmark artists.

The newbies recorded alongside such terrible old Nazis as Elly Ney, Wilhelm Kempff and Paul Van Kempen, for such was the foundation of the post-war German federal state, but the diversity of pianistic styles – from Sviatoslav Richter to Monique Haas – expunged the past more effectively than any past strictures.

A fraction of these recordings – Haas’s Ravel, Haskil’s Mozart Furtwängler’s Schubert G major – survived into the stereo era, but most are dazzling rediscoveries. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more vivacious account of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream than Fricsay’s and you’d need ears of cold steel to resist Fritz Lehmann’s account of the Brahms German Requiem. Impossible to imagine that technology pushed such elysian performances into a closet. Here they are, revived on 50 CDs, another medium that is now heading for obsolescence.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Polyphonic Extravagance Wows Audiences at the Gesù

Audience members circulate among the singers. Photo R. K. Basdeo

Musica Orbium, under the direction of Patrick Wedd, treated audiences to some stunning vocal performances at two performances of their concert "Extravagance Polyphonique" at the Église du Gesù last Sunday, April 17. The program, based around the illustrious motets Spem in alium by Tallis and Ecce beatam lucem by Striggio, also contained lesser-known gems, including works that predate the aforementioned motets such as Johannes Ockeghem's Deo gratia à 36 and Josquin des Prez's Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi for 24 voices, as well as contemporary works including Patrick Wedd's Nines₂, composed for Musica Orbium's tenth anniversary, and Gregg Smith's Sound Canticle on Bay Psalm 23.

Audiences enjoyed a significant degree of immersion, as they were not only physically surrounded by the choristers for certain pieces, but also invited to sing "in the round" themselves as Wedd turned to direct the audience in two- and four-part performances of Frère Jacques to illustrate the effect prior to conducting Knut Nystedt's Immortal Bach, a piece for 12 voices based on the first eight measures of Bach's Komm, süsser Tod and exploring the timbral possibilities contained therein. Audiences were also invited to stroll amongst the choristers at the end of each act, during reprises of Ecce beatam lucem and Spem in alium, in order to better appreciate the complexity of the harmonic textures created.

While it is arguably the most famous piece on the program, the origins of Tallis' Spem in alium are shrouded in mystery and speculation. The most widely-accepted version of events is that Tallis was inspired by Striggio, most probably by Ecce beatam lucem (though possibly, it has been argued, by the 40–60-voice mass Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno). Evidence for this is given in a colourful anecdote from a 1611 letter written by law student Thomas Wateridge:

In Queene Elizabeths time there was a songe sent into England of 30 parts (whence the Italians obteyned the name to be called the Apices of the world) which beeinge songe mad[e] a heavenly Harmony. The Duke of ______ bearing a great love to Musicke asked whether none of our English men could sett as good a songe, & Tallice beinge very skillfull was felt to try whether he would undertake the Matter, which he did and mad[e] one of 40 p[ar]ts which was songe in the longe gallery at Arundell house which so farre surpassed the other th[a]t the Duke hearinge of the songe tooke his chayne of gold from of his necke & putt yt about Tallice his necke & gave yt him.

Alessandro Striggio, who was a diplomat as well as a musician, visited London in 1567; it has been suggested that he carried with him the music for one or both of his aforementioned works and that this visit sparked the inspiration for Tallis' Spem in alium, which was composed around 1570. Ecce beatam lucem, however, originally called for instrumentation to accompany the four choirs; a 1568 performance included eight flutes, eight violas, eight trombones, harpsichord and bass lute.

Wateridge's anecdote (and its connection to Striggio) nevertheless has its critics. The letter does not refer to Striggio by name, and if Wateridge does mean Ecce beatam lucem, the "30" must be a misprint. The letter was also written almost 40 years after the events discussed would have occurred. There is evidence to suggest that Spem in alium was in fact composed under the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary, Elizabeth's predecessor. The original Latin text of the motet is drawn from Catholic liturgy -- specifically from the Old Testament Book of Judith, a biblical figure to whom Mary was often compared by court iconographers. Other historians have even suggested a later composition date for Spem in alium, suggesting that it was first performed in 1573 for Queen Elizabeth I's fortieth birthday.

A further connection in the program is the inclusion of the des Prez and Ockeghem pieces. While Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521) was the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music featured throughout "Extravagance polyphonique", he greatly admired and may have even studied under Ockeghem (c.1410/1425 - 1497).

The high point of the concert, however, may have been Gregg Smith's Sound Canticle on Bay Psalm 23. Based on the 1698 Bay Psalter, this piece made the most effective use of the singers' positioning around the audience to create a "spatial psalm". Each phrase of the original psalm is performed by four soloists at the front of the hall, and is echoed and transformed by the choir singer by singer, creating a sweeping sound that serves as a phenomenal demonstration of the capabilities of vocal music.

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Monday, 18 April 2016

Lebrecht Weekly - Argerich and Barenboim: Live from Buenos Aires (DG)

5/5 stars

The question is, what took them so long? Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim, born a year apart in Buenos Aires to Jewish mothers of Russian extraction, have left it until their mid-seventies to discover common ground. Both prodigious pianists, they sailed for Europe where their paths diverged.

Argerich won the Busoni and Chopin competitions and worked intensively with Italian conductors, notably Abbado, Muti, Sinopoli and Chailly. Barenboim determined from an early age to be an orchestral conductor. He had no need for other pianists. When he put on a concerto he could play it himself (or call in his mentor, Arthur Rubinstein). Argerich was renowned for her terrifying speeds and unflinching accuracy. Barenboim, as a pianist, was prone to human error while pursuing the bigger picture. They might have inhabited separate planets.

Until last summer, when they returned to Buenos Aires to play four-hand piano, playing as if they had played together all their lives. The intuition on this recording defies belief. The pair start out with six little-known Schumann canons, designed for middle-class drawing rooms. All very after-you, but that’s just the warm-up.

Debussy’s En blanc et noir is no piece for amateurs or chicken-livers. A tempo risk taken or declined can run the work totally out of sync. These two pianists achieve total trust from the opening note and take more risks than you’d think possible.

The climax is an account of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and percussion that, from a deceptively sedate starting point runs positively riot into all manner of cross-rhythms, atonalities, jazz, jumping beans and – did I hear that right? – tango. This is two-piano playing taken to altogether another level. You’re unlikely to hear better four-hand as long as you live.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Sunday, 17 April 2016

U.S. Premiere in Austin (Tx): “Compassion” Shows the Way Towards Peace and Understanding

Singer/songwriter "Lior" (left) and Australian composer Nigel Westlake (right)
Verdi: Nabucco Overture
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor “Unfinished”
Nigel Westlake/Lior Attar: Compassion (U.S. Premiere)
Lior Attar, singer
Austin Symphony Orchestra/Peter Bay
Long Center
Austin, Texas
Saturday, April 9, 2016
For many decades now, one of the most intractable problems facing world leaders has been the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Although experienced diplomats have tried their best to bring it about, peace seems beyond their reach. Over the years, a number of artists have tried to bridge the gap in their own ways.Daniel Barenboim, for example, created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to bring young Israeli and Arab musicians together and it has been a huge success. Now we have Compassion, a song cycle based on Arabic and Hebrew texts, a work that expresses the need for people of different cultures to reach out to each other with kindheartedness. At a time when demagogues everywhere are doing their best to turn people against each other, Compassion could not be more timely.

Westlake and Lior Collaboration Across Cultures

Nigel Westlake (1958-) is an Australian composer best known for his film scores. His most notable score was for the 1995 film Babe, which received seven Academy Award nominations. After hearing a concert by the singer-songwriter Lior Attar – or simply “Lior” – Westlake was moved to suggest a collaboration: “Following the concert I suggested to Lior that I take a solo vocal recording of his performance and create a symphonic arrangement around it.” This became the process the two followed in writing Compassion.
The message of Compassion is that the world would be a better place if we were all more understanding and welcoming of other cultures. The power of the work comes from the combination of text and music and the unique quality of Lior’s vocalizing. He has a vast range from bass to high falsetto and he creates the most beautiful melismatic patterns to express emotion.
It should be emphasized that while the seven songs in Compassionsound like traditional Middle Eastern melodies, only one – “Avinu Malkeinu” – is authentic. The others were composed by Lior to fit texts he found in his research into ancient Islamic and Judaic literature.

No Mimicking Here of Hollywood Biblical Epic Scores

I must confess that I was skeptical when I heard about the concept of the piece, fearing that we were in for some kind of half-baked New Age piece with little or no musical sophistication. In fact, Compassionis a deeply serious and complex work. Lior’s vocalism is hypnotic and infinitely expressive in itself. One can imagine him holding an audience spellbound all by himself. Westlake’s contribution is no less impressive. Using a very large orchestra including five percussionists, Westlake has created textures that are almost entirely original. In his score for Babe, Westlake made use of material from Saint-Saëns’Organ Symphony, but as far as I could tell, there is no borrowing inCompassion. In these songs, Westlake not only provides a symphonic background for Lior, but finds a multitude of ways in which to celebrate Middle Eastern music without actually quoting from it or offering some sort of pale imitation. No doubt as a major film composer himself, Nigel Westlake is familiar with the long history of scores for Hollywood Biblical epics. Let it be said that there is no trace of such bloated fakery in Compassion, and that is no small achievement.

A Piece Sure to Move Audiences the World Over

Peter Bay and the Austin Symphony (ASO) deserve enormous credit for bringing this fine piece to the United States, and this debut may well be the beginning of a whole series of performances across the country. That said, other orchestras will have to go some to match the high level of the performance by the ASO. Bay and his players teased out the minutest details with great care and tore through the trickiest rhythmic passages with total assurance.
The Austin audience loved this piece. Let’s hope they were responding to the importance of the message, as well as to the beauty of the music and the quality of the performance.
For the record, although the Verdi and Schubert pieces were played very well indeed, the most memorable part of the evening was, without a doubt, Compassion.
Over the course of his career, Paul Evans Robinson has acquired a formidable reputation as broadcaster, author, conductor, and teacher. He has communicated the joy of music to more than a generation of musicians and music lovers in Canada and elsewhere. Paul’s reviews and articles can be found on Classical Voice North AmericaLa Scena Musicale, and Musical Toronto. 

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Thursday, 14 April 2016

James Levine to Retire as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera

by Wah Keung Chan

Metropolitan Opera Music Director James Levine leading the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in a concert on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Breaking news: Conductor James Levine will be retiring as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera at the end of the current season for health reasons. He intends to conduct his remaining performances for the current Met season, which include the current run of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and a five-performance revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail later this month, as well as the May 19 and 26 MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. Levine will become the MET's first Music Director Emeritus.

See press release below.


Legendary Maestro James Levine to Retire as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera at the End of the Current Season;
Will Become The Company’s First Music Director Emeritus

New York, NY  (April 14, 2016) – Maestro James Levine, the Met’s Music Director since 1976, announced that after 40 years in the position, he will retire at the end of the current season, for health reasons. At that time, he will assume the new position of Music Director Emeritus. In this role, he will continue as the artistic leader of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, a training program for operatic talent he began in 1980, and will continue to conduct some Met performances. Next season, he will withdraw from the new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but plans to lead revivals of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri,Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’s Idomeneo—three works he has led more than any other conductor in Met history. 
He intends to conduct his remaining performances for the current Met season, which include the current run of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and a five-performance revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail later this month, as well as the May 19 and 26 MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. He will not conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 22.
Over the course of his unparalleled career at the Met, Levine has led 2,551 performances—far more than any other conductor in Met history—working with thousands of the world’s most gifted musicians and conducting more than 85 different operas, ranging from 18th century works to contemporary world premieres. In recent years, Levine has struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, making it increasingly difficult for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances.
“There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active and vital role in the life of the company when he becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the season.”
“Through 45 years of unwavering devotion, Maestro Levine has shaped the MET Orchestra into the world-class ensemble it is today,” said Jessica Phillips, chair of the orchestra committee and a clarinetist in the Met’s orchestra. “He has a unique ability to inspire those around him to perform to the best of their abilities and beyond. We eagerly anticipate his upcoming projects as Music Director Emeritus, which promise to add to an already incomparable legacy of tireless dedication and artistic integrity. It is an honor to carry the values Maestro Levine has instilled in us into this new era at the Metropolitan Opera—the house that Jimmy built.”
            Replacement conductors for this season’s May 22 Carnegie Hall concert, and for the remainder of Mo. Levine’s 2016-17 engagements—the new production of Der Rosenkavalier, and three May 2017 MET Orchestra Carnegie Hall concerts—will be announced in the coming days.
            A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.
             As Mo. Levine transitions to his new role at the Met, John Fisher, currently Director of Music Administration, has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Music Administration, effective immediately. Fisher’s duties include overseeing the Met’s staff conductors, rehearsal pianists, and prompters; coaching principal singers; and working with Mo. Levine and the conductors for each Met performance to prepare and maintain the highest level of musical quality.

James Levine at the Met
            Levine made his Met debut in 1971 at the age of 28, leading a performance of Puccini’s Tosca, and quickly became a company favorite. He was named Principal Conductor of the Met less than a year later, in February of 1972, and became Music Director in 1976.
            He has led a total of 2,551 performances with the company, including more than 2,000 opera performances at the Met itself as well as orchestral and chamber concerts, and national and international tours. This is more than twice the number led by any conductor in the company’s history.
            Perhaps more than any musician in Met history, Levine has been noted for the ever-expanding range of operatic repertory in which he excels, one of the hallmarks of his extraordinary career. He has led Met performances of works by 33 composers, ranging from the Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and Wagner operas that are staples of the company’s seasons to works by such composers as Berg, Berlioz, Bartók, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. Earlier this season, he conducted Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus for the first time in his Met career.
A tireless champion of new works and neglected masterpieces, Levine expanded the company’s repertory by leading the first-ever staged Met performances of Berg’s Lulu; Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Rossini’s La Cenerentola; Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, Stiffelio, and I Lombardi; Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito;Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Moses und Aron; Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; Busoni’s Doktor Faust; and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Lebrecht Weekly - NDR Symphony Orchestra/Krzysztof Urbanski (Alpha)

4/5 stars

Most composer reputations subside in the generation after their death. It’s as if posterity calls time out while deciding its final judgement.

Witold Lutoslawski is a notable exception to this hiatus rule. Since his death in 1994, performances of his music have become more frequent and his status has risen steadily among both modernists and conservatives. A Pole living under Stalinism, Lutoslawski was adept at facing both ways without sacrificing his creative principles. He wrote works of dangerous aleatory freedom and others of completely conventional form. All bore his unmistakable elegance.

The Concerto for Orchestra, premiered in 1954, was acclaimed by the Communist regime for its proletarian accessibility and by traditional musicians for its roots in Bartok’s famous work. Its only real debt, in fact, was owed to Lutoslawski’s imagination, as instruments of the orchestra play roles in a society in which individuals sometimes connect. The more I hear the Concerto, the more original it sounds – and this recording is among the most vivid I have heard. The blaring brass in the Passacaglia will scare the squirrels off your springtime lawn.

The album pairings are well-chosen. Bookending Lutoslawski’s creative life, the Little Suite of 1949 is a tonally centred yet psychologically disturbing knit of folk tunes, while the fourth symphony is a climactic summary, written post-Communism for the luxurious sound of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and premiered by the composer himself in February 1993. Less easy on the ear than the much-played third symphony, it looks back at a century when composers found ways to dissimulate in order to avoid state control. Concise at 20 minutes and surprisingly playful, it reveals the sanity and humour that went into a life’s achievement. The Hamburg-based NDR symphony orchestra play with high bloom and precision for Krysztof Urbanski, a fast-rising Polish conductor of a new generation.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Monday, 4 April 2016

Lebrecht Weekly - Ludmila Berlinskaya: Pasternak And Scriabin (Melodiya)

4/5 stars

You knew that the author of Doctor Zhivago was a composer, right?

You didn’t. Well sit back; this might take a while. One of the most iconic portraits of the mystical Russian musician Alexander Scriabin was painted by the distinguished arstist, Leonid Pasternak. The sitter so impressed the artist's 14 year-old son that Boris Pasternak promptly decided to become a composer and went to study for a while at the Moscow Conservatoire. Six years later he gave up writing music, but Scriabin’s influence proved formative and enduring, especially on his poetry.

Boris Pasternak later married the wife of the important piano teacher, Heinrich Neuhaus and became close friends with his pupil, Sviatoslav Richter. When Pasternak died, Richter sat by the body all night long, playing Scriabin - what else? - on an upright piano. Russian culture can sometimes be impenetrably incestuous.

The present album is played by Ludmila Berlinskaya, daughter of the Borodin Quartet cellist who grew up among the Moscow musical elite. She once recorded four-hand album with Svatoslav Richter. So it goes.

The two fascinating preludes that she plays by Boris Pasternak are over in no time at all, luminous and imaginative but utterly overwhelmed by the unique and inimitable surrounding colours of Scriabin at his peak. Berlinskaya is a tremendous Scriabin interpreter. She has lived in France for the past two decades and has fallen slightly by the Russian wayside but playing of this calibre demands to be heard. By way of encores, she offers four preludes by Scriabin’s son, Julian, a boy wonder who drowned in unexplained circumstances in 1919, aged 11. If you have even the slightest interest in Russian civilisation, you will need to experience this music without delay.

—Norman Lebrecht

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Cette semaine à Montréal (28 mars à 3 avril) / This Week in Montreal (March 28–April 3)

Musiciens de la Relève à Pro Musica

Le jeune violoniste Kerson Leong a déjà ébloui le monde de la musique. Il a remporté le premier prix junior du Concours Menuhin d’Oslo et le Tremplin au Québec. Il a été nommé par Radio-Canada révélation de l’année en 2014-2015. Au programme : Ravel, Poulenc, Debussy, Fauré, Gershwin et Dompierre. Le 30 mars, 15 h 30. ­

Emerging Musicians with Pro Musica

Young violinist Kerson Leong has taken the music world by storm. He won first junior prize at Oslo’s Menhuin Competition and the Tremplin in Quebec. He was named Radio-Canada Révélation winner in 2014-2015. He will play works by Ravel, Poulenc, Debussy, Fauré, Gershwin, and Dompierre. March 30, 3:30 pm.


Le sommet du classicisme viennois chez Camerata

Haydn, Mozart et le jeune Beethoven font partie de la Première école viennoise, au moment du changement de fonction des instruments à clavier. Dans le programme Purement Classique, Musica Camerata Montréal a invité les cornistes John Zirbel et Catherine Turner pour interpréter un quintette (Divertimento) de Haydn, le Concerto en do majeur no 13 de Mozart pour piano et quatuor à cordes, arrangé par Mozart lui-même en version de chambre, ainsi que le Sextuor pour deux cors et quatuor à cordes de Beethoven. Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, 2 avril, 18 h.

Camerata Relives the First Viennese School

When Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven experimented with the Viennese Classical Style, keyboard instruments changed forever. With Pure Classics, horn players John Zirbel and Catherine Turner will join Musica Camerata Montréal to perform a Haydn Divertimento, Mozart’s arrangement of his own Concerto No. 13 in C Major for piano and string quartet, and Beethoven’s Sextet for Two Horns and String Quartet. Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, April 2, 6 pm. 



C'est à Naples que le personnage de la commedia dell’arte a élu domicile. L'Ensemble Fuoco Cenere de France présentera deux versions de l’art quasi disparu du burattino (marionnette) sur la délicieuse musique de Pergolesi. La version courte de 50 minutes est présentée à 11 h, dans le cadre des Dimanches famille en musique. Le même jour à 15 h, on entendra la version longue de 90 minutes dans le cadre de l'exposition Pompei Viva. Salle Bourgie, 3 avril.


Pillow Talk, an essay on dreaming is the dreamy creation of renowned multi-disciplinary artist Dulcinea Langfelder. Centaur hosts this world premiere which transports theatregoers into the mystically surreal world of dreams and the unconscious. Seen through the 'rapid lens movement' of Langfelder herself, this one-woman show is a poignant, yet amusing exploration of life and imagination. Always starring in her own nocturnal play, the dreamer floats into an alternate reality, spawning a search for meaning in her waking life. Pillow Talk seeks to address inevitable questions about what dreams portend for everyday practical realities. March 29-April 24;

Quills, Usine C (16 mars au 9 avril)

Robert Lepage interprète le marquis de Sade dans cette pièce tirée de l’œuvre de Doug Wright sur la liberté d’expression. Enfermé à l’asile, le marquis continue malgré tout à publier ses écrits controversés. Napoléon Ier envoie donc le docteur Royer-Collard afin de faire taire l’écrivain. L’œuvre remet en question la censure. Collaboration de Robert Lepage et Jean-Pierre Cloutier.

Les Diablogues, Théâtre du Rideau Vert (29 mars au 23 avril 2016)

Tirée des sketches de Roland Dubillard, auteur et comédien français reconnu pour la vivacité de ses dialogues remplis de finesse et d’esprit, la pièce Les Diablogues amène ses interprètes à se livrer à un exercice d’argumentation humoristique. Les sujets les plus banals peuvent servir de point de départ à une joute orale qui permettra de poser un regard nouveau sur notre monde parfois étonnant. Mise en scène de Denis Marleau, avec Sylvie Léonard, Carl Béchard, Bernard Meney, Bruno Marcil, Olivier Morin et Isabeau Blanche.

Montréal dans l’œil de Vittorio

L’exposition Montréal dans l’œil de Vittorio. 50 ans de vie urbaine et de création graphique tire à sa fin au musée McCord. Jusqu’au 10 avril, vous pouvez voir les quelque 300 œuvres de Vittorio Fiorucci, au style unique très coloré, très graphique, qui consacre Montréal comme métropole culturelle.

Bruno Munari : pionnier de la modernité (1928-1945)

Du 10 mars au 17 avril, le Centre de design de l’Université du Québec accueille l’exposition Bruno Munari : pionnier de la modernité (1928-1945), un pionnier de l’art graphique dans la première moitié du XXe siècle. Le Milanais Munari a été graphiste, peintre, designer, éducateur, théoricien de l’art, auteur et illustrateur de livres pour enfants. Par l’entremise de son œuvre, cette exposition aborde la culture du design qui naît à Milan et dans laquelle on retrouve les fondements du design italien qui deviendra célèbre après 1945. L’Italie rivalisera alors avec la mode française pour s’imposer sur la scène internationale.