La Scena Musicale

Friday, 17 May 2013

Montreal International Music Competition: Marc Bouchkov Claims First Prize

By Christine Lee

(In order to prevent confusion between the two contestants Chi Li and Zeyu Victor Li, who share the same last name, Zeyu Victor Li is referred to with his full name in this article.)

The finals for the Montreal International Music Competition ended yesterday with the last three finalists performing a concerto with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra led by guest conductor Maxim Vengerov.

The night began with the young violinist from China, Zeyu Victor Lip performing Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D major, opus 35. Zeyu Victor Li played with ease, confidence, and personality. His phrasing displayed great musicality, especially in the first two movements. His clever use of diverse sound and articulation was astounding, and so was his vibrato. However, what set him apart the most from the other candidates was his musical direction, which involved the entire orchestra.

Zeyu Victor Li’s performance showcased his understanding of the piece’s structure. Every moment – a note, a melody, silence – led fluidly to the next . Each instance  created suspense, set up a climax, brought out a certain line, or prepared the next moment.

The piece was a complete entity: the soloist, when ending his solo parts, anticipated the phrasing and dynamics used by the orchestra, which created a sense of unity in the music.  This in turn inspired the orchestra to reciprocate with equal musicality.

Zeyu Victor Li continuously performed with the orchestra, commanding its attention, and connecting with its musicians, often turning to make eye contact with Maestro Vengerov.

In the second movement, Zeyu Victor Li’s singing tone, coupled with his natural vibrato, showcased the desolation and solitude inherent in Tchaikovsky’s score. A few weeks before he composed his violin concerto, Tchaikovsky, trapped in an unhappy marriage, attempted suicide.

Zeyu Victor Li breezed through the last movement, the most technically challenging section, with a clear technique, clean and on key. He was probably the candidate with the best technique, in both the bowing and the left hand.

Perhaps the only thing somewhat lacking in the final movement was a hint of delirious happiness, the kind that Tchaikovsky might have felt as he was composing this violin concerto: he finally divorced and immersed himself in his work. He was so enthralled by the idea of a violin concerto that he set aside his work on the piano sonata he had been working on to concentrate. The last movement in his violin concerto in D major most probably reflects the ultimate happiness, relief and freedom he found in music.

The night continued with another Tchaikovsky violin concerto, performed by Fédor Roudine, hailing from France.

Roudine’s sound was elegant, light, sweet and enchanting. From the first movement, he played with an earthy tone and brought out the melodic aspect of the music. He showcased a beautiful legato. Unfortunately, the orchestra did not follow Roudine’s style, and played in a more ‘Russian’ style – a little more detached, with more accents and thicker in tone. Overall, this created a disjointed feeling. Also, because the first movement was so elegant and beautiful, there was very little contrast with the second movement, which is meant to showcase the melodic aspect. As such, the latter movement did not have the expected impact, which is a shame because Roudine’s interpretation was beautiful and very sensitive. Perhaps he tried to compensate by choosing a slower tempo, but it was not enough to impress the judges.

The third movement, which should be uplifting, did not have the appropriate character. Roudine’s technique was good, but at times there were problems with pitch. It is to be noted, however, that Roudine performed his last movement much faster than the other candidates.

The last performer of the night and of the competition was Stephen Waarts, performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D major. As in his semi-final recital, Waarts displayed a beautiful tone and a majestic sound. Every time Waarts played the melody, it sang and resounded with sensitivity, and it moved the piece forward. Though he was slightly nervous at the beginning, he truly brought out the eerie and worrying spirit of the first movement. The young violinist offered a palette of intense moments, especially in the cadenza, where he performed with great contrasts.

In the second movement, Waarts’s musicality and phrasing were truly showcased. Undoubtedly, his sense of melody is his strength: every note, every crescendo, and every vibrato had its place. Everything was on key. (Definitely a must listen!)

The last movement of the Brahms Violin Concert in D major possesses a jolly, almost playful spirit, with some gypsy influence: detachés, portamentos, double-stops, dotted-rhythms, accents and glissando. Brahms wrote his violin concert for his friend, Joseph Joachim (to whom the piece is dedicated), and no doubt, this movement is a wink at the latter’s Hungarian background. Waarts’ rendition of the piece captured just that spirit, and gave it a dancing feeling. Waarts’s beautiful counterpuntal melodic line was also noteworthy and brilliant.

Though the soloist and orchestra were not always together, the audience showered Waarts with thunderous applause and cries of ‘Bravo!’ A rather comical situation then occurred: perhaps shy, the young violinist slipped away, before Vengerov had a chance to shake the hands of the concertmaster or have the orchestra rise, and so Waarts was ushered back on stage. The applause doubled, and with one last bow, Waarts, Vengerov and the musicians left the stage.

After a rather long deliberation (during which the audience was encouraged to vote for their favourite performance by depositing their choice in a ballot), the judges finally revealed the results of the Montreal International Music Competition:
  • First place: Marc Bouchkov ($30 000 first prize with a ‘Sartory’ model bow valued at $3 700)
  • Second place: Stephen Waarts ($15 000 second prize)
  • Third place: Zeyu Victor Li ($10 000 third prize)
All the prizes, including Radio Canada People’s Choice Award, the Award for the best performance of the compulsory Canadian work, the Wilder & Davis Award for the best semi-final recital and three MIMC grant for three unranked finalists, will be officially awarded during the Gala Concert on Friday, May 17, at 7:30pm, in the Maison symphonique de Montréal.

Don’t miss these three young violinists, who will perform once again under Maxim Vengerov’s baton and with the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal!


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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Montreal International Music Competition Finals in Violin - Day 1

By Christine Lee

The Montreal International Music Competition finals began last night, attracting hundreds to the Maison Symphonique, where the first three of six finalists performed with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, directed by Maxim Vengerov.

The first to take the stage was Chi Li, from Taiwan, who performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, opus 35. A true chameleon, the young violinist was sensitive and subtle in his phrasing, delicate in all his changes and inflexions. Playing with a steady and singing tone, Li brought out beautiful moments in Tchaikovsky’s music. Unfortunately, Li did not truly assume his role as a soloist as many parts were drowned out by the orchestra. Communication between soloist and conductor was also not superb. The last movement was written by Tchaikovsky to showcase dexterity, technique and a dancing, almost folk-type character, all of which was hardly displayed, partly due to the soloist and orchestra not performing together, as a single entity.  However, the cadenza Li performed at the end of the first movement was very expressive.

Ji Young Lim, from South Korea, was next. Choosing Brahms’s Violin Concerto in D major, opus 77, she demonstrated a large palette of sound, great dynamic range, and sought out the different characters in the piece. Sometimes dramatic, other times gentle, Lim phrased everything with musicality. It was easy to listen to her perform, to be taken away and transported to her musical world where she led the audience from one movement to the next. Her technique was also clear and precise, making everything seem easy.

Belgian Marc Bouchkov was last to perform and also chose Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Bouchkov displayed confidence as well as character. His performance was convincing and very contrasting, especially when he began the second movement with a completely different sound, creating a totally new atmosphere. Though the dynamic was soft, the sound was present, and not at all insubstantial. The young violinist knew how to play with the suspense and made great use of the time-space element, for example, by letting the orchestra clearly conclude their section and taking time to breathe before his candenza. In this last movement, Bouchkov’s connection with orchestra and conductor, and ability to create music together was truly showcased. The difficulty lies in the orchestra often playing on the upbeats while the soloist is required to perform difficult technical passages. Bouchkov managed to achieve not only this, but also to convey at the same, the dance-y and almost comical character of this section. Unfortunately, throughout, there were slight problems with the pitch and intonation. His technique, however, was clear and strong.

After the concert, Ji Young Lim, the candidate from South Korea, met briefly with LSM. She was very bubbly and laughed as she spoke about her experience, “I’m happy, and so excited after [performing] at the concert. I feel relieved and finally free now.” She enjoyed her stay in Montreal and she joked that “Montreal is really pretty, [but] sometimes the weather is so strange.” As to whether or not she thought she did well in her performance, she laughed and answered, “Actually, I can’t remember what I did on the stage so I’m not sure... but yes, probably yes.” Lim thanks her family, her teacher, her host family, and all of her friends for their support.

The second part of the finals takes place tonight, at the Maison Symphonique, at 7:30pm. The winner of competition, who will take home the first prize of 30 000$, and the other laureates will be announced after the performances.

If you missed one of the performances, CBC music has all the audio as well as some pictures of the finals and semi-finals uploaded. Check it out at


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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Montreal International Music Competition Enters Finals

by Christine Lee

The Montreal International Music Competition is well underway, with the semi-finals over, and the final stage with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra about to begin. Of the twelve young violinists, only six are moving on to the finals, and will be performing at the Maison Symphonique under Maxim Vengerov’s baton, on May 14th and May 15th.

The six finalists are Ji Young Lim (South Korea), Chi Li (Taiwan), Marc Bouchkov (Belgium), Zeyu Victor Li (China), Fédor Roudine (France), and Stephen Waarts (United States).

The semi-finals spanned over two days, and were divided into three sections, each gathering an audience that cheered on their favorites and noted their own rankings.

Zeyu Victor Li, hailing from China, was the first candidate to perform in the last section of the semi-finals. Exuding a strong personality as well as confidence through his music, and expressing both musicality and sensibility of a mature violinist, Li charmed the entire hall with his programme: Prokofiev’s Sonata no.2 in D major, Lutoslawski’s Subito, Massnet’s Méditation de Tha
ïs, and Milsten’s Paganiniana. He played with great technique and every note was on key.

Stephen Waarts, from the United States of America, was the next candidate performing in the final segment of the semi-finals. Though slightly nervous at first, the tone of his violin did not waver. Of all the candidates that night, Waarts produced the most warm and beautiful sound which greatly suited his programme: Ravel’s Sonata in G major, Penderecki’s Cadenza, Szymanowski’s Nocturne et Tarentelle, op.28, and Elgar’s La Capricieuse, op. 17.

Although both Li and Waarts study with the same teacher, Aaron Rosand, at the Curtis Institute of Music, both had distinct sound and each displayed different and unique characters in their music.
Marc Bouchkov, a native from Belgium, revealed great lyricism in his program: Brahms’s Sonata in D minor, op. 108, Ernst’s Die letzte Rose, Kissine’s Caprice. His technique was strong and flashy and impressed the audience, which chorused cries of ‘Bravo’!

All the candidates will perform a concerto with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra: either Tcha
ïkovsky’s D major Concerto, op. 35 or Brahms’s Concerto in D major, op.77. Sibelius’s D minor Concerto, op. 47 unfortunately was not amongst the choice of the six finalists.

Kudos to Philip Chiu, the accompanying pianist for Waarts, who performed with flair and gave a solid and musical support for the young violinist.

The jury consists of André Bourdeau (Canada), Vladimir Landsman (Canada), Martin T. Engstroem (Sweden), Rodney Friend (United Kingdom), Michael Frischenschlager (Austria), Yuzuko Horigome (Japan), Régis Pasquier (France), Barry Shiffman (Canada), Mark Kaplan (United States), and Kathleen Winkler (United States).

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 13 au 19 mai

Festival de Musique de Chambre de Montréal (FMCM)
La saison des festivals de musique d'été s'ouvre avec le FMCM, dont la 18e édition se déroule jusqu’au 1er juin à l'église anglicane Saint-Georges. Fidèle à la tradition, le directeur artistique Denis Brott ne nous ménage pas les surprises. On pourra entendre entre autres les quatuors Emerson et Fine Arts, les Swingle Singers, le pianiste Jean-Philippe Collard et Oliver Jones. Le marathon de quatre heures est consacré cette année à Tchaïkovski.
- Renée Banville
Concert prestige
Le CMIM annonce un prestigieux concert réunissant le violoniste Maxim Vengerov, le violoncelliste Stéphane Tétreault et le pianiste Serhiy Salov, premier Prix du CMIM en 2004. Accompagnés par l'Orchestre de chambre I Musici et son chef Jean-Marie Zeitouni, ils interpréteront le Triple concerto de Beethoven. La 7e Symphonie complétera le programme. Maison symphonique de Montréal, 13 mai à 19 h 30.
- Renée Banville
Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM)
Le CMIM accueillera Maxim Vengerov à titre de chef d'orchestre officiel de l'édition violon 2013 du CMIM qui se déroule jusqu’au 17 mai. M. Vengerov dirigera l'OSM pour accompagner les finalistes les 14 et 15 mai, ainsi que les lauréats le 17 mai à la Maison symphonique de Montréal.
- Renée Banville
Manon de Jules Massenet par l’Opéra De Montréal
Pour la dernière production de sa saison 2012-2013, l’Opéra de Montréal présente Manon de Jules Massenet. Après avoir été acclamée à l’Opéra national de Paris dans ce rôle l’année dernière, Marianne Fiset incarnera Manon dans la production montréalaise.  La distribution comprendra également Bruno Ribeiro (Des Grieux), Gordon Bintner (Lescaut), Alain Coulombe (Le Comte des Grieux), Alexandre Sylvestre (De Brétigny), Guy Bélanger (Guillot), Frédérique Drolet (Poussette), Florie Valiquette (Javotte) et Emma Char (Rosette). Le chef de l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec Fabien Gabel dirigera l’Orchestre métropolitain et la mise en scène sera de Brian Deedrick. Quatre représentations auront lieu à la salle Wilfrid-Pelletier les 18, 21, 23 et 25 mai 2013 à 19 h 30.
- Daniel Turp
La soprano Chantal Dionne à Pro Musica
Dans le cadre la série Dominicana, la société Pro Musica aura comme invitée la soprano Chantal Dionne. Le programme du récital comprendra les Poèmes de Victor Hugo de Franz Liszt ainsi que des œuvres de Sergei Rachmaninov et Joseph Canteloube. Ce récital aura lieu à la salle Bourgie du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal le dimanche 19 mai 2013 à 14 h.
 - Daniel Turp

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This week in Montreal: May 13 – 19

Montreal Chamber Music Festival (MCMF/FMCM)
The musical festival season opens with the MCMF. The 18th editition takes place from May 9 to June 1 at St. George’s Anglican Church. True to tradition, artistic director Denis Brott spares us no surprises. Performers include the Emerson and Fine Arts Quartets, the Swingle Singers, and pianists Jean-Philippe Collard and Oliver Jones, to name a few. This year’s four-hour marathon is dedicated to Tchaikovsky.
- Renée Banville
Concert Prestige
The MIMC has announced a prestigious concert bringing together violinist Maxim Vengerov, cellist Stéphane Tétrault, and pianist Serhiy Salov, 2004 grand prize winner of the MIMC. Accompanied by the I Musici chamber orchestra under the direction of Jean-Marie Zeitouni, they will perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. The 7th Symphony completes the program. Montreal Symphony House, May 13 at 7:30 pm.
- Renée Banville
Montreal International Musical Competition (MIMC/CMIM)
The MIMC welcomes Maxim Vengerov to the post of official conductor of the 2013 Violin edition of the competition, which runs from May 6 to 17. Mr. Vengerov will conduct the OSM, accompanying the finalists on May 14 and 15, as well as the winners on May 17 at the Montreal Symphony House. The first round takes place May 7 to 11 at Bourgie Hall.
- Renée Banville
Jules Massenet’s Manon at the Opéra de Montréal
For the final production of the 2012-13 season, the Opéra de Montréal presents Jules Massenet’s Manon. After an acclaimed performance of the role at the Opéra National de Paris last year, Marianne Fiset sings Manon in the Montreal production. The cast also includes Bruno Ribeiro (Des Grieux), Gordon Binter (Lescaut), Alain Coulombe (Le Comte des Grieux), Alexandre Sylvestre (De Brétigny), Guy Bélanger (Guillot), Frédérique Drolet (Pousette), Florie Valiquette (Javotte) and Emma Char (Rosette). The conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Fabien Gabel, conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain and Brian Deedrick provides stage direction. Four performances take place at salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on May 18, 21, 23, and 25 at 7:30 pm.
- Daniel Turp
Soprano Chantal Dionne at Pro Musica
As part of the Dominicana Series, Pro Musica invites soprano Chantal Dionne. The program includes Franz Liszt’s Poèmes de Victor Hugo as well as works by Sergei Rachmaninov and Joseph Canteloube. The recital takes place at Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Fine Arts Museum, Sunday May 19 at 2 pm.
- Daniel Turp

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

This Week in Toronto (May 13 - 19)

2012-13 COC Ensemble Studio members (top l. to r. Neil Craighead, Jenna Douglas, Mireille Asselin, Claire de Sevigny, Owen McCausland; bottom l. to r. Rihab Chaieb, Timothy Cheung, Ambur Braid, Cameron McPhail, Sasha Djihanian. Absent: Christopher Enns) Photo: Chris Hutcheson

There are plenty of exciting events this week for voice fans.  The Christina and Louis Quilico Awards takes place on Monday May 13 5:30 - 7:30 pm at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre.  Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico established this award to honour the memory of her late husband, the great Canadian baritone Louis Quilico. This award is designed to recognize, support and encourage young singers, pianists and composers for voice.  Since its first competition in 2003, many of the recipients have gone on to flourishing careers. The Monday competition will be the 5th edition.  Candidates are members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Out of a submitted list of three pieces by each contestant, each will sing one aria of his/her choice, plus one chosen by the jury panel. The Ensemble lineup this year is particularly strong, so we can look forward to an exciting event. Current Ensemble member pianists Timothy Cheung and Jenna Douglas will be at the keyboard. Members of the jury includes COC Director Alexander Neef, mezzo-soprano and former Ensemble member Janet Stubbs, and pianist/vocal coach Stuart Hamilton. Given the special nature of this free event, be sure to show up at least an hour ahead of time to ensure a seat. Details of the participants and their submitted repertoires is at

Judith Forst as Madame de Croissy (Photo: Michael Cooper)

I attended the opening night performance of Dialogues of the Carmelites last Wednesday, the last of the three Canadian Opera Company's spring season productions to open. It completely blew me away. Even since I saw the opera for the first time at the Met in 1977, it has become one of my very favorite operas and I regularly travel to other houses to catch this. The astounding Robert Carsen production, previously seen at Nederlandse Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, is austere, cutting through all the trappings of conventional grand opera straight to the emotional core of the work. It has just been announced that the Carsen production will be staged at Covent Garden next season. Whether Catholic or atheist, I dare say this piece will not leave one unmoved. For me, the outstanding performance on May 8th was the Madame de Croissy of Canadian mezzo Judith Forst. I saw her galvanizing Croissy six years ago at the Vancouver Opera, and this time around, it's even more intense and gut-wrenching, if that's possible. I feel so privileged to have experienced her great artistry once again. The rest of the cast was equally strong, with Isabel Bayrakdarian reprising her Blanche from Chicago, and Adrianne Pieczonka singing her first Lidoine. I was also very impressed by the plangent tenor of Frederic Antoun (a fabulous Tamino here three seasons ago) as the Chevalier. And one mustn't forget the warm stage presence and crystalline tones of Quebec soprano Helene Guilmette as a most sympathetic Constance, a role I saw her sing so beautifully in Munich two years ago in a very Regie-driven production. To be honest, I enjoyed the Carsen production much better.  On Wednesday, the chorus under Sandra Horst was great and the sound coming out of the orchestra under Johannes Debus was glorious. For me this Dialogues, together with the Tristan, are the two crowning achievements of this season.  Three performances this week, on May 14, 17 and 19. If you haven't seen Atom Egoyan's take on Salome, you can catch it on Thursday May 16. We have a brand new Jochanaan in American bass-baritone Alan Held who has taken over from Martin Gantner. Lucia di Lammermoor can be seen this week on May 15 and 18.  

One of the most interesting singers' training programs is COSI, short for Centre for Opera Studies in Italy. Under the direction of Professor Darryl Edwards, this summer program in Sulmona Italy gives the opportunity for aspiring singers to learn their craft and experience another culture. On Tuesday May 14 and Wednesday May 15 at the Heliconian Hall in Yorkville, COSI is launching a new initiative, the COSI Connection, with the world premiere of a new opera by Andrew Ager, The Wings of the Dove. Directed by Michael Patrick Albano, the opera features COSI participants, all with fresh, youthful voices, and with the composer himself at the piano. For more information, go to

Pianist Kirill Gerstein (

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting three performances this week of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, with guest soloist Kirill Gerstein and guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero.  The performance Wednesday is part of the "Afterworks" series, meaning a shortened program (75 minutes), early start (6:30 pm) and no intermission. The other piece on the program is Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture. Performances on May 16 and 18 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall are regular length, with the addition of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra

Soprano Miriam Khalil (photo: Nikola Novak)

After the highly praised double-bill of Janacek and Kurtag, the cutting-edge Against the Grain Theatre is once again pushing the artistic envelope, this time with Figaro's Wedding, a re-imagined version of Le nozz di Figaro featuring Mozart's score but with a rewritten libretto by Joel Ivany, as I understand re-situated to Toronto!  The opening is May 29, but we can get a sneak preview on Thursday noon May 16 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  There's no orchestra, instead it's piano with Christopher Mokrzewski, and a string quartet. In keeping with the unorthodox style of ATG, the casting is highly unusual. It stars former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Miriam Khalil as Susanna while a lighter-voiced soprano (Lisa diMaria) is the Contessa.  Stephen Hegedus is Figaro and a high soprano (Teiya Kasahara) is Cherubino. Baritone Alexander Dobson sings "Alberto", a character that doesn't exist in the original. I am assuming it replaces the Count?  We'll find out soon enough!  Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat to this free event.

Noel Edison (Photo:
The august Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is presenting one of the most sublime of oratorios, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, on Wednesday May 15 7:30 pm at Koerner Hall. The quartet of soloists are soprano Shannon Mercer, mezzo Krisztina Szabo, tenor Michael Colvin and baritone Michael Adair. Noel Edison conducts the choir and the orchestra.  This is one oratorio that is performed quite frequently - the last time I saw it was with soprano Christine Brewer at the San Francisco Symphony two years ago. It's time for a revisit!

- Joseph So

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