La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 29 June 2014

This Week in Montreal: June 30 to July 6

Concerts Populaires Celebrates 50 Years:

In June 1964, at the initiative of mayor Jean Drapeau, the first event of the Concerts Populaires took place: a homage to Vienna with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under the baton of Alexander Brott. This year, the Orchestre Métropolitain, directed by Julian Kuerti, will performs an integral reproduction of the 1964 inaugural concert with soprano Aline Kutan. Six concerts will beare presented between June 26 and July 31 at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau, Thursdays at 7:30 pm. www.concertspopulairesdemontreal.com
 - Renée Banvillee

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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Muti in Chicago (first in a series of three articles)


Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Schubert: Symphony No. 6 in C major D.589 (1818)
Mozart: Bassoon Concerto in B flat major K. 191 (1774)
Schubert: Symphony No. 1 in D major D. 82 (1813)

David McGill, bassoon
Chicago Symphony/Riccardo Muti

Orchestra Hall, Chicago
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Many years ago Riccardo Muti recorded all the Schubert symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic. The recordings were widely praised for their elegance and warmth. Now Muti has brought his authority in Schubert to Chicago. Over the course of the 2013-2014 season he has been presenting all eight symphonies. There are other symphonic movements and unfinished fragments but Muti has chosen to ignore them and concentrate on the acknowledged canon. This latest installment in the Chicago series showed that Muti’s approach has not changed much over the years in spite of major developments in our understanding of performance practice in Schubert’s time.

Muti is not playing the symphonies in chronological order. The “Great” C major, so-called because of its length and power, has already been played. The “Little” C major is a much slighter work and often ignored by conductors because it suffers by comparison. In its own right, however, it is modestly grand and contains its share of inspired Schubertian melody. Muti used a reduced orchestra and made sure that the essential classical restraint of the work was honored. This meant that the fortes were never pushed, tempos were moderate, vibrato was limited and phrasing tasteful rather than romantically inflated.

For some listeners the overall effect might have been boring. To my ears, however, what Muti and his players did was prepared with the most careful attention to detail and beautiful in every respect. I was struck by Muti’s handling of the softer passages. There is a lot of repetition in Schubert and orchestral players tend to play this music at a mezzo forte volume from beginning to end – and this is where the boredom sets in. Muti demanded soft playing from the strings – often giving the effect of a musical whisper - that forced the listener to pay attention.

Muti’s approach to the very early Symphony No. 1 was similar, except that he managed to breathe more life into this slight work than I had ever heard before. The “inside” parts in the slow movement were a revelation. While attention is rightly focused on the melodies – usually in the winds – Muti brought out other lines in the music that changed the mood, often making the overall effect a little darker. But the conductor did this in a way that was not the least bit exaggerated; the conductor’s art indeed!

The last movement is by its very nature exuberant but Muti made the music even more joyous. Here the secret was crispness of articulation. But Muti also showed real mastery in balancing the classical orchestra. The Schubert First is scored for strings, a handful of winds and trumpets and timpani. The two trumpets can easily drown out the small string section. But there are moments when they need to be heard, at something close to full power. Muti got it exactly right. The trumpets mostly blended into the orchestral texture but in the final movement when their moments came they burst forth splendidly. This was no accident and it needs to be judged with great care. Fine playing and masterly conducting. I’ll have more to say about Muti and historically-informed performance practice in the next two articles in this series.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg
The other work on the program was Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, undoubtedly the finest concerto yet written for the instrument. It is always a pleasure to hear it but this was a special occasion. David McGill (photo: left), a beloved Chicago Symphony principal player was retiring from the orchestra to take a full-time teaching position at Northwestern University. McGill has held principal positions in the Toronto Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra but Chicago was the place he stayed for the longest time – seventeen years - and it was in Chicago that he chose to end his orchestral career.

McGill is one of the finest bassoonists to ever take up the instrument and on the evidence of this concerto performance he is going out at the very top of his game. McGill is the kind of bassoonist who makes the opening of le sacre du printemps sound angelic rather than strangled. In the Mozart, no matter what register he was playing in, the sound was beautiful and totally under control. The Mozart Bassoon Concerto is in no sense a “technical” piece and yet the composer made sure that only the finest players could meet the challenges he set them.

McGill composed his own cadenzas for this performance and there were stylistically appropriate and just the right length. Muti and McGill’s CSO colleagues accompanied with perfection. The ovation at the end, from audience members and players alike was extraordinarily heartfelt.

In the next article in this series on “Muti in Chicago,” I will review the last Muti-CSO concert of the current season, devoted to Schubert and Mahler. The final article will offer an account of the remarkable meeting held recently in Chicago between Muti and members of the Music Critic’s Association of North America (MCANA). 

Paul Robinson
 
is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. For friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, “Classical Airs.”



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Sunday, 22 June 2014

This Week in Montreal: June 23 to 29



Concerts Populaires Celebrates 50 Years

In June 1964, at the initiative of mayor Jean Drapeau, the first event of the Concerts Populaires took place: a homage to Vienna with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under the baton of Alexander Brott. This year, the Orchestre Métropolitain, directed by Julian Kuerti, will performs an integral reproduction of the 1964 inaugural concert with soprano Aline Kutan. Six concerts will be presented between June 26 and July 31 at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau, Thursdays at 7:30 pm. www.concertspopulairesdemontreal.com 
 - Renée Banville

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Luminato 2014 ends with Triumphant Gender-bending Song Fest

If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway
An Evening of Love Duets

Rufus Wainwright
Josh Groban
Brent Carver
David Byrne
Boy George
Ezra Koenig
Steven Page
Brennan Hall
Steven Oremus, Music Director
June 14th, 2014  7:30 pm
Sony Centre, Toronto

The electronic billboard of If I Loved You in the lobby of Sony Centre



For my money, Luminato 2014 saved its best for last - well, not quite the last but the pentultimate day of the Festival - with Rufus Wainwright's If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway.  It was billed as an evening of love duets with a twist - Broadway show tunes meant for heterosexual romance are sung here by men and for men. Who could be more appropriate to create such a show than the inimitable Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright?  After all, he told Martin Knelman of the Toronto Star that his boyhood dream was to play Annie on Broadway. For this show, he has gathered an "A list" of male singers to appear with him - Josh Groban, Brent Carver, and Boy George among them. It was sold out, no mean feat given the cavernous size of the Sony Centre.

Rufus Wainwright

The pre-show atmosphere was electric, with a a real sense of occasion.   Right after the orchestra's introductory medlay, Wainwright came on and sang "I hate Men" from Kiss Me Kate.  Well that sure got everyone's attention! The first half ended with "If I Loved You" from Carousel.  In between, there were many memorable moments, such as the nice duet between Wainwright and David Byrne of "People Will Say We're in Love" from Oklahoma, even if Byrne had a bit of an off night vocally. It was great to see (and hear) Brent Carver as a late replacement for Andrew Rennalls, singing a song from Funny Girl.  It was a glitzy evening that could become rather stiff and overblown, but that didn't happen thanks to the warmly funny and endearingly relaxed Wainwright and the good will from the audience.  For me, the true highlight was the duet between Wainwright and Josh Groban in "If I Loved You" - hearing all eight vocalists back to back, it was obvious that Groban has the most amazing set of pipes among them - Bravo!


(l. to r.) Steven Page, Josh Groban, Boy George, Brent Carver, Brennan Hall, David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright

The set was simple but it did the job, with four floor-mounted columns and twelve squares of LED lights suspended from the top.  The staging was also quite minimal - basically everyone just stood and sang, which was enough for the highly appreciative audience. Technically it went well except for one instance - in the "Wunderbar" duet between Wainwright and countertenor Brennan Hall, Hall's mike wasn't on. They started again from the beginning and it sailed through without any further glitches.  I had not heard Brennan Hall before, but I've heard plenty of countertenors in opera. I must say Hall has just a remarkable and very beautiful countertenor, and I would love to hear him on the opera stage in the future, without amplification. 


Final Bows (l. to r.) Ezra Koenig, Steven Page, Josh Groban, David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright, Brent Carver, Boy George, Brennan Hall

I was curious about Boy George, who was of course a mega-star from the 80's and is apparently still going strong. Based on this evening, the voice itself was sounding a little tired and grainy - possibly from jet-lag - but his out-sized personality was much in evidence and his "My Man's Gone Now" was a highlight.  Of course one of the funniest moments was Wainwright and George in Cole Porter's "You're the Top."  Wainwright said to the audience that the other singers didn't want to do this number with him, and Boy George dead-panned "I'm versatile!" This was also Boy George's birthday, and a small cake was wheeled on stage and the audience joined the singers on stage for a round of "Happy Birthday".
Boy George having his Cake and Eat it too!

A touching moment was the singing of "Somewhere" from West Side Story with the whole cast - it was as close to a political statement as it got in the whole show.  (In the TimesTalks interview, Wainwright expands on his thoughts about the significance of this show in gay culture and politics.) The guests were mostly great, but it really was Wainwright's show and he shone, particularly in "Can't Stop Loving that Man". The large orchestra under the inspired musical direction of Stephen Oremus was fine. This show is supposed to be repeated in the future, and I am sure the various agents and presenters are feverishly working on it right now. Incidentally, someone at TimesTalks interview I attended the next day asked if a soundtrack would be released from the show.  Wainwright replied a future performance may be taped for release but not the Toronto show - too bad.  

TimesTalks (l. to r.) Josh Groban, Rufus Wainwright, Jon Pareles

Based on the comments from the interview, those people who missed the show may be able to catch it in the future, likely in New York or London.  And if you missed the interview - well, you are in luck! It has been posted on Youtube in the Luminato channel, at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkSsQgrxoIc  Enjoy!

- Joseph So

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Monday, 16 June 2014

Bernard Labadie In Munich




It was recently announced that Quebec conductor Bernard Labadie would step down from his post as music director of Les Violons du Roy. He will become founding director, presumably a title which suggests far less conducting than in the past. Now comes an announcement this past week that Labadie has cancelled all conducting engagements through the rest of 2014 "for health reasons."

In the past few seasons Labadie has become incredibly busy as a guest conductor with orchestras around the world. He is an authority of historical performance practice and a very welcome guest conductor wherever he goes. We understand that Labadie is being treated in Germany for an undisclosed illness. This is sad news and we wish him every success with his treatment. We look forward to seeing him back on the podium early in 2015.

In our video this week Bernard Labadie conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony in C.P.E. Bach's Symphony in E flat major Wq 179. The performance was recorded in concert just a few months ago.


Paul E. Robinson

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

This Week in Toronto (June 16 - 22)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the week of June 16 to 22*

Joseph So

*This post concludes This Week in Toronto Blog for the concert season of 2013-14. It will resume in September to coincide with the start of the new season. There will be one more posting in mid July - a preview of the Toronto Summer Music Academy (July 22 - August 12), plus an interview with the TSMF Artistic Director, Douglas McNabney. 


American composer George Gershwin


Now that it's mid June, the 2013-14 concert season is coming to an end and the summer festival programming hasn't yet begun. Top on my list this week is the Gershwin program at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  Conductor Bramwell Tovey makes a welcome return to the TSO to conduct highlights from Gershwin's famous American folk opera, Porgy and Bess. The performance practice of this work is complex. Last year I wrote a short article on this work in conjunction with the Opera de Montreal staging of this masterpiece, published in the December 2013 issue of La Scena Musicale. www.scena.org/lsm/sm19-4/sm19-4_porgy&bess_en.html  Gershwin drew his inspiration from a 1924 novel, Porgy by DuBose Heyward, a resident of South Carolina. The character is based on a local handicapped black man who was indicted for a crime of passion. The novel inspired a play and Gershwin's opera. It was finished in 1934 as a three-act grand opera with 19 principal characters and a large symphonic orchestra. Due to financing difficulties, the work was scaled back and closed after only 124 performances. A revival took place in 1942 as a much abbreviated Broadway musical, reduced to two acts with spoken dialogue. In 1952, an attempt to present it in its original operatic form starring the young Leontyne Price as Bess was met with mixed success. In the 50's and 60's, P&B was presented by jazz singers the likes of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The 70's saw a resurgence of this work as an opera with the studio recording conducted by Lorin Maazel. It was subsequently presented as an opera in Houston, the Met, Glyndebourne, New York City Opera, LA Opera and elsewhere.

American soprano Marquita Lister as Bess (Photo: Devon Cass)

The TSO performances on June 20 7:30 pm and June 21 8 pm feature a cast of African American singers with eminent operatic credentials - sopranos Marquita Lister and Lisa Daltirus, contralto Gwendolyn Brown, tenor Jermaine Smith, and baritone Alfred Walker. Lister, Walker and Smith are famous for their portrayl of Bess, Porgy and Sporting Life in opera houses around the world. Joining them is the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Given that the complete version last over three hours with two intermissions, the TSO is presenting only highlights, together with two symphonic works, the Cuban Overture and American in Paris.  Performances at the usual TSO venue of Roy Thomson Hall.  http://tso.ca/en-ca/Home.aspx

Baritone Alfred Walker as Porgy (Photo: Walter Hill)

A second important event this week is the presentation of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande by the Against the Grain Theatre. It stars Quebec baritone Etienne Dupuis as Pelleas, and soprano Miriam Khalil as Melisande. Gregory Dahl is Golaud and Alain Coulombe sings Arkel. The event takes place at the courtyard garden of the Tannenbaum Opera Centre, the home of the Canadian Opera Company. Joel Ivany is the stage director and Julien Leblanc the pianist. Performances on June 19, 21, 23, 25. This is quite an audacious undertaking by AtG, but they have the talents, the voices and the imagination to succeed. 
http://www.againstthegraintheatre.com/

Baritone Etienne Dupuis as Pelleas 



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This Week in Montreal: June 16 to 22

The Montreal Baroque Festival Goes Green

From June 19 to 22, nature is the theme! Chosen by artistic co-directors Susie Napper and Matthias Maute, the 12th edition of the festival will be presented on McGill University’s verdant campus. In addition to Redpath and Pollack Halls, audiences will have the opportunity to listen to music in sites that, while non-traditional for concerts, have stunning acoustic qualities and singular architectural elements.
On Thursday the 19 at 7 pm, Vivaldi e la natura brings together violinist Davide Monte and tenor and guitarist Nils Brown with l’Harmonie des Saisons. At 9 pm, sonatas and Venetian canzonas are presented by the Pallade Musica ensemblethe Pallade Musica ensemble presents sonatas and Venetian canzonas.
Friday the 20, three masterclasses are offered during the day. At 7 pm, a new opera-ballet, Les Indes mécaniques, highlights the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death. With Les Jardins chorégraphiques and Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière.
Saturday the 21, the day begins at 9 am with breakfast on the lawn and troubadour songs, featuring violas da gamba and recorders. In the afternoon, make way for songs about medieval hunts and fantasies for six violas da gamba. At 7 pm, the winners of the Bruce Haynes International Competition, accompanied by the Bande Montréal Baroque, perform Bach cantatas. A treasure hunt at 9 pm completes this busy day.
Sunday the 22 is devoted entirely to Beethoven. Various ensembles performing one after the other make a pianothon in two parts until the Grand Finale at 7 pm, which makes a beautiful finish to the great annual celebration of early music: Symphony Nno. 6 (Pastorale) and Piano Concerto Nno. 4 with Tom Beghin at the piano and Ensemble Caprice under the direction of Matthias Maute. www.montrealbaroque.com
 - Renée Banville

Suoni per il Popolo 2014: Pushing Boundaries

In 2001, the Casa del Popolo launched its festival, the Suoni per il Popolo. The first edition was a bold undertaking due to the fact that it focused entirely on avant-garde music and lasted no less than five weeks. Since then, it has scaled down its time frame to two and a half weeks while drawing steady support from a younger audience attracted to musical experimentation. This year’s edition, like all of its predecessors, runs for 18 days, from June 4 to 22. But that doesn’t mean it is simply content with the status quo. A look at its program reveals that is expanding in all directions. True to its mission, the Suoni will be stretching its boundaries by exploring the cutting edge of rock and punk, electronic, experimental, contemporary classical, folk and avant-pop. Not to be overlooked either is its jazz and improvised music content, but there will also be a focus on media arts and interactive technologies. All told, there are 68 shows on tap—several include two or more groups—and eleven film programs. Six workshop sessions are also scheduled, hosted by guest performers of all musical stripes, some of which allow amateur musicians to join in.
This year, new activities have been added. First, the festival, in conjunction with the Bozzini Quartet, has put together a conference around the life and work of visionary British composer Cornelius Cardew, including a performance of his masterwork “Treatise”. Another first is Cartel MTL, an international symposium of new music presenters with some thirty delegates. Hosted by the festival, this event is aimed at networking contacts and is sponsored by the local new music umbrella organization le Vivier, with added support from the Huddersfield Festival in England. 
The Suoni will be more visible than ever within the community in that its events will take place in 17 venues, the result of may new co-production agreements, including some unusual ones like that of the Jewish General Hospital and its ten-day satellite festival running from June 9-19.
As for jazz, it is but one facet of the whole. But its choices are quite enticing for the venturesome. Most concerts slated here will go down at the Café Résonance, 5275-A Parc Avenue (at Fairmount). Of note will be a new quartet lead by alto saxophonist Yves Charuest with Catalonian pianist Augusti Fernández (June 17); drummer Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet (20)—see CD review— and lastly, a half-Scandinavian, half-German group called the Deciders (22). On the local front, alto saxman Eric Hove’s tentet will tackle his compositions of striking originality (21). If you like music in your face, no one does it better than the blustery German saxman Peter Brötzmann, and ditto for his American counterparts William Parker and Hamid Drake (Sala Rossa, 10).
Online Information and Tickets: www.casadelpopolo.com/suoniperilpopolo
Online Downloadable Program: suoniperilpopolo.org/programme-suoni-2014
- Marc Chénard

St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival (June 2-22)

The 24th Fringe Festival is held in a variety of venues around Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal. There are shows co-presented by Indie Montréal and Culture Cible au Divan Orange and, among others, Hey Ocean, Miracle Fortress, Chic Gamine, APigeon, The Zolas, Lakes of Canada, The Beatdown, Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Sultans of String, Pif Paf Hangover. www.montrealfringe.ca
 - Hassan Laghcha

FrancoFolies (June 12-22)


The 26th annual FrancoFolies includes a tribute to Serge Fiori in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts. Other concerts of note feature Stromae, the Boulay Sisters and the Grand Corps Malade. A few other highlights are Malajube’s lead Julien Mineau’s return to the stage and a concert with Ingrid St-Pierre, accompanied by I Musici. The festival offers 70 indoor shows and 180 free outdoor concerts. www.francofolies.com
 - Hassan Laghcha

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

This Week in Toronto (June 9 - 15)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of June 9 to 15

Joseph So

This week Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting in its Masterworks Series Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 with the brilliant Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang on June 11 and 12 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... it was announced a few days ago that Ms. Wang has suffered an injury, to her hand presumably. Replacing her is fast-rising Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear.  I have heard him a number of times, including the Beethoven Marathon last year.  He's a fine pianist in possession of a brilliant technique and uncommon sensitivity.  Also on the program is Weber's Overture to his opera Oberon, as well as  Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, which also appears on TSO Late Night Saturday June 14th at 10 pm, in conjunction with the Luminato Festival 2014. The Orchestra gives a free concert at the David Pecaut Square (right next door to RTH) on June 15th 7 pm, the closing night of Luminato, playing Music of the Americas. It features music of Copland and Bernstein to John Estacio (his Frenergy is just the right piece to open the proceedings!) and Astor Piazzolla, plus others.   TSO music director Peter Oundjian is at the helm for all events. For details go to http://tso.ca/en-ca/Home.aspx

Pianist Stewart Goodyear (Photo: Anita Zvonar)

A major presence in Luminato is Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright - remember his opera Prima Donna and his several one-man shows?  Well, he is back with the cleverly titled If I Loved You - Gentlemen Prefers Broadway. It's billed as an evening of love duets, and Wainwright will bring his gay sensibilities to these old standards. If you haven't, be sure to read the interview he gave to Martin Knelman at the Toronto Star last week. http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2014/05/30/rufus_wainwrights_if_i_loved_you_dont_expect_solemnity.html  Wainwright will be joined by a stellar cast of musical luminaries including Josh Groban and Boy George! It's at the Sony Centre on June 14th at 7:30 pm.  http://luminatofestival.com/festival/2014/if-i-loved-you


Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright

Opera By Request, the grass-roots, artist-driven opera group, is presenting Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict on Wednesday June 11 at 7:30 pm at College Street United Church. It's a piece based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I saw the Berlioz opera twice in quick succession, first at the Santa Fe Opera in the late 90s and then at the Canadian Opera Company with pretty much the same cast. There are some lovely music in the score - I particularly like the Ursule-Hero duet. (Here is a recording of this duet, gorgeously sung by American soprano Sylvia McNair and Canadian mezzo Catherine Robbin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtZleGpT9Gk ) This performance on Wednesday stars two talented singers, mezzo soprano Michele Bogdanowicz (Beatrice) and tenor Ernesto Ramirez (Benedict).  They are a couple in real life and in art. Ramirez had an auspicious debut in the title role of Roberto Devereux at the COC just last month. Bogdanowicz is a former member of the COC Ensemble Studio. This performance is, as usual, with piano accompaniment by William Shookhoff. http://operabyrequest.ca/wordpress/?p=220

Mezzo-soprano Michele Bogdanowicz


Tenor Ernesto Ramirez

Canadian pianist Helena Bowkun is giving a rare public performance on Tuesday June 10 7:30 pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church 1585 Yonge Street.  This will be Bowkun's first Toronto recital in 10 years.  She had a major career in the 1970s onwards but as I understand it she scaled back her performing activities due to ill health. On her program this Tuesday are works by Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. This is a benefit concert for the Benevolent Fund of the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. You can find out more about Ms. Bowkun at http://about.me/helena_bowkun

Pianist Helena Bowkun







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This Week in Montreal: June 9 to 15

The 103rd Edition of the Prix d’Europe

Since 1911, the Prix d’Europe has developed the careers of young classical musicians, singers and instrumentalists both, by helping them perfect their art and giving them the opportunity to continue their studies outside of Quebec. This year, you can hear contestants in the semi-finals, which take place June 8 to 12 at the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. The finals will be held on June 13, and the gala concert, featuring competition winners and guests of honour Charles-Richard Hamelin (pianist, Prix d’Europe 2011) and Victor Fournelle-Blain, (violinist, Prix d’Europe 2012), will be held on June 15 at 2:30 pm at Bourgie Hall, under the auspices of the Honourable Judge John Gomery. During the evening, the Académie de musique du Québec will award various scholarships totaling more than $50,000, including the coveted Prix d’Europe, worth $25,000. The 2014 jury includes Gabrielle Lavigne, mezzo-soprano; Zofia Wislocka, conductor (Belgium); Carol Bergeron, musicologist and journalist; Yegor Dyachkov, cellist; and David Jalbert, pianist. 514-528-1961, www.prixdeurope.ca

World Premiere: The Esther Diaries

Soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez sings Esther, Queen of Persia and a biblical character, in a new song cycle by Canadian composer Haralabos Stafylakis on an Ellen Frankel text. The McGill Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Boris Brott, accompanies. The Esther Diaries will be created in a concert entitled Klez-Kabaret that will highlight the unique colors of Jewish music. Contemporary dancer Roger Sinha takes on the role of the scribe to whom Esther dictates her diary. The concert will feature another creation: Tur Malka by Henri Oppenheim, performed by the Montreal group Magillah. Maison symphonique - June 10. www.ocm mco.org 
 - Justin Bernard

Festival International Montréal en Arts (June 11 – 15)

The 15th annual Festival hosts over 120 visual artists and craftspeople. The large, open-air gallery that is Rue Sainte-Catherine between Berri and Papineau enables visitors to meet artists, both professional and emerging ones, from all different art disciplines. Accueil Bonneau, the organization works towards the social reintegration of homeless people, is a special invited guest. www.festivaldesarts.org 
 - Hassan Laghcha

Yannick Nézet-Séguin; Hélène Grimaud

The Metropolitan Orchestra closes its 33rd season, with an encounter between Yannick Nézet-Séguin and international star pianist Hélène Grimaud in two performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto # 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony # 3. The June 12 concert is a benefit for the Metropolitan Orchestra. Note: the June 13 concert begins with a performance of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture by students from the Joseph-François Perreault School, directed by Nézet-Séguin. Benefit tickets will go towards financing the school’s new concert hall project. Maison symphonique. www.orchestremetropolitain.com 
 - Justin Bernard

Suoni per il Popolo 2014

Pushing Boundaries In 2001, the Casa del Popolo launched its festival, the Suoni per il Popolo. The first edition was a bold undertaking due to the fact that it focused entirely on avant-garde music and lasted no less than five weeks. Since then, it has scaled down its time frame to two and a half weeks while drawing steady support from a younger audience attracted to musical experimentation. This year’s edition, like all of its predecessors, runs for 18 days, from June 4 to 22. But that doesn’t mean it is simply content with the status quo. A look at its program reveals that is expanding in all directions. True to its mission, the Suoni will be stretching its boundaries by exploring the cutting edge of rock and punk, electronic, experimental, contemporary classical, folk and avant-pop. Not to be overlooked either is its jazz and improvised music content, but there will also be a focus on media arts and interactive technologies. All told, there are 68 shows on tap—several include two or more groups—and eleven film programs. Six workshop sessions are also scheduled, hosted by guest performers of all musical stripes, some of which allow amateur musicians to join in. This year, new activities have been added. First, the festival, in conjunction with the Bozzini Quartet, has put together a conference around the life and work of visionary British composer Cornelius Cardew, including a performance of his masterwork “Treatise”. Another first is Cartel MTL, an international symposium of new music presenters with some thirty delegates. Hosted by the festival, this event is aimed at networking contacts and is sponsored by the local new music umbrella organization le Vivier, with added support from the Huddersfield Festival in England. The Suoni will be more visible than ever within the community in that its events will take place in 17 venues, the result of may new co-production agreements, including some unusual ones like that of the Jewish General Hospital and its ten-day satellite festival running from June 9-19. As for jazz, it is but one facet of the whole. But its choices are quite enticing for the venturesome. Most concerts slated here will go down at the Café Résonance, 5275-A Parc Avenue (at Fairmount). Of note will be a new quartet lead by alto saxophonist Yves Charuest with Catalonian pianist Augusti Fernández (June 17); drummer Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet (20)—see CD review— and lastly, a half-Scandinavian, half-German group called the Deciders (22). On the local front, alto saxman Eric Hove’s tentet will tackle his compositions of striking originality (21). If you like music in your face, no one does it better than the blustery German saxman Peter Brötzmann, and ditto for his American counterparts William Parker and Hamid Drake (Sala Rossa, 10). Online Information and Tickets: www.casadelpopolo.com/suoniperilpopolo Online Downloadable Program: suoniperilpopolo.org/programme-suoni-2014 - Marc Chénard

FrancoFolies (June 12-22)

The 26th annual FrancoFolies includes a tribute to Serge Fiori in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts. Other concerts of note feature Stromae, the Boulay Sisters and the Grand Corps Malade. A few other highlights are Malajube’s lead Julien Mineau’s return to the stage and a concert with Ingrid St-Pierre, accompanied by I Musici. The festival offers 70 indoor shows and 180 free outdoor concerts. www.francofolies.com 
 - Hassan Laghcha St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival (June 2-22) The 24th Fringe Festival is held in a variety of venues around Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal. There are shows co-presented by Indie Montréal and Culture Cible au Divan Orange and, among others, Hey Ocean, Miracle Fortress, Chic Gamine, APigeon, The Zolas, Lakes of Canada, The Beatdown, Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Sultans of String, Pif Paf Hangover. www.montrealfringe.ca 
 - Hassan Laghcha

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

This Week in Montreal: June 2 to 8

St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival (June 2-22)
The 24th Fringe Festival is held in a variety of venues around Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal. There are shows co-presented by Indie Montréal and Culture Cible au Divan Orange and, among others, Hey Ocean, Miracle Fortress, Chic Gamine, APigeon, The Zolas, Lakes of Canada, The Beatdown, Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Sultans of String, Pif Paf Hangover. www.montrealfringe.ca
 - Hassan Laghcha

The 103rd Edition of the Prix d’Europe
Since 1911, the Prix d’Europe has developed the careers of young classical musicians, singers and instrumentalists both, by helping them perfect their art and giving them the opportunity to continue their studies outside of Quebec.
This year, you can hear contestants in the semi-finals, which take place June 8 to 12 at the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. The finals will be held on June 13, and the gala concert, featuring competition winners and guests of honour Charles-Richard Hamelin (pianist, Prix d’Europe 2011) and Victor Fournelle-Blain, (violinist, Prix d’Europe 2012), will be held on June 15 at 2:30 pm at Bourgie Hall, under the auspices of the Honourable Judge John Gomery. During the evening, the Académie de musique du Québec will award various scholarships totaling more than $50,000, including the coveted Prix d’Europe, worth $25,000.
The 2014 jury includes Gabrielle Lavigne, mezzo-soprano; Zofia Wislocka, conductor (Belgium); Carol Bergeron, musicologist and journalist; Yegor Dyachkov, cellist; and David Jalbert, pianist. 514-528-1961, www.prixdeurope.ca

Suoni per il Popolo 2014: Pushing Boundaries
In 2001, the Casa del Popolo launched its festival, the Suoni per il Popolo. The first edition was a bold undertaking due to the fact that it focused entirely on avant-garde music and lasted no less than five weeks. Since then, it has scaled down its time frame to two and a half weeks while drawing steady support from a younger audience attracted to musical experimentation. This year’s edition, like all of its predecessors, runs for 18 days, from June 4 to 22. But that doesn’t mean it is simply content with the status quo. A look at its program reveals that is expanding in all directions. True to its mission, the Suoni will be stretching its boundaries by exploring the cutting edge of rock and punk, electronic, experimental, contemporary classical, folk and avant-pop. Not to be overlooked either is its jazz and improvised music content, but there will also be a focus on media arts and interactive technologies. All told, there are 68 shows on tap—several include two or more groups—and eleven film programs. Six workshop sessions are also scheduled, hosted by guest performers of all musical stripes, some of which allow amateur musicians to join in.
This year, new activities have been added. First, the festival, in conjunction with the Bozzini Quartet, has put together a conference around the life and work of visionary British composer Cornelius Cardew, including a performance of his masterwork “Treatise”. Another first is Cartel MTL, an international symposium of new music presenters with some thirty delegates. Hosted by the festival, this event is aimed at networking contacts and is sponsored by the local new music umbrella organization le Vivier, with added support from the Huddersfield Festival in England.
The Suoni will be more visible than ever within the community in that its events will take place in 17 venues, the result of may new co-production agreements, including some unusual ones like that of the Jewish General Hospital and its ten-day satellite festival running from June 9-19.
As for jazz, it is but one facet of the whole. But its choices are quite enticing for the venturesome. Most concerts slated here will go down at the Café Résonance, 5275-A Parc Avenue (at Fairmount). Of note will be a new quartet lead by alto saxophonist Yves Charuest with Catalonian pianist Augusti Fernández (June 17); drummer Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet (20)—see CD review— and lastly, a half-Scandinavian, half-German group called the Deciders (22). On the local front, alto saxman Eric Hove’s tentet will tackle his compositions of striking originality (21). If you like music in your face, no one does it better than the blustery German saxman Peter Brötzmann, and ditto for his American counterparts William Parker and Hamid Drake (Sala Rossa, 10).
Online Information and Tickets: www.casadelpopolo.com/suoniperilpopolo
Online Downloadable Program: suoniperilpopolo.org/programme-suoni-2014
- Marc Chénard

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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 2 au 8 juin

Festival St-Ambroise FRINGE (2-22 juin)
La 24e édition du Festival St-Ambroise FRINGE se tiendra dans divers lieux du Plateau Mont-Royal, à Montréal. Au programme, des spectacles coprésentés par Indie Montréal et Culture Cible au Divan Orange avec, entre autres, Hey Ocean, Miracle Fortress, Chic Gamine, APigeon, The Zolas, Lakes of Canada, The Beatdown, Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Sultans of String, Pif Paf Hangover. www.montrealfringe.ca
 - Hassan Laghcha

Le 103e Prix d’Europe
Le Prix d’Europe favorise depuis 1911 l’essor de la carrière de jeunes musiciens classiques, chanteurs et instrumentistes, en les aidant à perfectionner leur art et en leur permettant de poursuivre leurs études à l’extérieur du Québec.
Pour cette 103e édition, vous pourrez entendre les candidats dans les demi-finales qui auront lieu du 8 au 12 juin, à la Chapelle du Bon Pasteur. La finale se tiendra le 13 juin et le concert gala, mettant en vedette les gagnants du concours ainsi que les invités d’honneur Charles Richard-Hamelin, pianiste, Prix d’Europe 2011, et Victor Fournelle-Blain, violoniste, Prix d’Europe 2012, aura lieu le 15 juin prochain à 14 h 30 à la salle Bourgie, sous la présidence de l’honorable juge John Gomery. Lors de cette soirée, l’Académie de musique du Québec remettra différentes bourses d’études d’une valeur totale de plus de 50 000 $, dont le très convoité Prix d’Europe de 25 000 $.
Le jury du concours 2014: Mesdames Gabrielle Lavigne, mezzo-soprano, et Zofia Wislocka, chef d’orchestre (Belgique), et Messieurs Carol Bergeron, musicologue et journaliste, Yegor Dyachkov, violoncelliste, et David Jalbert, pianiste. 514-528-1961 www.prixdeurope.ca

Suoni per il Popolo 2014 : faire reculer les frontières
En 2001, le festival Suoni per il Popolo se montra particulièrement téméraire dans sa première année: non seulement avait-il choisi de miser complètement sur les musiques d’avant-garde, mais la programmation s’étalait sur cinq semaines. Réduisant sa durée de moitié, l’événement trouva rapidement sa vitesse de croisière et l’appui d’un public assez jeune, avide d’expérimentation musicale de tous genres. Comme par le passé, sa prochaine édition se tiendra tout au long du mois de juin, soit du 4 au 22. Mais cela ne veut pas dire qu’il se contente du statu quo. Bien au contraire, car il explose de tous bords, tous côtés. Fidèle à sa vocation, le Suoni recule ses frontières stylistiques en se rendant aux confins du rock et du punk, de l’électro à la musique expérimentale et contemporaine, du folk et du pop, sans oublier le jazz et la musique improvisée, ajoutant même un volet d’arts médiatiques. Au total, 68 spectacles sont inscrits à l’affiche (nombre d’entre eux avec deux groupes ou plus) et 11 projections de films. De plus, six ateliers animés par des artistes appartenant à l’un ou l’autre des genres sont également offerts, certains permettant la participation de musiciens amateurs.
De nouvelles activités sont aussi prévues cette année: tout d’abord, une conférence sur le compositeur britannique visionnaire Cornelius Cardew et des performances de ses œuvres, activité organisée conjointement avec le Quatuor Bozzini. Autre première aussi: un colloque  rassemblant une trentaine de présentateurs internationaux de musiques nouvelles. Organisé en tandem avec le Vivier et l’appui du festival de Huddersfield en Angleterre, Cartel Mtl a pour but de réseauter le milieu.
Cette année, le Suoni se fera plus présent que jamais dans la communauté. Ses événements se dérouleront sur 17 scènes en ville, fruit d’ententes de coproductions avec d’autres lieux de diffusion, incluant des partenaires inhabituels comme l’Hôpital général juif, théâtre d’un festival satellite de dix jours (du 9 au 19 juin).
Pour ce qui est du jazz, il peut sembler réduit par rapport aux années antérieures, mais la sélection est quand même très alléchante. Pour la plupart, les concerts se dérouleront au Café Résonance (5275-A Parc, angle Fairmount). Il faudra surveiller entre autres le quartette du saxo alto Yves Charuest avec le pianiste catalan Augusti Fernandez (17), le quartette Golden State du batteur Harris Eisenstadt (20) – voir chronique de disque – et, en finale, le quintette mi-scandinave, mi-allemand the Deciders (22) avec le tandem Axel Doerner (trpt.) et Rudi Mahall (cl. b.) À découvrir aussi parmi les nôtres, le tentette du saxo Eric Hove, dont les compositions sont d’une étonnante originalité, comme l’instrumentation de son ensemble (21). Et si le free jazz roboratif vous allume, n’oubliez pas le fulminant souffleur Peter Brötzmann avec ses hommes de main américains William Parker et Hamid Drake (Salla Rossa, le 10).            
Information en ligne et billetterie: 
www.casadelpopolo.com/suoniperilpopolo
Programme téléchargeable en ligne: suoniperilpopolo.org/fr/programme-suoni-2014
- Marc Chénard

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Monday, 2 June 2014

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 2 au 6 juin


Daniel Clarke Bouchard
CONCOURS MUSICAL INTERNATIONAL DE MONTRÉAL (CMIM)
Du 26 mai au 6 juin aura lieu l'édition Piano 2014 du CMIM. Les quarts de finale et les demi-finales se tiendront du 26 au 28 mai à la salle Bourgie. La pièce canadienne imposée de Marjan Mozetich sera jouée par chacun des candidats de l'épreuve quart de finale. Les 3 et 4 juin, à la Maison symphonique, les finalistes seront accompagnés par l'OSM dirigé par Giancarlo Guerrero, directeur artistique du Nashville Symphoniy Orchestra, qui fera ses débuts à Montréal. Il dirigera aussi le concert gala du 6 juin.
De plus, le CMIM réunit sur scène un duo d'exception : le pianiste de 14 ans Daniel Clarke Bouchard et son mentor, le réputé pianiste de jazz Oliver Jones, le 2 juin à 19 h 30. 
www.concoursmontreal.ca
- Renée Banville

40 ANS POUR L’ORCHESTRE DE CHAMBRE DE MONTRÉAL
L'OCM soulignera son 40e anniversaire lors d'un concert de gala, le mardi 3 juin 2014, à la salle Bourgie. Des « anciennes » découvertes y seront à l'honneur comme la pianiste Sara Davis Buechner, la soprano Gianna Corbisiero et le trompettiste Jens Lindemann. De plus, le violoniste Fumiaki Miura, lauréat 2009 du premier prix du Concours international de violon de Hanovre, y interprétera le Concerto pour violon en mi mineur, op. 64 de Mendelssohn. Cette prestation marquera ses débuts en Amérique du Nord. www.mco-ocm.qc.ca
- Paul Robinson

SANFORD SYLVAN À LA SALLE BOURGIE
De son côté, le baryton américain Sanford Sylvan chantera en juin des joyaux du répertoire russe, accompagné par Axel Strauss au violon, Yegor Dyachkov au violoncelle et Ilya Poletaev au piano. Le programme du récital est très semblable à celui de Hvorostovsky : des mélodies de Rachmaninov, Tchaïkovski et Medtner. Sanford Sylvan est également professeur de chant à l’Université McGill et à la prestigieuse Juilliard School. Salle Bourgie,
6 juin. www.mbam.qc.ca
- Justin Bernard

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Sunday, 1 June 2014

This Week in Toronto (June 2 - 8)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of June 2 to 8

- Joseph So

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Photo: Pavel Antonov)

Mover over Edita Gruberova, Mariella Devia, and Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Alex Penda in her newest incarnation) - there's a new star in the Italian bel canto repertoire, American-born Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. This was amply demonstrated in her recent debut as Elisabetta in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux in seven sold out performances. In fact this is nothing new as Radvanovsky has been moving into this rep the last few seasons with tremendous success, including a phenomenal Norma that wowed critics and audiences. This week we get to hear something completely different from Radvanovsky - Richard Strauss's sublimely autumnal cycle, the Four Last Songs. Radvanovsky does not sing a whole lot of German repertoire but with her power and brilliance at the top and to-die-for pianissimo, she is ideal in this song cycle. She is soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Thursday June 5th and Saturday June 7th 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian leads the forces in the Strauss as well as Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, and Overture to Don Giovanni.  Too bad the Strauss songs are all of 20 minutes, but hopefully Radvanovsky will sing an encore.  On Friday June 6th 7:30 pm, as part of the TSO Exposed: What Makes it Great? Series, conductor Rob Kapilow will dissect and lead the TSO in a performance of Aaron Copland's iconic American piece, Appalachian Spring. http://tso.ca/en-ca/Home.aspx

TSO kicks off Luminato 2014 at Air Canada Centre with Music Mob


The TSO ends this very busy week with its first appearance in the Air Canada Centre, in a concert - well, as much a "happening" as a performance - called the Music Mob.  In this kick-off to Luminato 2014, musicians from the general public, from novice to experienced, will get to join members of the TSO under Oundjian to perform Ravel's stirring Bolero.  I don't know for sure, but my guess is that this is the first time the TSO has ever participated in anything like this in its history! Plus this is a free concert, so expect a huge turnout! The event is co-hosted by Oundjian and Luminato's Jorn Weisbrodt, and it's a project of Luminato's Education and Outreach program. Here is a link to the event on the Luminato website and be sure to watch the video clip of Weisbrodt talking about this. http://luminatofestival.com/festival/2014/music-mob-2014

Soundstreams presents Brian Current's opera Airline Icarus

A very intriguing event this week is the presentation of Canadian composer Brian Current's new opera, Airline Icarus, by Soundstreams. This group, under the artistic direction of Lawrence Cherney, is dedicated to presenting new Canadian works. Here's a description of the work taken directly from the Soundstreams website - 

"In evoking the story of Icarus, who flew with waxen wings only to plummet to his death after soaring too close to the sun, award-winning composer Brian Current and playwright Anton Piatogorsky impart a mythic dimension to the mundane experience of contemporary air travel. Set aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, their opera explores both the spiritual joy and the angst of flying as it invites us into the minds of passengers and crew, revealing their relationships and their inmost thoughts."

The opera is directed by Tim Albery and stars mezzo Krisztina Szabo and baritone Alexander Dobson, sopranos Vania Chan and Jennifer Taverner, and baritone Geoffrey Sirett. It opens on June 3 8 pm at the Ada Slaight Hall of Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East near Parliament. This area of Regent Park has undergone a remarkable transformation the last few years, and I for one am eager to experience this new performance venue. The June 3 opening will be followed by performances nightly until June 8th. For details go to http://www.soundstreams.ca/airline-icarus

Canadian composer Brian Current (Photo: www.briancurrent.com)

With the Canadian Opera Company season having come to an end last week. its Free Concerts Series wraps up this week with a final performance, Brass Blowout, featuring the brass section of the COC Orchestra. Participating are Trumpets (Robert Weymouth, Andre Dubelsten, Luise Heyerhoff and Michael Fedyshyn); Horns (Joan Watson, Scott Wevers, Bardhyl Gjevori and Janet Anderson); Trombones (Charles Benaroya, Ian Cowie and Herbert Poole) and Tuba (Scott Irvine). Program consists of works by Britten, Gabrieli, Hindemith, Dukas and the orchestra's own Scott Irvine.  Details at http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert-14-06-04.pdf  Be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat. 
http://coc.ca/Home.aspx






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