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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 1

Early Music

by Philippe Gervais / September 1, 2013

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Venetian Splendors

This fall’s highlight will no doubt be the Splendore a Venezia exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, showcasing Renaissance and Baroque music from the City of the Doges. The exhibit will display paintings by the masters (Titian, Canaletto…) that relate to music, as well as engravings, sheet music, and numerous old instruments. Tours and lectures will give the public the opportunity to create links between the artwork and the music of Venice. Some twenty concerts at Bourgie Hall are also included in the programme, some of which will feature Italian performers. The Arion Orchestra struck gold with invited guests Enrico Onofri, first violin for Giardino Armonico (October 17-20) and Alfredo Bernardini, who is among the great Baroque oboe virtuosos (November 14 -7).

Montreal’s musicians will also have the opportunity to display their command of the Italian repertoire: the SMAM will offer a choral festival at San Marco (December 14-15), Geneviève Soly will perform concertos transcribed for organ and harpsichord in Germany (November 24) and Luc Beauséjour has invited Mark Edwards, first prize winner of Bruges’s Musica Antiqua international competition, to join him for a promising two-organ duelli (October 26). The celebrations end in force on January 18, with Ensemble Caprice’s performance of Juditha triumphans, Vivaldi’s only surviving oratorio, written for the pensioners of the Pietà, an exclusively female ensemble. Through Judith, the biblical heroine who triumphed over the Assyrians by beheading their leader, Vivaldi pays homage to Venice, which had just achieved great military victories over the Turks. Rather than a pompous tone, however, the music is full of magically soft moments and includes numerous solos for instruments such as the chalumeau, the viola d’amore, and the mandolin.

In addition to this exhibit, music lovers who enjoy sailing the boundaries of baroque and traditional music will also surely be interested by the Accordone Ensemble and tenor Marco Beasley, well known for their albums in Alpha’s White Collection. They will be giving two concerts of Italian songs, ranging from the popular Tarantella to the more erudite Frottole (October 9-10). In a similar vein, the French ensemble Le Baroque Nomade, conducted by flutist Jean-Christophe Frisch, will create portraits of Mediterranean women through a mix of 17th century Italian baroque pieces and Turkish music (November 8).

Bach Festival

The Bach Festival has once again attracted well-known performers this year. The opening concert will feature one of the best European baroque orchestras, the Concerto Koln (November 23, Bourgie Hall). The Goldberg Variations, performed every year will be played by pianist Alexandre Tharaud (November 29-30, at Bourgie Hall) and will be preceded by a lecture by Gilles Cantagrel. A prelude to the festival, the Saint Thomas Boys’ Choir of Leipzig and the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra will be heard performing Bach and Vivaldi (November 14, Notre-Dame Basilica).

The New Generation in Action!

As those who attended the Montréal Baroque Festival this summer have already witnessed, the up-and-coming generation of musicians has never been more present on Quebec’s baroque scene and often performs miracles. The Compagnie Baroque Mont-Royal, in its third season, is offering Il serpente di Bronzo, an oratorio by Zelenka for five soloists and orchestra. Due to its virtuosity and complexity, the music written by Zelenka, who worked in Dresden, reminds us of Bach, but with more baroque fantasy (October 5, Saint-James Anglican Church). Our young musicians shine through their recordings as well: we are looking forward to recorder player Vincent Lauzer’s first solo album released by Atma (on which he is accompanied on harpsichord by Mark Edwards), as well as the magnificent recital by cellist Elinor Frey (released by Passacaille), who is also performing at Bourgie Hall (September 19 at 11 am).


The Quebec International Sacred Music Festival will include the famous Gabrieli Consort at Saint-Dominique Church (September 7). Under the direction of Paul McCresh, a varied programme of English music will be presented, including many excerpts from his album Songs of Farewell, which has won Deutsche Grammophon’s DG Archiv Prize.

• Bourgie Hall Concerts: www.mbam.qc.ca/musique
• Montreal Bach Festival: www.festivalbachmontreal.com
• Compagnie Baroque Mont-Royal: cbmroyal.wordpress.com
• Quebec International Sacred Music festival: www.imsq.ca

Translation: David-Marc Newman

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