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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 1

Early Music

by Philippe Gervais / September 5, 2014

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Bach Forever!
Once again this year, Bach takes the spotlight: the Fondation Arte Musica undertakes a performance of all of Bach’s cantatas, to be performed at Bourgie Hall by different ensembles at a rate of eight concerts a year over eight years. The Advent and Christmas cantatas, which include the most beautiful and spectacular ones, will be performed this autumn by Clavecin en concert (Nov 30 with Julie Boulianne, among others) and by the SMAM (Noël ŕ Leipzig, Dec 13 and 14). Meanwhile, two European orchestras of great renown will present instrumental works by the cantor. The Academy of Ancient Music, founded in 1973 and currently directed by harpsichordist Richard Egarr, proposes the four great orchestral suites (Nov 5, Bourgie Hall). The Freiburger Barockorchester, a “second generation” orchestra known for its virtuosity, will open the eighth edition of the Bach Festival with several violin concertos (Nov 23 at the Maison Symphonique, a venue that seems a bit poorly chosen for a chamber music performance).

About Bach
As usual, the Bach Festival offers a varied program that leaves room for surprises: for example, an intriguing mandolin and harpsichord recital presented by two Israeli musicians, Avi Avital and Shalev Ad-El (Dec 1 at the Church of Saint John the Evangelist), who will play arrangements of Bach pieces as well as some by other composers written for their instruments. The Festival has also invited the Theatre of Early Music to musically evoke the coronation of King George II: fanfares announce a blend of Handel and Purcell and the polyphony of the English Renaissance (Christ Church Cathedral, Dec 2). Music lovers will have to make a difficult choice, as at the same time, in a much more intimate setting, lecturer Gilles Cantagrel will narrate a perusal of the famous Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, a veritable diary that invites us to imagine the musical life of the Bach family. The event will include music by Couperin, Hasse, and Stölzel, performed by six musicians including soprano Andréanne Paquin, harpsichordist Mélisande McNabney, and cellist Amanda Keesmaat, all at Bourgie Hall.

A Promising Season for Arion
The Arion baroque orchestra has had the good sense to invite Italian violinist Enrico Onofri back after his exceptional form thrilled critics last year. The skillfully designed program evokes the English enthusiasm for the Italian style during the 18th century: composers include Vivaldi, Corelli, and Avison, as well as one of Handel’s most celebrated organ concertos, nicknamed “The Cuckoo and The Nightingale”, featuring Hank Knox (Oct 17 to 19). The following concert features the flutes of Claire Guimond and Alexa Waine-Right in concertos by Telemann and Quantz. In the same concert, audiences will also hear a magnificent rarity, Telemann’s Viola Concerto, one of the only baroque works to feature this instrument (Nov 14 to 16).

Celebrating Rameau
The year 2014 marks the 250th anniversary of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s death, an event that would pass almost unnoticed here were it not for the visit of Blandine Rannou, a French harpsichordist whose sensitive, even sensual, playing best serves a composer sometimes thought of as too cerebral (Nov 17, Bourgie Hall). Her presence will be that much more appreciated due to the fact that Rannou had to cancel her last engagement in Montreal in 2010.

Quebec City
On September 6, as part of the Quebec International Sacred Music Festival, the city hosts Wiener Akademie, a grand orchestra of period instruments, in an essentially Austrian program of Haydn, Fux, Biber, Mozart, and Handel at the Église Saint-Dominique. Soprano Dominique Labelle and countertenor Daniel Taylor will also take part. Meanwhile, the Violons du Roy will present the first installment of Handel’s integral organ concertos, with Richard Paré and Frenchman Benjamin Alard. A beautiful opportunity to hear the organ at the Palais Montcalm as well as the talent of conductor and bassoonist Mathieu Lussier, who will also conduct a Fasch orchestral suite for three oboes, bassoon, and strings (Oct 5 and 6, www.palaismontcalm.ca).

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

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