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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 7, No. 3


by Lucie Renaud / November 1, 2001

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Chamber Music at the CCA

This year’s chamber music festival picks up just where the first one left off last November. As a parallel to the exhibit “Mies in America,” it will feature music written during the 1938-1969 period. The choice of works performed was once again made by violist Neal Gripp, who has been working closely with Phillys Lambert, the curator of this exhibit. “I had several discussions with her about Mies,” he told La Scena Musicale. “She talked about the structure of the buildings, their play of transparency, their reflexivity, the reduction of form, the toned-down palette. Mies was experimenting and creating, so the music as well had to reflect this experimentation. It is a fascinating way to think of music and architecture enhancing one another. Mies’s multiplicity, his reflection of motives is the same as, for example, the music of Elliot Carter, strongly attached as he was to mathematical relationships. Mies’s buildings don’t stop at the four exterior walls. Reflection is often involved. It can be a mirror image or the play between reflexitivity and the light that comes in, the way there is a mirror image on certain walls. You can make parallels to serialism with inversions and retrogrades, as in the music of Milton Babbit or Earle Brown.” Neo-romantics like Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Paul Hindemith and émigré composers like Kurt Weil, Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schonberg were also included in those four Thursday evening programs, Mies, the last director of the Bauhaus school, fled from Europe, as had several composers. From that background, he brought rather strong aesthetics. “He grew up with materials like brick, stone, glass and used them in remarkable ways, putting together things that had not been mixed before”, explains Gripp. “Composers bringing new instruments together or stripping things down to their basis, as in Mies’s minimal palette, immediately come to mind.”

Some works will be real challenges for the gifted performers joining Gripp in this series. He mentions the “unplayable” Antheil’s work which the pianist David Jalbert, a newcomer to the festival, will attempt. Karina Gauvin will perform Cage’s Aria, a multi-colored score in five languages, with no actual notes written down. The singer will instead have to make sense of the upward and downward lines drawn, interspaced with noted points of reference. Fontana Mix, a totally different work, will be performed at the same time, making the experience even more surreal. Gripp cautions the public that these concerts are not meant to become circus acts. “As a performer, you have to figure the work out,” he says. “For example, I heard several recordings of the Brown Trio. They are all very different and yet they are basically interpreting the same score! There has to be a pleasure in doing this. It is not about jumping through hoops or dividing beats in mathematical ways, it’s about what it says about the music.”

Short audiovisuals will be presented before each concert, highlighting the period and the movements taking up the same theme, “an incredible way to focus the audience” Gripp feels. Before and after the concert, as well as during intermission, the public will be free to browse through the exhibit, making their own connections between music and architecture.

The concerts will be held at 7:30, November 8, 15, 22 and 29, at the Centre Canadien d’Architecture. Info: (514) 939-7026.


On November 3 and 4, Opera Lyra Ottawa Chorus and soprano Isabelle Lacroix will perform opera choruses. Info: (613) 233-9200.

On November 7 and 8, the NACO will be joined by violinist Mark Kaplan and pianist Joseph Kalichstein in Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin and 13 Wind Instruments. Both soloists will also offer a pre-concert recital and lecture on Schubert and Berg. Info: (613) 947-7000.

On November 17, Les Boréades de Montréal and guest conductor Hervé Niquet will recreate a Cosset mass (see article page 22). Info: (613)234-8008.

Starting on November 30, kids of all ages won’t want to miss the National Ballet of Canada of the holiday classic The Nutcracker. Info: (613) 947-7000.

Pour les amateurs de quatuors à cordes

Quelques quatuors importants s’arrêteront au Canada ce mois-ci. Le 1er novembre, la société Pro Musica de Montréal, qui devait accueillir pour une cinquième fois le Quatuor Hagen, présente plutôt le Quatuor à cordes de Moscou. Ils interprèteront deux des plus grands quatuors de Beethoven, l’opus 130 (avec la Grande Fugue, qui est parfois jouée séparément) et l’opus 132. Info : (514) 845-0532.

Le réputé Quatuor Kodály, qui compte à son actif plus de 150 enregistrements primés depuis ses débuts en 1966, effectuera une première visite montréalaise le 19 novembre, également dans le cadre de la série Émeraude de Pro Musica. Même si la liste de ses membres a quelque peu changé depuis 35 ans, elle n’a toujours comporté que des instrumentistes hongrois qui continuent de transmettre une tradition de finesse d’interprétation et de qualité de son. L’édition d’avril 2000 qualifiait d’« extraordinaire réussite » son enregistrement Beethoven. Les musiciens interprèteront le Rasumovsky de Beethoven, le Quatuor opus 77 no 1 de Haydn et le Quatuor de Verdi. Info : (514) 845-0532. Le concert sera repris le 20 novembre à Ottawa et le 22 novembre à Toronto.

Choral Previews

Remembrance Day offers a unique opportunity for reflection on what has happened and what is happening on the world stage. Included among the many services and performances around the city will be Musica Orbium’s In Memoriam, featuring Pärt’s Solfeggio, Magnificat and Berliner Messe, and Fauré’s Requiem (November 11). Later, look for the beginning of the choral season at McGill with concerts from the McGill Chamber Singers and University Chorus (November 13) and the McGill Concert Choir and Women’s Chorale (November 27). Viva Voce, directed by McGill professor Peter Schubert, opens their season of commentated and interactive performances the next night with The Art of the Fugue (November 28).

Before the rush of holiday concerts truly gets under way, the Chœur de la Montagne de St-Hilaire celebrates its fifth anniversary with a concert of favourite choruses from celebrated choral and operatic repertoire, performed jointly with Orchestre Sérénade under Maestros Carole Corman and Sébastien Lauriault (November 24). That night also brings us a celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Armenia, featuring a work entitled “Naissance de David de Sassoun” by Garbis Aprikian, performed by Chœur de l’UQAM, Orchestre symphonique FACE, Chœur arménien du 1700e anniversaire, and the Petits chanteurs des écoles arméniennes de Montréal (November 24).

At the end of the month, Voix Libres and members of Chœur St-Laurent unite with I Medici di McGill under the direction of Iwan Edwards to present Mozart’s Requiem, and the mystical, rarely performed Funeral Ikos by John Tavener in a benefit for La Maison Du Parc (November 30). The festivities of December are then truly rung in by the sixth edition of the Opéra de Montréal’s Gala, directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, featuring the Orchestre Métropolitain and the Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal in a full evening of opera airs and choruses (December 2).

A look at the leading edge of the “holiday season” (is there any better phrase for elevating the blood pressure of choral directors everywhere?) reveals several fine offerings in the way of traditional and contemporary music. Yannick Nezét-Séguin and La Chapelle lead the pack with ‘Noël baroque’, a concert featuring Charpentier’s Messe de minuit (November 28). The Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal fill the Basilique Notre-Dame with traditional holiday music under the guidance of Gilbert Patenaude (December 2), and in Longueuil, the Théatre de la Ville will host the Orchestre symphonique de la Montérégie in conjunction with the Chœur de la Montagne for performances of sacred and secular music (December 6).

In our next issue, we’ll look at the bulk of the holiday choral season.

–Katie de la Matter

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