Jean-Michel Dubé is the youngest in a family of five children, four of whom are pianists. At the age of three, he started studying piano at home with his mother who was herself a pianist. At age seven, he entered the Conservatoire de musique de Québec. In 2015, he was awarded the grand prize at the Concours Hélène-Roberge, which allowed him to record, with the help of Espace XXI and Aramusique, the works of André Mathieu. Mathieu’s complete piano works have never been recorded before, making this disc a world premiere.
How did you arrive to André Mathieu’s work?
The idea of working on pieces by this composer came from my father-in-law, Bruno Laplante, who founded the Nouveau Théâtre Musical and edited the scores of André Mathieu’s works for solo piano. As a lover of our Quebecois heritage, I said to myself that rather than taking up works that have been recorded hundreds of times, like those of Beethoven, why not record music by one of my compatriots?
One interesting aspect of this album is the order of the pieces.
Printemps canadien and Été canadien are my favourite works. I find them very evocative. For example, in Printemps Canadian, I really feel the experience of a young child in that season of rebirth: we see the blossoms opening, we hear the birds chirping, the river running, etc. As far as Éte Canadian, I see a young child glad to be finished with school and happy to be able to run outside, which gives the piece a very light character. The piece Les gros chars which he composed at the age of four is one of the most extraordinary, as it reproduces exactly the sound of the trains of that period. The young Mathieu often waited for his father at Saint-Constant station and was inspired by the arrival of the locomotives. Most of his youthful works are inspired by his surroundings. One also thinks of the Procession d’éléphants which was inspired by his visit to a traveling circus in Montreal. After that comes his period of French influence, and in the Concerto de Québec one can also hear a clear Russian influence with traces of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and even Glazunov. There are also jarring moments which briefly throw the piece into a sort of atonality. In the Prélude romantique, one of the last works we have, one finds many more traces of atonality, that is to say more modern-sounding music, which is rather surprising, since André Mathieu tended to be more influenced by romantic and neo-romantic music.
What are your projects after this album?
I want to complete a Canadian and European tour in 2018, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of André Mathieu. My other immediate project is to record a second album which constitutes part of the grand prize of the Concours Pierre-de-Saurel which I won in 2016. I want to turn my attention now to international competitions.
Translation: Rona Nadler
Dubé’s disc of works by André Mathieu is one La Scena Musicale‘s Discovery CDs, you can download it for free here.