Browsing: Contemporary

The evolution of Western European music follows a pretty clear path. From Monteverdi to Gluck, Mozart to Wagner and Strauss to Schoenberg, the dominance of German (and Austrian) composers to the present looks very logical. A whole new world opens up if we dig deeper into the Eastern European classical music tradition. While the evolution of Western music had a progressive order, developing continuously and consistently, the music of the Caucasus – and Armenia in particular – is characterized by abrupt and inconsistent development. This is due to the history and background of the region. There are, however, some similarities…

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This year, the Association des orchestres de jeunes du Québec (AOJQ) presents the 20th edition of its Quebec Festival of Youth Orchestras. The festival allows eight youth orchestras to be matched with four distinguished guest conductors, one of whom is Alain Trudel, who also happens to be the event’s spokesperson. In addition to performing onstage at the Salle André-Mathieu in Laval under the direction of their respective conductors, the orchestras will be grouped in pairs and will receive the guidance of a mentoring musician. They will then present the fruits of their labour during a gala concert held at the…

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The innovative production company La Nef presents Udistik Orkestra, a concert showcasing the oud – the Oriental lute – and directed by composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Wells-Oberegger. The show’s organizers promise a trip across various artistic universes. Concertgoers will be exposed to different currents of Middle-Eastern music, novel rearrangements of Western masterpieces and original compositions by Udistik Orkestra that explore the overlap between Oriental and Occidental traditions, all thanks to the marvelous potentialities of the oud, ancestor of the lute. This is not the only case of cultural intermingling. Wells-Oberegger offers the example of the violin, which has become…

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Hadrian Anchors a Star-Studded Season that Explores the Many Facets of Love Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company’s 2018/2019 season presents the world premiere of Hadrian, a new opera from composer Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor, which features the highly anticipated COC debuts of international opera stars Thomas Hampson and Karita Mattila. The COC’s 68th season offers multi-faceted perspectives on love as a contested ground of the human condition. Being presented along with Hadrian in the 18/19 season is a new COC production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin; returning COC productions of Richard Strauss’ Elektra, Mozart’s Così fan tutte and…

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Stravinsky: Chant funèbre &c (Decca) Beware the lost leavings of great composers. Time and again we get hyped up about a long-forsaken missing score, only to be cruelly awakened by the reality of its insignificance. In some case, the composer mislaid the score with good reason. In others, it adds nothing to the sum of our knowledge. Anyone care to remember a few bars of Beethoven’s 10th symphony? Or Schubert’s? The present premiere release is an exception to that ignominious rule. Here’s the back story. In 1908 Igor Stravinsky, unknown and in his mid-20s, wrote a funeral ode for his…

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It just got a whole load tougher out there for young cellists. The first release batch of the New Year contains no fewer than four cello-piano recitals, all of them estimable. In a shrinking media environment, none will get the full-length attention they deserve. The best I can do here is short Schrift. A performance of the Brahms cello sonatas by Jean-Guihen Qeueyras and Alexandre Tharaud (Erato **) is rather too Aimez-vous Brahms for my liking. The French accent is extremely pronounced. The Swiss cellist Lionel Cottet, principal with Bavarian Radio SO, has what appears to be a debut album…

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos) James Gilchrist, tenor; Anna Tilbrook, piano; Philip Dukes, viola At the turn of the 20th century, the world was wide open to young men of means. Ships were getting faster, trains more frequent and motor cars were appearing on the roads. Faced with these exciting possibilities, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams decided to stay home, collecting the remains of a musical civilisation that was being trampled by the march of technology. Together with his pal Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams recorded people singing in pubs and fields. Then he wrote Songs of Travel. The…

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Shostakovich, Auerbach: Piano Trios Delta Piano Trio As the last releases of the year drop through the door, this is an instant ear grabber. Debate has raged for three decades as to whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a limp Soviet puppet or a secret resistant. The first view was advanced by US musicologists, who would not be satisfied until they had a signed document saying ‘I hate Stalin.’ Russian friends and fans of the composer heard his dissidence expressed in the music. Thankfully, the dispute is being resolved by a new generation of musicians who come fresh to the music. The…

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BERLIN – Sending Achim Freyer after Hänsel und Gretel was both a mortifying and an intriguing concept. The German director is one of the stars of Regietheater and rarely lets an operatic story tell itself. While the opening on Dec. 8 of Engelbert Humperdinck’s seasonal charmer at the renovated Staatsoper Unter den Linden was generally family-friendly, it was also overwrought, self-consciously surreal and cussedly hard to get involved in at any basic emotional level. All of which criticisms this 83-year-old Brecht protégé might well take as compliments. Credited with direction, design and costuming, Fryer applied himself most extravagantly to the…

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On the first anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death, November 7, 2017, Montreal’s Musée d’art contemporain (MAC) opened a vast exposition devoted to Cohen, his work, and his work as interpreted by other artists. This expo, despite its occasional weaknesses, is certain to become the largest and most successful show in the museum’s 53-year history. It displays such a richness of Your Man to make it moving and deeply satisfying. Cohen, or rather Leonard, to use the affectionate case, spoke to a worldwide audience and was beloved on all continents, as few Montrealers have ever done. In his final years, reflecting…

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