Browsing: Interviews

When retired Concordia music professor Phil Cohen was hospitalized in early February, his piano students didn’t want to miss their lesson, so they joined him at the Richardson Hospital where he was recovering. For a brief moment the common room was transformed into a ­concert hall with a master class in progress. As patients watched TV while others listened, the old beat-up piano-in-residence, freshly tuned for the occasion, filled the space with the music of Granados, Albeniz, and Prokofiev. This is a significant year for Cohen, who turned 90 in February. It is his 50th year since joining Concordia, where…

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Many years ago, Ft. Worth, Texas was perhaps best known for its stockyards. Ranchers would organize massive cattle drives to bring their herds to its railhead and slaughterhouses. It was a “cowtown” with all the unsavoury services that went with that connotation, including gambling, drinking, prostitution, and all-out hell-raising. Bits of the stockyards are still there, now a tourist attraction rather than a collection of foul-smelling pens and meat-packing factories. Over the past 20 years, Ft. Worth has ­undergone a major transformation. Its ­population today approaches a million ­residents and it boasts such major businesses as Lockheed Martin, one of…

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“After this, what is left for us to write?” —Franz Schubert after hearing Beethoven’s late String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 This year at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, the Dover Quartet will be in residence to play the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 16 String Quartets and the Große Fuge Op. 133. Winners of the first prize at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC), this youthful US-based quartet recently won Avery Fisher Career Grant, the highest honour for performers at this stage of their career. The Dover Quartet—comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van…

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“The great problem of the concert hall is that the shoebox is the ideal shape for acoustics, but no architect worth their name wants to build a shoebox.” Fortunately for classical concertgoers, this ­remark from Harvard professor of architecture Rem Koolhaas was made tongue-in-cheek. This is particularly fortunate for the Orchestre symphonique de Laval (OSL), whose principal performance venue was successfully renovated in 2016. Originally opened in 1979, Salle André-Mathieu, located within walking distance of Laval’s Montmorency metro station, now boasts excellent acoustics for symphonic music. In recent years, the hall’s managers, patrons and performing organizations lobbied for an array…

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The museum walks forth “I believe that everyone, whether they want to or not, will find their own Treasure there.” — Malraux We might well hear the – probably ill-founded – criticism that museums are too hermetic, but the project the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts intends to launch in partnership with the McCord for the city’s 375th anniversary festivities seems like a legitimate attempt to break down conventional boundaries. Entitled La Balade pour la paix: An Open-Air Museum, the exhibition will celebrate the ideals of openness and humanism that have moulded the history of Montreal and Canada, while also…

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Dang Thai Son is a man of discriminating taste. After a swirl and a sniff and a sip, he sent back a glass of red from Burgenland at a midtown Montreal bistro. “It’s quite light,” he said in his soft and gently accented English. “Maybe something richer.” This Hanoi-born pianist and long-time Montrealer is in the business of ­making fine distinctions. Recently recognized with an Opus Prize for a 2016 recital of Chopin and Schumann at Bourgie Hall, Son is perhaps even better known as high-end consultant to young pianists from around the world and a judge on the competition…

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Éric Champagne is a tall, approachable fellow. Behind a gentle and jovial manner lurks a composer with an astonishing faculty of assimilation. This is made clear by listening to just a few scattered samplings of his composition catalogue (see the Canadian Music Center website). For example, the opera Miss Julie (based on Strindberg’s play) comes to mind, with its syllabic treatment consistently connected to the drama, the balance of sound effects and the wide instrumental palette. Thirty years ago, some said the “synthesis of styles” would be left to future generations. Mission accomplished: Champagne draws extensively from the repertoire, from…

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Leonard Cohen in Five Seasons From December 5 to 9, Leonard Cohen’s voice, music and poetry will fill the Place des Arts, ­accompanying the agile ­interpreters of the Montreal Jazz Ballets through the ­seasons that make up a ­lifetime. Drawing on the man and his work, this hour and twenty minutes of spectacle is by the same stroke an ode to Montreal. It’s a considerable adventure punctuated by challenges for one of the most internationally-renowned local dance companies. Montreal in the International Spotlight While it’s currently a work in progress, this long program will be part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary…

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The Impossibility of Return Internationally-renowned Australian company C!RCA, a favourite at Montréal Complètement Cirque (Wunderkammer in 2011, S in 2013, Opus in 2014, and Beyond in 2015) will cross the ocean once again to bring us Il Ritorno from April 25 to 29 at the TOHU. “The whole show is about trying to get home. For Ulysses, for refugees, for all of us,” says the company’s artistic director, Yaron Lifschitz. Invited to share some written insight, he gave us a glimpse into his thoughts and literary references. “A classical story doesn’t need to be seen in a new light. What…

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Oliver Esmonde-White’s great passion is the piano. But his love for the instrument is different from that of the pianist, whose heroes may be Bach, Beethoven or other great composers. Esmonde-White, a master piano technician, draws inspiration from the great piano builders of the past. “Pianos were glorious once upon a time,” he said, citing names like Bechstein, Mason & Hamelin and Bösendorfer. Each piano had a distinct sound, but was considered on par with Steinway. Closer to home, “We have forgotten that Heintzman, Willis, Lesage and Lindsay were made not far from here. We have done virtually no research…

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