Isabelle David and Auguste Descarries: Family Connections

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Following five years of research dedicated to French-Canadian composer and pianist Auguste Descarries, pianist Isabelle David’s hard work paid off with the launch of the album Souvenirs d’Auguste Descarries (2022) on May 27. This is her first solo album produced under the Leaf Music label. Of the 14 piano pieces, eight have been recorded for the first time. The album sheds light on Descarries’s unfamiliar works composed in the first half of the 20th century.

Resurrected Works

The Auguste Descarries journey began when David was pursuing her doctoral studies with pianist and pedagogue Jean Saulnier at Université de Montréal in 2016. She was passionate about Canadian repertoire; having a look at Descarries’s unedited manuscripts was a unique opportunity to modernize the vast and widely unfamiliar piano collection. She began the tedious task of transcribing manuscripts, even recomposing a couple of missing or illegible passages. An in-depth knowledge of Descarries’s writing style is required to recompose music carefully and comply with the intentions behind each work.

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Aside from research, David especially wanted to resurrect the works of this great French-Canadian composer that have been unfairly overshadowed.

Left behind his contemporaries

Pianist, organist, pedagogue, and composer Auguste Descarries (1896–1958) was born in the Montreal borough of Lachine. He belonged to the Beethoven-like tradition of Russian composers such as Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Medtner. He worked alongside Glazunov and Medtner in Paris in the early 1920s. Because improvisation and Russian neo-Romanticism strongly influenced Descarries’s musical language, he looked to Franz Liszt and Teodor Leszetycki as a performer. Most of his repertoire has been left behind because of his desire to stick with -tradition and refusal to delve into modern music like his contemporaries. His 1927 Rhapsodie canadienne for piano and orchestra is without a doubt the most familiar work that premièred in 1936 by Helmut Baerwald and the CSM (Concerts symphoniques de Montréal) Orchestra, nowadays known as the OSM (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal).

Souvenirs d’Auguste Descarries

Many of the 14 piano works presented on the Souvenirs d’Auguste Descarries album were released during Isabelle David’s doctoral studies, each revealing harmonic refinement and true inspiration. A piano solo arrangement of Rhapsodie canadienne is also included on the recording; this master work is founded on two folkloric themes David recently performed with orchestra for the first time in almost 60 years.

Rising Talent

David grew up in a family with a number of accomplished musicians; she was only eight years old when she decided to dedicate her life to music. She won many scholarships and first-prize awards at music contests at the time, including the prestigious CANIMEX Canadian Music Competition. Her poetic and lyric virtuoso technique has been an eye-catcher for symphony orchestras with which she has performed in prestigious concert halls throughout North America and Europe.

Translation by Dwain Richardson

The official CD launch event will be on June 10, 7 pm at the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Arnaud G. Veydarier est actuellement étudiant en musicologie à l’Université de Montréal et nourrit un intérêt prononcé pour le jazz, la musique contemporaine et les liens entre musique et développement urbain. Il est pigiste pour La Scena Musicale depuis septembre 2017.

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