Browsing: Contemporary

To understand the music of today, we need to know its beginnings, to understand the music of the 20th century in all its variety and heterogeneity. It is often a part of the musical history hidden from the general public, because it has suffered for several decades from limited media and institutional visibility. If Messiaen, Ligeti, Stockhausen or Schnittke were programmed as often as Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, the ear would surely be much more attuned to contemporary listening and receptive to the music of today. By sweeping aside tonal language, that is to say, all Western music from Bach to…

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As the years go by, composer Maxime McKinley, who will be celebrating his 40th birthday this year, has turned out a wealth of premieres with the optimism and openness that characterizes his music. From the pulsations of the Wirkunst series to the recent Dégel written for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sherbrooke native offers a wonderfully varied repertoire, from solos to full orchestral works, and reveals a vibrant universe that is in constant evolution. In March alone, his Bleu tombant will be created by Trio Fibonacci and two of his compositions will come out as recordings: Cortile di Pilato on…

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The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) has contributed significantly to the dynamic of the local new music scene. While doing its part in getting more original music out in the world, this organization sets that stage by reviving masterpieces of 20th-Century music through events of its own like Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques (MNM). The festival theme this year is grands espaces (open spaces), a most suitable one for Karlheinz Stockhausen, a visionary whose music will be heard in the weeks to come. “To me, Stockhausen’s name rhymes with open spaces,” states Walter Boudreau, MNM headman and artistic director of the…

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The myth of Cain and Abel has been the object of many a literary work. One penned by Nobel Prize-winning novelist José Saramango is the most noteworthy treatment to have appeared in recent times. Cain is portrayed in it as the victim of a violent, cruel and corrupt God. Impressed by the treatment, Michel Gonneville started thinking about turning it into an opera. On February 19, 2019, his intentions will be fully realized during the Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques International Festival with the premiere of L’hypothèse Caïn. In his preparations, Gonneville was inspired by two other writers: Konrad Lorenz and his studies…

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Co-founded in 2006 by violist Sharon Wei and pianist Angela Park, the Ensemble Made In Canada includes Elissa Lee (violin) and Rachel Mercer (cello). It is now one of Canada’s leading piano quartets and will be performing at the Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques Festival on Feb. 25 as part of a national tour. For its new Mosaïque Project, EMIC commissioned each of 14 Canadians to write a four-minute piano quartet inspired by a particular region of Canada. Among the composers are Nicolas Gilbert (Quebec), Julie Doiron (New Brunswick), Kevin Lau (Yukon Territory), Nicole Lizée (Saskatchewan), Richard Mascall (Ontario), Samy Moussa (Nunavut) and…

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“Only madmen invent entirely new languages,” wrote the Viennese-born British critic Hans Keller in a 1961 essay for The Musical Times bearing the same title that adorns this column. The comment puts me in mind of Walter Boudreau’s Concerto de l’asile, one of the more substantial Canadian contemporary pieces of recent years to reach a nonspecialist public, by which I mean OSM subscribers in the Maison symphonique, who heard the premiere in January 2013 with Alain Lefèvre at the piano and Ludovic Morlot on the podium. There were performances also last year by the National Arts Centre Orchestra under Alexander…

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Samy Moussa was calling from the Villa Massimo, the spacious former estate of an aristocratic family in Rome, where he has lodgings as a fellow of the Accademia Tedesca or the Deutsche Akademie, depending on your language of choice. “A place where you can work, meet people, and be inspired,” he calls it. “I try to be here as much as I can.” No wonder. But multiple commitments draw the Montreal-born composer away from this outpost of German culture in the Eternal City, notably to Berlin, where he has lived for seven years. “I know you wrote a couple of…

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company announced today a new mainstage commission: The Old Fools bycelebrated Montreal-based composer Ana Sokolović and seasoned British librettist Paul Bentley. La Reine-Garçon, first announced in 2015, is moving forward as a co-commission with the Opéra de Montréal; it’s the first mainstage collaboration of its kind between the two major Canadian opera companies and at its helm are two exceptionalCanadian artists: Julien Bilodeau as composer and Michel Marc Bouchard as librettist. The Old Fools This opera in two acts was inspired by “The Old Fools” by renowned English poet Philip Larkin. The poem concerns Larkin’s fear…

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Montreal, December 11, 2018 – The Opéra de Montréal announces a new opera, La Reine-Garçon, with a libretto by Michel Marc Bouchard and music by Julien Bilodeau, which will be presented in Montreal and in Toronto in 2023. This work, the first to be co-commissioned by the Opéra de Montréal and the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, once again substantiates Montreal’s undeniably important role in creating a new opera repertoire showcasing our greatest homegrown talents. The popular and critical success of the opera Les Feluettes, which had its world premiere at the Opéra de Montréal in May 2016, confirmed Montrealers’…

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Contemporary composers are not, on the whole, the most considerate members of the human species. Their time is spent writing music, promoting it, and making a living at some more profitable form of musical activity, like banking a university salary. Whatever time they have left is treated as me-time, understandably so. All the more reason, then, to remember Oliver Knussen, who died earlier this year, for his vast generosity in conducting works by other composers – time that he might otherwise have spent finishing his own works. Ollie was a perceptive interpreter and naturally communicative conductor. He brings to life…

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