Browsing: Romantic

The anniversary year of Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949) is marked by the re-emergence of a piano concerto that he wrote at the height of his fame. Pfitzner, acclaimed for his 1917 opera Palestrina, delivered the concerto in 1923, with Walter Gieseking as soloist. If Palestrina echoes Wagner’s Meistersinger, the concerto nods repeatedly in the direction of Brahms’s B-flat – and the nodding is done mostly by the listener. Pfitzner’s fallen reputation is sometimes ascribed to his gruesome flirtation with the Nazis but this concerto suggests something more organically at fault. Each of four movements is introduced by a promising idea, which…

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REVIEW: of Ellen West (the world premiere of a new work by Ricky Ian Gordon and Frank Bidart); and La fille du régiment (a new production of Donizetti’s 1840 comic opera). Opera Saratoga inaugurated its summer 2019 mainstage series on June 29 and 30 – the same weekend as the highly-touted “WorldPride 50” celebration. The latter event, of course, originated as homage to the purported founding moment of the modern gay rights movement; but it has by now pullulated far beyond its initial meaning, becoming a portmanteau affirmation of self-identities of all stripes. It is interesting, then, that – whether…

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The OSM has seen its share of notable guest conductors over the decades. Now the list includes Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony since 1995. His appearance on May 22 in the Maison symphonique marked his Montreal debut. He made it count for something. Not that Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is the likeliest vehicle for the expression of podium personality. As its title implies, this score is made of multiple parts that need to be coordinated. A lean and athletic figure at 75, Tilson Thomas accomplished the technical element of task with an economical baton style…

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Hard to fault the Mahler Third Symphony heard Saturday night (April 13, 2019) in Salle Claude-Champagne. Very hard, if the criteria are performing standards and the grasp of the score shown by Jean-François Rivest, founding artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal. It should be noted, however, that the 100-plus players on stage included a high proportion of professors and alumni, including veterans we see often enough in professional situations. Only three of the eight double bassists, to judge by the printed program, were students. The first timpani part was undertaken by none other than…

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Local boy makes good. Not that Jordan de Souza is, strictly speaking, a Montrealer. “Né à Toronto” were the first words we read in the program biography Friday (April 12, 2019) at the Maison symphonique. But this conductor learned his craft at McGill and had some good innings at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul before ascending to the position of Erster Kapellmeister at the Komische Oper in Berlin. Thus the special interest of his return to town at the helm of the Orchestre Métropolitain. Spring was the supposed theme of the evening but the real focus was…

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After almost four years, a major project has come to fruition with the release of Chopin’s two Piano Concertos as played by Charles Richard-Hamelin and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano. “It’s one of the five best recordings that Analekta has ever produced,” exclaims the label’s president, François-Mario Labbé. Almost 32 years after the record company’s establishment, this landmark recording reminds the wide world of the excellence of musicians from Quebec. “After Charles Richard-Hamelin’s win at the 2015 Chopin Competition, I thought of recording those concertos and brought it up with Kent Nagano, who was immediately interested,” Labbé…

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The modern flute is one of the most recent additions to the woodwind family. Developed in the 1830s, it gained full acceptance by the century’s end. Its new key system gave it a more even tone, greater sound projection and, not least, increased playing facility. As entrenched as it is in concert music, is this instrument, otherwise known as the Boehm flute, the only one worthy of interest? What about its predecessors? Is there anything to learn from these? Mika Putterman, for one, would certainly answer the last question in the affirmative. As a self-described “historical flutist,” she owns an…

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For the ninth year, La Scena Musicale has provided an alternative gift on Valentine’s Day. Singing Valentines are a different way of reaching out to those you care about. And geographic location is not an issue “It was a lovely surprise,” stated Monique Djokic of New York, who received L’invitation au voyage as sung by soprano Chantal Dionne from her nephew Mark. Dionne also sang Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca for longtime patron of the arts (and La Scena supporter) Noël Spinelli. “It made my day,” said Raymonde Coderre after Wah Keung Chan had sung La fleur que tu m’avais…

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This past weekend (Friday, Nov. 9 to Sunday, Nov. 11), I attended four vocal music performances (three operas and one oratorio) which shows that Montreal is a vibrant city for voice lovers. Friday: Opera McGill presented a hilarious Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. Sadly, this comic opera is not produced enough nowadays. This score is worth discovering. The highlight was the simple yet very effective stage directing by Patrick Hansen. The second cast was generally good. Unlike some previous Opera McGill productions, there were no surtitles and many of the jokes were lost as many of the words were not…

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Last Saturday, November 10, Opéra de Montréal premiered Der Rheingold, the first instalment from Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibellungen. It marked the first time that this work is staged in the history of the opera company. What you missed The highlight of the show was the performance by Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg. The native from Saskatchewan struck gold with his dramatic stage presence and his steely voice. He incarnated Alberich in body and voice, colouring every sound to match the meaning of the words he was singing. A good example was the contrast in his vocal and physical attitude…

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