CD Review: Carte mère by Catherine Major (Audiogram, 2020)

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Composer of Albertine en cinq temps – L’opéra, Catherine Major is first and foremost a singer and pianist in Quebec popular music. Her latest album, released at the start of the pandemic, is the fifth of her career, following Par-dessus bord (2004), Rose Sang (2008), Le Désert des solitudes (2011) and La Maison du monde (2015).

As in her previous recordings, we find rich textures and an interest in orchestration, both of which add value to the songs. We also find very poetic lyrics, which the author co-wrote with Jeff Moran. And as one expects in poetry, the meaning of the text is often hidden. Which might serve to puzzle listeners who are hearing Major for the first time.

In this most recent outing, the artist abandons the acoustic piano – her instrument of choice, which she had celebrated in particular in her song Le piano ivre – and opts instead for a synthesizer, electronic sounds, distortion and, as a fundamental canvas, a symphony orchestra. This element emerges clearly during instrumental introductions and finales, as well as a short piece titled Sanglot orchestral, but nothing more

Among my favorite tracks is La bouteille, for its inspired lyrics and a style rather removed from what we expect of Major, with words more spoken than sung. I was also enchanted by Ma sœur, Tableau glacé and Claustrophobe, three consecutive songs offer bittersweet themes, very rich in musical terms. Finally, still exploring new sounds and textures, Major concludes Carte Mère with Unique survivant, in which we encounter the gift for phrasing and prosody that makes her such an original force on the Quebec and francophone scene.

Carte mère
Catherine Major, voice, music and words; 
Jeff Moran, words; 
Bratislava Symphony Orchestra
Audiogram ADCD 10424

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About Author

Justin Bernard est détenteur d’un doctorat en musique de l’Université de Montréal. Ses recherches portent sur la médiation musicale, notamment par le biais des nouveaux outils numériques, ainsi que sur la relation entre opéra et cinéma. Membre de l’Observatoire interdisciplinaire de création et de recherche en musique (OICRM), il a réalisé une série de capsules vidéo éducatives pour l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Justin Bernard est également l’auteur de notes de programme pour le compte de la salle Bourgie du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal et chargé de cours à l’Université de Sherbrooke. Par ailleurs, il anime une émission d’opéra et une chronique musicale à Radio VM (91,3 FM).

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