Chopin by Candlelight. Living the Music

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Chilean-Canadian pianist Alejandra Cifuentes Diaz presents a recital entirely devoted to Chopin as part of the Concerts sous les chandelles (concerts by candlelight) series on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. at the St. Denis Church in Montreal.

Holder of a master’s degree in piano performance from the Université de Montréal, Cifuentes Diaz has always had a particular fondness for the Romantic period, of which Chopin is one of the most celebrated composers. She also studied with one of the most famous contemporary Chopin performers, Dang Thai Son. “What I love the most in his music is the spoken quality of his melodies. We can almost put lyrics to each note, and it is easy to piece together a complete story from all that he left us in his scores,” she explains. For her Chopin’s music evokes “a sadness mingled with hope.”

Repertoire was selected in collaboration with Concerts sous les chandelles producer Michel Corbeil, who will act as narrator of the show. In fact, each piece will be contextualized with an anecdote or a fact surrounding its creation. Listeners will be entirely immersed in Chopin’s musical realm. The music thus introduced will become more tangible, and its subtleties more accessible. The audience will hear Études, Waltzes and Nocturnes, among other forms.

As the title of the series suggests, the concert will be lit solely by candles to create an intimate, distraction-free atmosphere. “The music is highlighted, not the artist,” explains Cifuentes Diaz. On stage, in addition to the piano, will be portraits of the composer, also illuminated by candlelight, as though he were present.

“When a pianist plays by candlelight, the energy is totally different from a hall with full lighting and nothing but a piano onstage,” Cifuentes Diaz confides. “I feel like I’m in a musical bubble, and each person in the room finds himself or herself in a musical bubble. This beautiful energy, where everyone is focused on the music, merges into a larger sphere in which our feelings, experiences, and histories are shared without ever uttering a word, ever exchanging a glance. Each of these performances is a unique experience and I count myself extremely blessed to be able to live these moments of beautiful humanity.”

Played in such a context, it is impossible not to be touched by the repertoire. “The first time a member of the audience approached me in tears, it was after I had played Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1,” the pianist recalls. “This was the father of one of my vocalist friends; he was Polish. He told me that the central theme, inspired by a Polish Christmas song, was so beautifully rendered that he was brought back to his childhood days, surrounded by his family in Poland. I was very moved.”

The concert by candlelight promises an experience just as moving.

Translation by Janessa Culliford

Frédéric Chopin sous les chandelles takes place at St. Denis Church 454 Laurier Ave. (Métro Laurier) on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. www.concertchandelle.com

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