Tag Archives: Julian Armour

Music for love and loss

Posted by Liz

Continuing yesterday’s Canadian Voyage theme, today’s noon concert entitled Ottawa and Beyond featured new works from local composers, including solo piano; solo soprano saxophone; cello and piano; and two vocal works. Julian Armour’s brief introduction outlined the increasing freedom of contemporary composers and the resulting homan connection of new works. This was evident today in particular in my two favourites, both incredibly atmospheric: Angus McLachlin‘s Piano Sonata No 2 and Colin Mack‘s Isis and Osiris, Fantasy for Cello and Piano.

A little later on, Se-Doo Park provided an entertaining concert of cello repertoire: Britten’s Cello Suite No 1 Op 72, Piatigorsky’s Paganini Variations and Gaspar Cassadó’s Suite. Sadly I had to leave early, as Park’s playing was of a very high level.

This evening’s final Vikram Seth event, An Equal Music, was a delight. Seth’s engrossing readings from the novel concentrated on the directly musical aspects, keeping back some of the plot for concertgoers who had not yet read the book. The core performers, Quatuor Arthur Leblanc, provided accomplished performances of the string quartet excerpts (Beethoven’s String Quintet in C minor Op 104 – finale; Haydn’s String Quartet in A minor Op 20 No 6 – minuetto) and a spellbinding Contrapunctus 1 from Bach’s Art of Fugue. Maria Sourjko played the same piece for solo piano as the final performance, providing an interesting contrast.  Philippe Honoré and  Sourjko provided the most inspiring performance of the night in Vivaldi’s Manchester Sonata in C major, No 1 – largo. My mind kept flicking between images of the characters Michael and Julia and of Anna Maria Della Violin. The layout of the concert and of the works seemed to me to be a good introduction to chamber music so I hope there were ‘newcomers’ there – readers of the book who may not previously have heard the music, or indeed, been to this type of concert.

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Brahms, Debussy and a Canadian Voyage

Posted by Liz

New music to start off Friday’s concert schedule with Canadian Voyage at midday, featuring various new works by Canadian composers. The last (and best) piece was Victor Herbiet’s Concerto de Chambre; the piece was written to show that new saxophone music need not be alienating! The sextet (saxophone, 2 violins, viola, cello and piano) was an interesting mix of romantic-style melodies and technique. A very interesting 2-movement work that ought to be played regularly. out of the other works, Soulmate from Chan Kai Nin (for solo cello) was excellent but I found Still Time by John Burge to be harder to fathom.

Moving swiftly to Dominion-Chalmers for an afternoon of entertainment from ‘Alexander Tselyakov and Friends’. True light-hearted entertainment, perfectly suited to 2pm. Tselyakov père et fils started the afternoon with a piano four-hands arrangement of Debussy’s Petite Suite. Subsequently Tselyakov, Arianna Warsaw-Fan and Julian Armour (the latter two, after a few days of sheet music blowing around, with clothes pegs on their music stands) performed the short but very expressive Piano Trio in G major, again by Debussy.

A change of composer to Milhaud, whom I don’t recall having heard in concert before. I thought his Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, Op 157b matched the Debussy trio in good-humoured beautiful music, but livelier. The odd discordant moment in the fourth movement added an extra twist. Finishing off with a flourish came courtesy of Saint-Saëns’ Septet for Trumpet, String Quintet and Piano, Op 65.

Later on I headed to Saint Brigid‘s. The heat kept me away from the first half of A Brahms Night Out, but I heard some of the DJ set in the interim and it brought to mind the image of dancing in a field with glow sticks. There was a reasonable audience for Orchestra de la francophonie’s (OF) performances of Brahms’ Third and Fourth Symphonies Opp 90 and 98, plus a new work by Julien Bilodeau. Bilodeau’s piece, Concerto du printemps pour piano et orchestre, had a varied mix including interesting piano parts, a full orchestral scream, lots of percussion and ended with a kind of slap. Totally different from Brahms, maybe almost too different in terms of programming.

Brahms’ Fourth Symphony was the more enjoyable of the two. The OF played well, but sadly not as well as the Zürich Academic Orchestra on Tuesday. It was again refreshing to see a group of young musicians on stage, though I did not envy them having to perform in jeans!

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Saturday – Inspired by Music and Popular Pianists

Posted by Liz

Another interesting conceptual concert, this time exploring the links between music and visual art. Each piece had a brief explanation by either Julian Armour and/or the artist concerned. Julian compared today’s concept of new artworks with selected musical works with last year’s Music of Colin Mack concert, where Mack had written new pieces inspired by selected paintings in the National Gallery of Canada.

Overall the concept was well-executed, though I felt that Pachelbel’s Canon was slightly anticlimactic as a closing piece. For me, the performance (second of the festival and with the same musicians) of Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 accompanied by a new painting by Natasha Turovsky was the best- if I recall from her introduction, it forms part of a new ‘tears collection’. The image seemed to bring out the theme of grief and sharing a loss in Rachmaninoff’s composition to make the performance even more engrossing than Thursday night’s rendition. My other favourite performance was nearer the beginning, with Kimball Sykes, Julian Armour and Andrew Tunis performing Cable’s The Petty Harbour Bait Skiff with visual accompaniment by Philip Craig. Both the music and the picture were very atmospheric and immediately brought to mind images of the Eastern Avalon coastline.

Donna Brown‘s performance of Le temps des lilas (accompanying picture ‘In The Time of Roses and Lilacs’ by Barbara Gamble) was probably the crowd favourite, as well as Villa-Lobos’ O canto do cisne negro with an incredible watercolour by Sheryl Luxenburg entitled ‘Floating’.

Later, my pick of the evening’s 4 8pm concerts went to Menahem Pressler and the Jupiter Quartet. With a temporary lineup change to include Jonathan Vinocour, the Jupiters once again impressed with their open, lively playing in the String Quartet in D major, Op 44 No 1 by Mendelssohn. I particularly enjoyed the 3rd movement.

Menahem Pressler was clearly the star of the night. Loud applause greeted his wonderful performance of Debussy’s Estampes and the first encore, which puzzled quite a few concertgoers but I believe to be Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor – Op 17 No 4 (anyone who thinks it was a different Mazurka, please leave a comment).

An interesting second half especially for a non-Mozart lover like me. The Jupiter Quartet, bassist Jeremy McCoy and Pressler performed the sextet arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 17 in G, K453. The more intimate arrangement was superbly played with the Jupiters’ exuberance adding to the enjoyment. I found the 2nd movement (at least in this arrangement) to be less Mozartean in its sound and therefore more appealing – after the energetic allegro, it felt like a deflation and something of a meandering soliloquy.

Another loud round of applause was greeted by a second encore from Pressler, this time Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp min Op Posth.

After such a good performance, sadly only a small number remained for Stéphane Lemelin‘s second evening of Fauré Nocturnes. Sat waiting to enter, I was chatting to a few patrons who were of the opinion that at least one of these concerts should have been earlier in the evening. However a performance of nocturnes later in the evening is also interesting. This concert was much more the length that I would anticipate from an 11pm show, rather than Thursday’s late night epic. Lemelin was joined onstage by Alain Doom, narrating fitting French poems (English translation on screens either side of the stage). Certainly an interesting concept and Lemelin’s fluid playing was quite captivating, especially in Nocturne No 2 in B major, Op 33.

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Friday Celebrations – Pressler and NAC Winds, Jewish Composers Party

Posted by Liz

Day 3 and if anything, the quality of concerts has gone up, as has the size of the audience. Today’s daytime concerts at Dominion-Chalmers were about 75% and 85% full. First up, the ever-popular Menahem Pressler, today with the Principal Winds of the NAC Orchestra. It’s good to hear a slightly different take on chamber repertoire, although the program (Mozart and Beethoven) remained very much ‘core’. Each piece – Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds and Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds – was performed excellently, with Messrs Hamann, Sykes, Vine and Millard (and Pressler!) making the performance look easy. Both pieces seemed to me to be characteristic of each composer. I preferred the Beethoven, especially the 2nd movement, but really there wasn’t a bad moment.

A break for lunch before the even more popular Jewish Composers through the Ages concert. Sponsored by longtime friends of chamber music Teena and Walter Hendelman to celebrate their golden wedding, the atmosphere was part gala, part party. The selection of works (each introduced by Julian Armour) included big names (Gershwin, Copland) to relatively obscure composers (Rossi, Meyerbeer). I particularly enjoyed the suite of cello and piano works performed by Paul Marleyn and Dina Namer: Bloch’s ‘Prayer’ from From Jewish Life; Stutschewsky’s Kihan; and Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody. Lovely melodies and a dance edge to the Popper.

After the interval the excerpt ‘Lied’ from Korngold’s very romantic Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Op 23 proved very popular, as did Gershwin’s Two Preludes performed by Namer. The closing piece, Glick’s Old Toronto Klezmer Suite, was a very fun and fitting end to the show. All 4 movements were fun in their own ways; ‘The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul’ announced the after-concert reception with its party ending.

I am off to see The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings in concert this evening, but for string quartet fans tonight is the first of the Borodin Quartet’s Brahms and Tchaikovsky cycle.

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Day 2 Part 2 – Dance and Rachmaninoff

Posted by Liz

A complete evening of high quality performances – I heard from attendees of A Lover And His Lass that the evening was wonderful (for more detail, read Richard Todd’s review in the Ottawa Citizen).

The auditorium at the former Ottawa Technical High School was at least three-quarters full for last night’s Music and Dance spectacular. I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance program, but the evening was very entertaining and highly informative. Having just a few musicians to accompany the dancers introduced a more intimate element to the performances.

It was very interesting to see the Baroque dance sequences by Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière and Mikael Bouffart: wonderfully ornate costumes and excellent acting, especially in La Verdinguette (Jacques Champion de Charbonnières). Harpsichord accompanist Marie Bouchard received almost equal acclaim; her performance of Froberger’s ‘Lamento sopra…’ from Partita VI in C Major FbWV 612 was superb. Bouchard described the piece as an ‘unmeasured prelude’ and there was certainly a familiarity with some of the piano prelude repertoire.

Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stancyzk were clearly the stars of the evening, keeping the audience spellbound. Their performance of the pas de deux from Swan Lake was extremely well received, but the subsequent Lady of the Camelias (set to excerpts from the quintet arrangement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1) performance was even more superb.

At this point the scheduled program was somewhat mixed up, but this didn’t detract from some excellent instrumental performances by Wonny Song, Paul Marleyn and Yehonatan Berick.

Another excellent concert followed – Arianna Warsaw-Fan, Julian Armour, Matthew Larkin and Andrew Tunis playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Trios, featuring performances of the Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor and Trio élégiaque No. 2, the latter in the original arrangement with harmonium. Both performances had the reasonably sized audience rapt. Trio élégiaque No. 1 was incredibly atmospheric: beautiful melodies and great variation between flowing and gritty elements. Trio élégiaque No. 2 (written in homage to Tchaikovsky) was more difficult. The 2nd movement (quazi variazone) with the harmonium was very interesting and the violent piano passages were impressive, but I found the piece overall rather exhausting. A very full-on concert for a late night slot, but it was a good experience and I hope the two Fauré nocturnes concerts have as good attendance.

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Music and Beyond 2012: Introducing…

Only a few days to go until Music and Beyond 2012 starts! I am Liz, your guest blogger for the duration of this year’s festival. With even more concerts than last year, 2012’s festival has a whole host of exciting events, many of them very different to the more typical chamber music concert. Here’s a small selection.

Following the musical fireworks of the Opening Gala, Music and Dance showcases the interplay of two art forms from Baroque to contemporary. Continuing the combination theme, the ensemble Tapestry showcase the relationship between text and music in Song of Songs: Come Into My Garden. Two events feature the music of the Cold War: the Beyond the Bomb event at the Diefenbunker museum and the tie-in showing of The Iron Curtain at the Bytowne Cinema. Representing string quartets and eagerly anticipated after their 2005 Shostakovich Quartets series, the three Borodin Quartet shows feature the complete quartets of Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

For me, the five concerts featuring Vikram Seth are both exciting and intriguing. The four-part series The Rivered Earth features Seth and Alec Roth, alongside other musicians, performing Seth’s libretti (also published as a book) on the themes of ‘Songs in Time of War’, ‘Shared Ground’, ‘The Traveller’ and ‘Seven Elements’. The fifth concert returns to Seth’s 1999 novel An Equal Music and music featured therein. Menahem Pressler‘s two concerts, with the NACO Principal Winds and with the Jupiter String Quartet promise some very high quality performances.

Finally – the must-see Heavy Metal Violin event featuring returning virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine with her doom band Earthen Grave. Their self-titled new release features 10 songs which will certainly please any fan of classic heavy metal with a twist!

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