Early Music Montreal

Saturday, June 25, 2005

10:30 A Musicall Banquet

I have heard Monika Mauch and Nigel North individually. This is the first time I heard them together. This concert took place in the crypt of Notre-Dame de Bonsecours Church, a wonderful venue for an intimate concert. The songs were all from a collection published by Robert Dowland, son of John Dowland. The repertoire is mainly sorrowful or contemplative - very calm. It is beautiful, but after a full day of concerts it is a bit soporific. Monika Mauch has a rich, warm voice. Each time I hear her, she gets better and better. The accoustics in the crypt are excellent. Each note of the lute could be easily heard. I understand that the performers are recording the music heard this evening. I look forward to hearing it again, when I am not so easily lulled to sleep. These performers are well worth hearing!

8:00 Twelve Seasons

Twelve Seasons - Cage, Vivaldi and Piazolla
I came prepared to dislike the John Cage movements, but was pleasantly surprised. Though it was not the high point of the evening for me, it was more melodic than I expected. I truly loved the Vivaldi and Piazolla. Matthias Maute did a masterful job of arranging the music for this grouping. It made me hear the Four Seasons of Vivaldi with new ears.

The Allegro of Spring was delicate with a lovely continuo line. Matthias plays with breathtaking virtuosity. He sometimes bends the notes and accentuates the dissonances. Then he gallops through the allegro movements at an impossible speed, never losing clarity. The whole ensemble was excellent. In Winter there was a beautiful harpsichord solo. The rich sound of the bass added a richness to the sound.

For me, the highlight of the evening was the Piazolla. Even the body language of the musicians changed as they played his music. The lush sounds and seductive rhythms filled the church. Though not composed for these instruments the effect was wonderful. Even the harpsichord fit right into the soundscape. The music, at times languid, especially in some of the beautiful cello solos, spoke to the soul. In one section, the undulation moved from musician to musician - bassoon to oboe to recorder.

It was interesting to hear the contrast of the 3 composers. Altogether - yet another wonderful concert.

5:00 - If Musicke be the Food of Love

Oh I wish they had played on! This was a spell-binding concert. Meredith Hall, Étienne Dupuis, Sylvain Bergeron, Susie Napper, Margaret Little and Olivier Brault played a variety of music from the Baroque repertoire as well as some traditional songs. The songs interspersed by instrumental pieces were well-chosen for the intimate venue at the Chateau Ramezay. Meredith Hall is a beautiful singer who so obviously loves to sing. Her eyes reach out to the audience and her expressive face draws you in to hear the story she has to tell. Her voice was lovely in all the repertoire, but when she sings Robbie Burns airs, her voice has come home. Her Scottish burr, lovely lilt and pure tones combine to convince you that this is exactly how Burns would have wanted to be heard.

Today was the first time I heard Étienne Dupuis sing. His voice is nicely matched with Meredith's: their duets blended beautifully. I look forward to hearing more of Étienne in the future. His interpretation of the drinking songs was delightful. He has a playful sense that comes through in the music.

I spent part of my morning (June 25) listening to the CD of La Nef with Meredith Hall: My Love is Like a Red Red Rose

Play on!

Festival - Meet CBC

I could not resist. I spent 2 hours at a concert, Délices du Nouveau-Monde which was simultaneously broadcast on CBC 1 in Montreal. Anne Lagacé-Dowson and Katherine Duncan hosted the show, doing short interviews but leaving a lot of time for the music. The show was really a sampling ( a buffet where we could taste a bit of everything) of the more accessible music of the festival. It began with Ensemble Caprice who featured short sections of what would be in tonight's concert - John Cage, Vivaldi and Piazolla - an eclectic mix, but with Matthias Maute's arrangements - it works. The Vivaldi excerpts were the first two movements of Spring. The langorous second movement brought me back a few years to CAMMAC where I took a class with Matthias and we worked on an arrangement of Spring for 4 recorders. It was a very hot summer and the practice hut we were in baked under the sun all morning in preparation for our 11:45 class. Despite the heat, it is an experience I will never forget. Matthias is a positive and encouraging teacher which brings out the best in all of us. I well remember Katie, playing bass recorder, trying to get the effect of the dog barking. The arrangement Ensemble Caprice played today, with a bassoon playing that part, was more effective!

It was amusing to be part of a radio audience. Our applause was directed (louder, softer, stop) Were we the fifth group of performers?

The second music ensemble to perform was Danse Cadence. They normally accompany dancers in traditional Québecois dances as well as Baroque Dance. Pierre Chartrand did some step dancing so the radio audience could hear his footwork, but mainly it was the musicians who performed. It is very hard to sit still to this music which is inspired by the folk music of Scotland and Ireland which emerged in the Baroque era.

La Nef and Les voix humaines along with Meredith Hall and Étienne Dupuis performed a few drinking songs. I felt very fortunate to have a ticket for the afternoon concert (review later)

Constantinople ended the concert with music of the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century and some medieval music. Their sound is wonderful, with instruments not often heard giving a different texture. Their music is at times hypnotic. I am looking forward to the (very) early concert on Sunday.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Friday Schedule

Decisions, decisions - I have lots of work to do, but so much music to hear. How to decide what to miss and what to go to? I have my pass, so the main concerts are not even in question. It is the many public and smaller events. Do I go here the wonderful up and coming musicians? the master classes? or do those workshops I have to prepare take precedence? What about the lectures and discussions tomorrow? It is a priviledge to have the opportunity to hear the experts share their knowledge.

I am afraid I will have to curtail my participation early in the day so I have the stamina for concerts at 5:00, 8:00 and 10:30! What a feast!

Handel's Fireworks Music

Fire of Passion

What a delightful way to end the evening. Matthias Maute directed a noisy band of musicians - brass, reeds and percussion. They played with gusto in this outdoor venue accompanied by real fireworks. I heard the fireworks technician interviewed on the radio on my way down to the festival and he described the difficulty of planning a show with live music. The timing is not predictable as it is with recorded music. Although the fireworks were not always in synch with the music, it was a delightful spectacle and more successful than the first performance in 1749 when several of the wooden structures that had been built for the event caught fire.

This evening only the musicians caught fire - as they played with passion!

La Conversione di Clodoveo, re di Francia

What a gem! From start to finish the singers and instrumentalists convinced me that Caldera was a wonderful composer. This oratorio tells the story of the conversion of Clovis, the fourth-century King of France. The story, itself, is not very interesting, but the music had some stunningly beautiful moments.

Allyson McHardy soprano (Clodoveo)
Nathalie Paulin soprano (Clotilde)
Suzie LeBlanc soprano (San Remigio)
Matthew White countertenor (Uberto)

Under the guidance of Alexander Weimann, the musicians (both singers and instrumentalists)
did a wonderful job.

One thing I was less satisfied with was the makeup. I found it strange and that it did not add to the look of the production. All in all, though, it was a lovely concert.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Montreal Baroque Festival 2005

Thursday Schedule

11:45 at night and I am feeling exhilarated. I just came home from the first night of the Montreal Baroque Festival feeling satiated from the Fruits of Passion. There is no one who can organize an event like Susie Napper. The theme of the festival weaves through the entire event and there is something for everyone.

I started the evening at 6:00 with a rehearsal for the parade. The parade involves anyone who wants to take part. Each year Matthias Maute has composed a canon to be played in the parade. Many of my fellow recorder players from the Montreal Recorder Society were there.

Leading the parade were banner carriers, followed by drummers from FACE school and then the assorted musicians followed by members of the OLDE 78TH FRASER HIGHLANDERS from the Stewart Museum. This event makes everyone feel that this is our festival.

Marie-Natalie Lacoursiere entertained us all with a performance of Les Passions by Couperin - a series of characters portrayed through mime and dance. As always, she delighted the audience.

This was a lovely appetizer

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Amateur Musicians Enjoy Sharing Accomplishments

Last Thursday I attended and participated in the Gala Evening of the Montreal Recorder Society. This is an organization which organizes groups and activities for recorder players of all levels. At the Gala Evening, three groups played to share their accomplishments from the season's work. Recorder for Fun is a group that has been playing together this year. It is remarkable what they have accomplished. In a short time they have learned to play their instruments and how to play in an ensemble. Flute en Suite is an intermediate group. Under the direction of Gille Plante, they have grown as an ensemble. Flutissimo, of which I am a member, is the advanced ensemble: a recorder orchestra of 24 players. Amateur music is alive and well!

Friday, June 03, 2005

RSS and Blogs

Some people reading this blog may have little experience with blogs, so I'll use this post to talk about some of the possibilities. A blog should be a two-way street. You will notice at the bottom of each post there is something that says 0 comments. You can click on this to add a comment - your own take on a concert I have reviewed, additional information, anything you want to add.

You may also have noticed the calendar on the right. This is generated by RSS Calendar I have created an Early Music Montreal calendar where I post all events that I know of. I have already added the 2005-06 seasons of Arion, Caprice, Boréades, Autours de la Flûte and now that I have the information for SMAM, I will be adding their series. If anyone is reading this blog and has events to add, please e-mail me at emm@mac.com.

If you want to subscribe to the calendar, send me an e-mail at emm@mac.com and I'll invite you. If you use an aggregator such as bloglines following the directions in the invitation e-mail you will receive, you can add the calendar feed to your other feeds. You can also add this blog to your aggregator and see updates when they are posted.

Hope you are enjoying this blog.

James Bowman and SMAM

Last night I had the good fortune to be at the concert of SMAM with James Bowman. The concert started with a sonata for 2 violins and continuo by Rosenmüller. It was a lovely piece with nice interplay between the two violin parts, played by Chloe Meyers and Chantal Remillard. They did a second sonata later in the programme, which provided a nice contrast to the vocal pieces.

Next on the programme was Bella region by Giulio Caccini with James Bowman accompanied by Sylvain Bergeron on théorbo. From the first note on, Bowman drew me in to his world. It was wonderful to be a "front seat lady" as I felt Bowman was singing for me. In the vast space of St-Léon, I still felt a sense of intimacy. His voice is full of warmth and conviction. As the last note faded, the spell he cast was complete.

In Monteverdi's motet, Salve Regina, Bowman demonstrated his enormous dynamic range. When he needed power, it was there with total control. In both this piece and the subsequent Vivaldi Stabat Mater, I wondered if those sitting futher back could hear Bowman's pianissimo passages. The balance between him and the orchestra was not always good, with the orchestra overwhelming his voice, at times. St-Léon is a very reverberant church and it takes a lot of restraint to keep the sound from getting muddy. Christopher Jackson conducted from the harpsichord, without his customary pencil. The orchestra played well; I particularly liked the Eja Mater, where the strings provided a very light accompaniment to Bowman's touching interpretation.

After the intermission, we heard Handel's concerto grosso for 2 oboes, bassoon, cello, bass and continuo. Montreal is really blessed with incredible Early Music performers. Washington McClain, Matthew Jennejohn and Suzanne DeSerres are wonderful double reed players and they proved it, yet again, in this performance. It is lovely to hear the colour they add to the strings. I loved the dissonances in the first movement of the piece.

Last on the programme was Pergolesi's Salve Regina. Once again, Bowman demonstrated his mastery of his voice. In Ad te clamamus, it rang out, while in the Et Jesum, it was lyrical. I felt I was listening to a lullaby. In Ad te suspiramus he bound me up in the poignancy he created and his crescendo followed by a fast diminuendo totally swept me up. Again, the orchestra was at times too heavy-handed to allow us to appreciate Bowman's very quiet sections.

We were treated to an encore: an aria from Rondelina. I understand why it is one of Bowman's favourites. Handel's operas, while short on storyline, more than make up for it with the variety and beauty of the music. The aria provided us with another aspect of Bowman's voice. I'ld go hear him again any time.