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Nicolas Bacri | Something old, something new, something borrowed, something…

The Concerto No. 3 for violin and orchestra op. 83, and its references to older styles.

To be understood, every composer writes music using the same language while featuring his or her own personal pronunciation.  This variation in notation provides contemporary musicians the ability to distinguish the unique qualities of many composers and their time periods.  Over time, new ways of saying the same ideas were introduced to the musical world that would usually take about a century to evolve and then stabilize.  In present times, we find composers emerging at a rapid pace as they generate fresh ideas for new extended techniques that push performers and their instruments to new limits.   Unlike many of his contemporaries, Nicolas Bacri’s works beautifully showcase the lyrical melodies that have been the tradition of violin expression for centuries.   According to Bacri, his music is a form of communication and communion, always giving priority to the balance between his instinct as a composer and the discipline he has developed by working at the piano.  When composing his third violin concerto dedicated to Mirjam Tschoop, Bacri challenged himself to employ non-traditional forms.  His concerto is full of references to older styles like minuets and fugues mixed with 20th-century style.  In combining these two styles, Bacri contributes to the evolution of the concerto by constructing a piece that is both polyphonic and concerto-like in which the soloist can still shine.

LISTEN: Nicolas Bacri – Concerto No.3 – 2nd movement

 

Excerpts from "Save The Performer" by Anne Chicheportiche

The Wellness of a Musician, and the Importance of an Occupational Health Program in Music Schools.

“Pain and disability are commonplace aspects of a life in sports.  But for musicians, who are, in the words of Leon Fleisher, “athletes of the small muscles,” any pain or injuries to the body are often considered a personal failing, as well as, a threat to status and career.”

Most musicians have, at some point in their careers, suffered some sort of discomfort, pain, or actual injury, as a result of playing their instrument.  While some forms of discomfort may not be serious, and may demand nothing more than a little rest, other discomfort could be the first signs of a serious problem.  The issue is that most musicians do not know when they are suffering from a serious problem, and even if they do, they do not know what to do about it.  The result can often be career impeding or ending injuries.

To better understand these injuries we must first delve into their causes.  Among the various causes are poor technical training, performance anxiety, over-practicing, and environmental concerns such as cold rooms and bad chairs.  The most common injuries that musicians suffer are Tendonitis, Over-use Syndrome, and various shoulder and neck pains.

If musicians are to protect themselves from such injuries they must be provided ample education, early in their careers, about these various risks.  They must learn how to communicate their concerns to a doctor, and how to implement the necessary life-style changes that will promote better musical health.

Unfortunately, musicians, even at the collegiate level, are rarely provided the kind of medical attention on which athletes have come to rely. A student athlete can have access to chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition counselling, sports psychology, and other medical consultants. It is time for musicians to pursue a similar quality of medical care for themselves. In doing so schools of music will come one step closer to achieving parity between the athletic and music departments. Ideally, all schools of music should teach elements of occupational health such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, as well as methods for coping with performance anxiety and general stress.

In the full article “Save The Performer” you will find:

HOW DO INJURIES OCCUR WHILE PERFORMING ON THE VIOLIN?

  • Lack of Body Awarness
  • Poor Practice Habits
  • Stress and Lack of Rest

PREVENTATIVE METHODS

  • Making Wise Choices for Your Education
  • Pedagogical Methods on Relaxation and Motion for the Violin


 

Article Published on 29 July 2011 by Gregory Stepanich

MIAMI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’S MARTURET STRIVING FOR A HAPPY WORKPLACE

In talking the other day to Eduardo Marturet, music director of the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the conductor dropped a phrase I hadn’t heard before: “horizontal empowerment.”

It’s central to the Miami Symphony’s operational strategy, he said, which spreads out the responsibilities involved in mounting concerts.

“It’s a model for the symphony orchestra which doesn’t happen to exist in the United States or anywhere else,” Marturet said. “And I think it’s very much needed in these new times, when the orchestra, in my view, has to be revived.

“Otherwise, we have all these crises with the unions, like Detroit,” he said, referring to the players’ strike at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which took six months to settle. “Why? Well, because the musicians still do not feel properly represented in the organization, and it’s very frustrating.”

The Venezuelan-born Marturet, whose current contract runs through 2017, said he’s trying to look ahead to the future for a sustainable labor-management model.

“The orchestra ultimately belongs to the community,” he said. “But the people who play a role in the organization are the musicians, and I think that role is not yet given enough power. It’s nothing against the power of the conductor, mind you. I think it’s extremely important to have the stardom system. The stardom system will prevail.
“But you need to have other kinds of stardom,” Marturet said.

In the coming season, Marturet is backing up that idea by handing over the conductor’s duties for one concert to concertmaster Daniel Andai, which the conductor said was his idea, not the violinist’s. Marturet thought Andai’s work as a coach during string sectionals marked him as someone with conductorial ability.

“He is an example of a true artist, and someone we have to support,” Marturet said.

Andai will lead the Miami Symphony in concerts March 11 at Gusman Hall and March 12 at the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Center in Cutler Bay, which opens in October. The program includes the world premiere of a guitar concerto by Miami Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Alexander Berti. The soloist will be Spanish flamenco specialist Juan Diego.

Marturet said Andai’s wife, French violinist Anne Chicheportiche, is another example of the empowerment principle in that she is in charge of the orchestra’s chamber music program. She’ll be featured along with Chicago Symphony cellist Katinka Kleijn and pianist Ciro Fodere in a 3 B’s — Bach, Beethoven, Brahms — concert May 11 in the Knight Concert Hall.

Whether or not horizontal empowerment enables Marturet to build an even better orchestra remains to be seen, but surely this idea fits in with the global climate for workplace democracy. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, for example, which famously works without a conductor, is designed around teams of musicians deciding how the pieces will be played.

Music, like all the arts, draws very passionate people who believe strongly in what they’re doing and in the value of the art they’re presenting. All of us who’ve played music before in an ensemble can recall many a time when the group performance of a passage here or there just doesn’t work for you.

What Marturet is trying to do here is make sure he has a happy office environment, and while he may not bring out the Segways and foosball tables a la a cutting-edge tech company, he’s certainly in harmony with the times by trying to allow as many voices as he can to be heard.

 

MISO Beethoven Triple | Anne Chicheportiche, Katinka Kleijn, Ciro Fodere | May 2012

musimelange returns to DC!

♦ In a suburban house in Bethesda, MD musimelange shared its appreciation for a grand work by the renowned contemporary French composer Nicolas Bacri.

♦ White wine tasting was paired with the in-house chef’s famous mini crab-cakes and little cups of asparagus risotto.

♦ Guest mingled to the private salon with a cheese plate in hand while enjoying a brief lecture presenting the composer and his piece before the concert.

LISTEN: Nicolas Bacri – Concerto No.3 – 2nd movement

musimelange was in Antibes!

Using local caterers musimelange can travel to you anywhere in the world!

Antibes a French city of roses and art on the french riviera!

♦ On the terrasse of a beautiful villa, one could hear the cicadas singing.  A refreshing tasting of Absinthe served with the typical small back olives, pissaladières & ratatouille tartines.

♦ We travelled back in time to the beginning of the Twentieth Century with a mélange of show pieces for violin and piano

♦ A night in Antibes can not finish without Jazz (piano and saxophone), Rose flavored Ice Cream & Wine Rosé!

LISTEN:  Fritz Kreisler – Tambourin Chinois

 

Verbier Festival Au Quotidien

Lekeu & Debussy | Marseille

GUILLAUME LEKEU (1870-1894)

“Sonate pour piano et violon,” (1892)

Like the composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), Lekeu is one of the few extremely gifted composers who died too early, at the age of 24. He was considered one of Belgium’s bright young stars, but unfortunately died before he could harvest the fruits of a ripened genius. Although he was not exposed to music at a very young age, he still published his Op. 1, an Andante et Variations for violin and piano, at the age of fifteen, after alone teaching himself composition by plunging into the scores of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Lekeu’s talent impressed César Franck, who would become his teacher, mentor and close friend. Franck took the young man on a trip to Bayreuth to attend the Wagner festival. One of the operas performed there, Tristan und Isolde (1857-59), made a tremendous impact on him, resulting in a burst of creativity and encouraging a whole new level of musicality. This brought Lekeu to his quest to master different shades of feeling and plenitude. Lekeu stated “Even if it kills me, I put my very soul into my music.”

Because Lekeu shared the same belief as the Belgian violinist, Eugène Ysaye (1858-1931), that music should be what “the heart suggests, and the soul expresses,” Ysaye, regarded as “the King of the Violin,” commissioned Lekeu’s two first chamber-music works: a piano quartet and a violin sonata. Lekeu’s Sonate pour piano et violon en Sol Majeur (1892) that he claimed to have cost him “infinite pain,” was premiered in 1893, and since then never left the standard repertoire of the violin in France. It is worth noting that the title mentioned the piano before the violin, certainly to emphasize the importance of the voluptuous piano part. Although the piece was composed when Lekeu was twenty-two, and considered his masterpiece, one may feel that the composer might not have had the chance to totally find his own, unique voice.

The sonata is absolutely breathtaking; the narration of the two instruments might be felt as a dedication work to the greatest German composers and to the founder of the Franco-Belgian style, as well as a debut of Debussy’s impressionism. The influence of César Franck’s Sonata pour violon et piano en la majeur (1886) is very much implied. Like Franck’s sonata, Lekeu’s is written in cyclic form. One obvious mark of this idée fixe (a melody that is used in each movement to represent an obsessive image) is found when the theme of the first movement is literally quoted note-for-note in the denouement of the final movement. It is exactly what Franck did in his sonata with his third and fourth movements. But the genius of Lekeu shows his ability to continue and even surpass the path of the Franco-Belgian chamber-music founders by using an increased emphasis on an important compositional technique of his time, chromaticism. Coming from the Wagnerian school, this technique was the lifeblood of expressive music in the mid to late 19th century. When transferred to the Franckists, it became an additional means to achieve equilibrium and restraint, major attributes that have now long been esteemed in Franco-Belgian music.

The chromaticism is found in the first movement of the sonata, which opens with a beautiful calm statement played by the violin, accompanied by very light and sporadic piano chords suggesting moving harmony. This part also serves as a quotation to the opening of Johannes Brahms’s G-Major violin and piano sonata Op. 78 (1878-79). In order to keep his own flavor, Lekeu brings the theme into different twists and turns from its original state with the help of chromatic harmonic changes. Before leaving the maze of this first movement, the conversation between the piano and the violin arrives at a unison agreement and a victorious climax, later leading into a regretful and moving coda. This end sets the mood for the deep and touching second movement. By choosing a 7/8 meter, the first theme is continuous, as if the atmosphere is too unbearably intense to even breathe. Lekeu shifts from Brahms-like melodies, evoking lyricism towards popular songs laced with futuristic harmonies of another world. The third movement seems more traditional with its sonata form and use of counterpoint than the themes of the first two movements, which are more spontaneous with their chromatic adventures.

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

“Sonate pour violon et piano,” (1917)

Not only is the violin sonata, Sonate pour violon et piano, Claude Debussy’s last work, but it is also his only work for violin. Although it is dedicated to his wife Emma, it may be acknowledged as written for Arthur Hartmann (1881-1956). Before his friendship with Hartmann started in 1908, Debussy had never considered composing for violin. After the few transcriptions of the composer’s various piano works and songs that Hartmann arranged Debussy promised the violinist to compose for him, in return, a Poème for violin and orchestra. His life ended before he could accomplish his promise.

Most of his life, Debussy stayed away from traditional forms like the symphony, the concerto or sonatas. He would write music with evocative titles such as Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune. For his violin sonata, he adapted sonata concepts to his uniquely personal expressive needs. He wrote, “I am more and more convinced that music, by its very nature, is something that cannot be cast into a traditional and fixed form. It is made up of colors and rhythms. The rest is a lot of humbug invented by frigid imbeciles riding on the backs of the Masters.” Although the piece was written while he was dying, it is animated, whimsical and flamboyant.

Anne Chicheportiche

musimelange travels to Marseille, France!!!

Using local caterers musimelange can travel to you anywhere in the world!

We had the privilege to be welcomed at the top of the “Rue Paradis” in a typical chic 2 story apartment. The guest arrived and felt immediately at home.

♦ While tasting a Bandol and mini toasts of tapenade and bites of tian, one could hear a piano playing by itself in the background (using the new automatic system of Steinway), blended with typical friendly, singing, Marseille accent.

♦ The concert featured the host’s favorite violin sonatas: Guillaume Lekeu & Claude Debussy

♦ To finish a delighting evening in Marseille: Vervain tea with CanistrelliCroquantsNavettes (typical cookies)

READ: program notes

LISTENGuillaume Lekeu – Violin & Piano Sonata – 1st movement

An Evening with Ravel | Boston

MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)

Often put in the same category as his elder Claude Debussy, the French composer Maurice Ravel claimed to have “always personally followed a direction opposed to that of the symbolism of Debussy.” Although he had an interest in following fashion, dressing with “showy ties and frilly shirts,” he was an innovative precursor when composing music. He was a perfectionist, always expending his palette of styles using traditional forms and folk tunes, shying away from the new Schoenberg trend of atonality. He was known for his melodies, instrumental textures, and effects always attentive to form and craftsmanship.

“Sonate pour violon et piano,” (1923-27)

In 1917, Ravel attended a chamber-music concert featuring in his piano trio (1914) performed by violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange (1888-1961). She was an advocate of the music of her time. The first impression she had of Ravel was of a shy, nervous, stammering fox. Ironically, Ravel always compared Morhange’s manner to a cat. The fox named his prey, “Moune,” after his favorite Siamese cat. Although no information was found on an existent love relationship in Ravel’s life, Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003), a disciple of Ravel, explained that Ravel once asked Moune to marry him. Embarrassed, she had to say “no” and explained though she loved him very much, they were not compatible for marriage. She remained one of his closest friend, his confident and his technical consultant when composing for violin.

In a 1920 letter to Moune, Ravel expressed the desire to compose a violin concerto for her, but instead he dedicated the sonata for cello and violin (1922) to her, and he composed the sonata for violin and piano for her in 1927, even though he always considered the violin and piano acoustically incompatible. Ravel explained that while writing the sonata, he imposed on himself the independence of the two instruments showing and emphasizing their incompatibility rather than balancing their contrast. When listening to the first movement, a sonata form, imagine a cat’s journey with the elegance of the violin’s lyricism and the short and curious interruption of the piano. The second movement, a blues, demonstrates Ravel’s taste for American jazz. The violin’s melody slides with one finger from note to note to imitate a saxophone while the piano simulates strummed guitar chords. The final movement, a perpetuum mobile, starts with hesitating figures to launch a high-speed, perpetual motion showing off the violin’s virtuosic capabilities.

When starting to compose this piece in 1923, Ravel had Hélène Jourdan- Morhange’s playing in mind, hoping that she would première the sonata. By the time the work was finished in 1927, her severe arthritis prevented her from performing it. It was the Romanian composer and violinist Georges Enescu (1881-1955) with Ravel himself at the piano, who premiered the sonata in Paris on May 30, 1927.

“Tzigane, Rapsodie de concert,” (1924)

Maurice Ravel first heard the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi (1893-1966), the grandniece of the famous violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), at a private musical salon in England in 1922. Both d’Aranyi and Bela Bartók (1881-1945) were performing Bartók’s own sonata for violin and piano No. 1. Ravel was amazed by d’Aranyi’s musicality and flawless technical ability. He asked d’Aranyi to play Gypsy melodies from Hungary for an encore, which she did well into the early morning, mesmerizing Ravel. He explained to his friend Bartók that they inspired him to write a short piece of diabolical difficulty, conjuring up the “Hungary of his dreams.” Despite his initial enthusiasm to write a Gypsy flavored virtuoso showpiece, it was not until two years later that Ravel began working on Tzigane. It took him only a few days to finish the piece for violin and piano, just in time for its scheduled première in London on April 26, 1924. Even though the dedicatee received the score only a couple of days before the performance, the piece was wildly successful with the audience. D’Aranyi made such a hit with Tzigane that Ravel later provided a version for solo violin and orchestra.

Many European composers have been fascinated by the influence of gypsy music, as it contributes to the overall fabric of European culture. Ravel once said that if he would ever write something Arabian, it would be more Arabian than the real thing. The combination of Ravel’s rhythmical precision and his mischievous sense of humor, which can be found in his previous masterpiece La Valse, made reviewers perceive the piece at its première, as a parody of the “Liszt-Hubay- Brahms-Joachim school of Hungarian violin music.” Ravel described Tzigane as a virtuoso piece in the taste of a Hungarian Rhapsody.

Ravel, who considered the violin and piano acoustically incompatible, gives the entrance to the violin alone, specifying the dark, rich sound of the G-string for the first twenty-seven measures. This makes the piece unique, beginning with a cadenza. The sweeping piano enters as a safety net under the whispering violin double-stops tremolo, providing a dramatic entrance. The soloist is propelled through a series of virtuoso passages to a fiendishly difficult dénouement. Although its leaping double- stops, harmonics at blinding speed, and combination of left and right hand pizzicato passages have kept many violinists up late, its difficulties go beyond the technical. Freewheeling rubato and sudden tempo changes diabolically pull the performer apart between sentimentality and blurry speed, much in keeping with the greatest gypsy folk tradition.

Anne Chicheportiche

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