By Gabriel Prynn, cellist
We will conclude our current Montreal season on a contemporary note, by honouring our own Canadian composers. At the heart of the program: two works by John Rea, who passes from gypsy influences (in Lautari) to a subtle play of musical forms (in Schattenwerk), illustrating the versatility of this composer who has been celebrated by both the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) and the whole Quebec music milieu this year.
Another unique opportunity for lovers of new music: the première of the Piano Trio No.2 by Chris Paul Harman, a composer hailed as « one of the most exciting composers of his generation, anywhere » by the British press.
The music of the young Montreal composer Éric Champagne will also be given pride of place in the form of Stèles, written for the Trio Fibonacci in 2014. A work filled with tenderness, dedicated to the memory of his father.
Gypsy Music Revisited
John Rea is synonymous with eclecticism. This great Montreal composer, protagonist of the series Hommage of the SMCQ, was one of the first composers to write for the Trio Fibonacci, back in 1999. He leads a triple career as a composer, teacher and producer of concerts. His notable creations include: Sacred Landowska, a piece of music theatre for harpsichordist/actress and ensemble, recently taken up once again by the Ensemble contemporain de Montreal; Music, according to Aquinas, for twelve voices, two clarinets and cello; and a European production of his new orchestration of the opera Wozzeck by Alban Berg, by the Birmingham Opera Company (England). He teaches composition, music theory and music history at the Faculty of Music of McGill University, where he was the Dean from 1986 to 1991.
Lautari, the Romanian word of Arab-Turkish origin and the title of the work by Rea that we will perform at this concert, means fiddler. In common usage, it also means nation or tribe. Projected across the five movements of the piece, the notion of Lautari reveals itself in two musical forms known in the Hungarian folk tradition: Lassú (slow) and Friss (fast). Two slow movements are thus followed by a rapid movement, then by a slow movement, and a fast movement concludes the work. In this music one can easily imagine two gypsy fiddlers leading a fiery improvisation, accompanied by piano, which has been transformed into a dulcimer – the gypsy zither played with sticks.
« Although I do not actually have gypsy ancestry, I have always been fascinated by the so-called gypsy culture. And to such an extent that here, in my composition, I allowed myself to approach it through music. » John Rea
Rea’s work Schattenwerk will also be featured on the program, in a new version for violin and cello. This German word refers to shadows, silhouettes, or even spirits. Here is what the composer says about his piece:
« The first thing I would say about Schattenwerk is that there is a central idea that runs through the work, that of virtuosity, which is shared between the two musicians. One can say that they act as twins, doppelgängers. Since the birth of the work (originally for two violins), I have also made a version for violin and viola. »
« With the help of cellist of the Trio Fibonacci, I am pleased to see this new version for violin and cello come into being. Although these new versions are transcriptions of the original, each brings the listener something different. Indeed, the character of the cello, especially its virtuoso character, will make this new version of the work – and I cannot wait to hear it! – a more widely expressive piece. «