Hear the music of “Canada’s Mozart”! The National Arts Centre Orchestra’s inaugural 2010-2011 Mark Motors Audi Signature Series concert – Mathieu and Brahms – features Quebecois pianist Alain Lefèvre performing rescued music by Canadian composer André Mathieu
The first Mark Motors Audi Signature concerts of the season – entitled Mathieu and Brahms – will be performed on Wednesday October 27 and Thursday October 28 at 8 p.m. in Southam Hall. Prize-winning pianist-composer Alain Lefèvre, making his NAC debut, has been intrigued by the music of neglected Quebec composer André Mathieu -- “Canada’s Mozart” -- for over 30 years. He has been on a lifelong mission to bring Mathieu’s music to a wider public, and he will perform Mathieu’s soaringly romantic Piano Concerto No. 4. Alain Lefèvre will join Le Droit music critic Jean-Jacques Van Vlasselaer for a pre-concert chat (in French) at 7 p.m. in Le Salon; M. Lefèvre will also play a number of piano selections.
The concert also features Brahms’s tranquil and very personal Symphony No. 3, performed by the NAC Orchestra under the baton of conductor Andréw Grams. Brahms biographer Karl Geiringer described the symphony as “Like a rainbow after a thunderstorm.”
Hailed as a “hero” (Los Angeles Times) and a “smashing performer” (Washington Post), Alain Lefevre performs an unusually powerful Romantic piano concerto by composer André Mathieu. Born in 1929 in Montreal, Mathieu was a child prodigy. He received his first lessons from his pianist father, was composing music at age four, and astonished audiences with his piano prowess. He was giving recitals at age 6 and studying piano and composition in Paris at age 7. At 13, he won the New York Philharmonic’s first prize for composition in a competition for young composers and at18, his Concerto de Québec was used in the soundtrack of a successful film, La Forteresse. He had found acceptance in Paris -- where critics unanimously hailed the adolescent as a “little Quebecer Mozart.” Rachmaninov pronounced him, “…a genius, more so than I am.” -- and New York, where his career thrived for a short time. World War II interrupted his career, and Mathieu became unhappy, bored and exhausted. His fame peaked around 1950, and although he continued to compose, the world took little notice. He had a disastrous marriage and suffered from emotional problems, eventually succumbing to alcoholism. André Mathieu died in poverty and obscurity in Montreal at the age of 38. Much about his life remains unknown, including the exact cause of his sudden death, and his 200+ compositions have yet to be properly cataloged.
Piano Concerto No. 4 is a richly romantic work in the grand tradition of Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Grieg. Although never properly performed or recorded during the composer’s lifetime, it was reconstructed from solo acetates given to Alain Lefèvre by friends of Mathieu. The pianist describes the concerto as “…a great gift to Canadian music, because it is our link to Romanticism. Most Canadian composers have been modern, but Mathieu was, in Paris, a friend and peer of Sergei Rachmaninoff, and their music is very similar. I believe in the quality of this music very much. Think of Edvard Grieg or even George Gershwin — but even more traditionally Romantic. It’s difficult, but it is grand.”
Alain Lefèvre’s recording of the orchestral works of André Mathieu, including the world premiere of Piano Concerto No. 4, (recorded live in concert with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Choir under conductor George Hanson) was released under the Analekta label in September 2008. Georges Nicholson’s biography (in French) of André Mathieu was published by Québec Amérique in May 2010. That same month, writer-director Luc Dionne’s film about André Mathieu, L’enfant prodige (The Child Prodigy) was released to great acclaim.
Alain Lefèvre on his relationship to André Mathieu and Piano Concerto No. 4
“It’s been twenty years now [that I’ve been interested in the music of Mathieu.] It started for me with his Concerto No. 2, which is very beautiful, and something I have enjoyed playing very much. But people’s view of this work has been affected by the fact that Mathieu was a child prodigy. It can be hard for them to accept that a child could have composed music of this much drama. He was a modern Mozart, and even surpassed him in some ways, at least as a prodigy. When I started out trying to do this I had to go ahead without much support. There was no full score [of Piano Concerto No. 4] or really much of anything on paper. Mathieu at the end of his life was a big drinker, the kind who would pay his bar tabs with sheet music. So obviously, when he died, his papers were in disarray. But one night [September 21, 2005] when I was performing the Mathieu Concerto No. 3 with an orchestra in Quebec, a woman asked the stage manager if she could speak to me privately. She was about 70, she was with her husband, and they handed me a bag, saying, “You should have this.” Well, it was a set of acetates that Mathieu had recorded of himself playing the solos from his Concerto No. 4. They had been recorded haphazardly in people’s homes, they were not in great shape, and I didn’t even have a machine that could play them. Fortunately I had friends with great technical resources who could make copies for me. When I heard them, I knew I had to get a score. There was no score, so I hired a man to make a transcription, and then Gilles Bellarmare finished the job of reconstructing [and orchestrating] the piece for performance.”
PRE-CONCERT CHAT (in French) – 7 p.m. – Le Salon
« Le Piano selon Mathieu » with Le Droit music critic Jean-Jacques Van Vlasselaer and pianist Alain Lefèvre
FRIENDS OF THE NAC ORCHESTRA SILENT AUCTION
The Friends of the National Arts Centre Orchestra will be hosting a silent auction in the main foyer of the NAC on October 28. Bid on outstanding items from across Canada and around the world before the concert, during intermission, and for 20 minutes following the performance. Proceeds from the auctions will benefit music education programs for young people.
The NAC Orchestra performs Mathieu and Brahms in Southam Hall of the National Arts Centre on Wednesday October 27 and Thursday October 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.45, $31.21, $42.51, $53.81, $64.57, $75.33, and $94.17, for adults and $11.38, $16.76, $22.41, $28.06, $33.44, $38.82, and $48.24 for students (upon presentation of a valid student ID card). Tickets are available at the NAC Box Office (in person) and through Ticketmaster (with surcharges) at 613-755-1111; Ticketmaster may also be accessed through the NAC’s website www.nac-cna.ca.
Subject to availability, full-time students (aged 13-29) with valid Live Rush™ membership (free registration at www.liverush.ca) may buy up to 2 tickets per performance at the discount price of $12 per ticket. Tickets are available online (www.nac-cna.ca) or at the NAC box office from 10 a.m. on the day before the performance until 6 p.m. on the day of the show or 2 hours before a matinee. Groups of 10 or more save 15% to 20% off regular ticket prices to all NAC Music, Theatre and Dance performances; to reserve your seats, call 613-947-7000, ext. 634 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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