For this Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, we celebrate the music of la belle province, Quebec. We’ve curated a wonderful program of works by Quebecois composers performed throughout the NAC Orchestra’s history.
First is Kaléidoscope, written in 1948, by Pierre Mercure (1927-1966). Though his life was short, he accomplished much before his tragic death at age 39: he played bassoon with the Montreal Symphony, studied with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, and even produced a successful TV show for CBC French Television on Radio-Canada. In this 1977 performance led by Raffi Armenian, hear how, in Mercure’s first major work, he explores new worlds of texture and sonorities.
Linda Bouchard (b. 1957) has had her music performed all over the world, and she is currently focused on developing multi-media work. She was the NAC Orchestra’s first Composer-in-Residence from 1993-1996. She wrote many works during her tenure, including Vertige, conducted here, from a performance in 1995, by then Music Director Trevor Pinnock. Nature, by turns both orderly and chaotic, inspired this virtuosic, colourful work for orchestra.
Symphony No. 3 by the renowned Jacques Hétu (1938-2010) is next. Perhaps the most performed Canadian composer, his music is unmistakably modern, profoundly expressive and sensitive, reflecting the composer’s own spirit. Conductor Emeritus Pinchas Zukerman is a long-time champion of Hétu’s music and took this work on the NAC Orchestra’s 1990 European Tour; accompanied by Jacques, and his wife, Jeanne Desaulniers. This archive recording, conducted by Pinchas Zukerman, is also from 1990, from a concert prior to the Tour. The short Symphony is compelling, full of lyricism and contrasting colours and tempos.
When Ana Sokolović (b. 1968) became one of the NAC’s Award Composers in 2009, a stimulating partnership was born. Ringelspiel (2013; heard here in a 2016 performance), is a fifteen-minute work laid out in five short, connected sections. The piece is the composer's reflection on childhood and nostalgia. The German word for merry-go-round, Ringelspiel also plays with the mechanical aspects of movement and the circular motion of the machine.
We close with Symphonie minute by José Evangelista (b. 1943). Written in 1994, this archive is from 1996, conducted by Samuel Wong. Contrary to most symphonies of great length, this miniature seven-minute symphony for large orchestra does it all in four, short movements. This charming work is rhythmic, dissonant, and full of rich texture. Hear the woodwinds shine in the second movement.
Here is what the composer had to say about the work…
Ringelspiel was my first commissioned work for the NAC Orchestra. Ringelspiel is the Austrian-German word for merry-go-round, and is similar to the word Ringispil in my native Serbian. This fifteen minute piece is laid out in five short, connected sections: mechanical, heavy-footed, merry-go-round ballerina, mechanical and broken merry-go-round.
For me, and to most of us, a merry-go-round brings back memories of childhood and conjures up emotional responses of nostalgia and naïveté. In addition, I derived inspiration from the mechanical aspects of a merry-go-round – its simplicity of movement, its circular motion, and its status as an icon of the machine age.
III. merry-go-round ballerina
V. broken merry-go-round