Claude Debussy at 150: We take his musical revolution for granted

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, one of Western music’s revolutionaries.

As with the varying styles of Impressionist paintings, the long view represents something defined, but the closer you get, the more his compositions start to fall apart into the individual components that our minds work imperceptibly to piece together into meaningful shapes.

The long view is so sleek and seductive that listeners long ago began taking Debussy’s art for granted.

Continue reading


Jan Lisiecki invited to play Glenn Gould Steinway at its new Ottawa home

Glenn Gould’s Steinway CD318, as it looked in his apartment on St Clair Ave. (Library and Archives Canada photo).

The National Arts Centre announced today that it has placed Glenn Gould’s beloved, broken-and-pieced-together Steinway CD318 concert and recording piano on permanent display at its mezzanine level.

Young Jan Lisiecki will be the first to play the piano in public in its new space, on June 20 at 11 a.m. Continue reading

As long as there is a bond between artist and listener, classical music has nothing to fear

I asked pianist Stewart Goodyear for an interview after Saturday’s Beethoven sonata maraton. His immediate response was that, since I had not sat through all 11 hours of his three-part performance, there was nothing to talk about.

That terse, shut-out-all-non-believers response is a natural extension of his determination to present the music his way — and his conviction that his way merits a waking day’s worth of a listener’s undivided attention.

This — an extreme manifestation of an artist’s inner imperative to expression — is what I wanted to probe. Continue reading

Royal Jubilee a fine time to contemplate what will remain of this Elizabethan music

An iPad-generated portrait of Queen Elizabeth II created last week by Montreal artist Bénédictine.

I was reading Queen Victoria’s journals last week, and had to chuckle at her dislike for the “tedious” music of George Frideric Handel.

He had been dead for nearly 80 years by the time Victoria ascended to the throne, yet his music was still being played and sung. Continue reading

Video: A history of recorded Eroica opening chords from Hanz Pfitzner to Riccardo Chailly

Thanks to Rosemarie Umetsu for pointing out this fascinating video that spans 82 years of recording history, using the opening chords of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Note how, in the 1990s, period performance practice alters the string sound.

The CBC is quietly dismantling recording archives that hold the story of music in Canada

Guy Dixon has an story in the Globe and Mail about how the CBC is culling its record libraries. This is not a bad idea if people make digital copies, but it appears the broadcaster is not doing so for every recording.

This is a potential tragedy for the history of recorded music — of all genres — in Canada.

Read all about it here.