Archive for Montreal

First Canadian appearance of the Violins of Hope

The Montreal Holocaust Museum, in collaboration with the Orchestre Métropolitain, present The Violins of Hope, a concert under the direction of the internationally-renowned Dutch conductor Vincent De Kort. Following select performances in Europe and the United States, the Violins of Hope will be played for the first time in Canada by musicians of the Orchestre Métropolitain at Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts on Saturday, November 2nd at 7:30 pm

The Violins of Hope are a collection of more than 70 string instruments restored by Israelimaster luthier Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom Weinstein. These violins were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust and have survived pogroms, concentration camps, and the passage of time. They now represent stories ofinjustice, suffering, resilience and survival. Eight of these precious violins will travel to Montreal for the concert on November 2nd.

“My mission is to get hold of any violin that has been rescued from the Holocaust, to repair it and to make it into a concert violin. I want these violins to be played, to have their voices heard and have their say, because these violins have a very particular sound:  voices, weeping, laughter and prayers escape,” stated Amnon Weinstein.

The November 2nd concert will be both a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian Armed Forces. Between October 2 and November 8, 1944, the First Canadian Army fought the Nazi forces installed on the banks of the Scheldt River, thereby liberating the port of Antwerp and saving the lives of thousands of Dutch citizens. Access to this port was essential for supplying the Allies and facilitating their advance to defeat Adolf Hitler’s forces and liberate Europe.

The Violins of Hope offer a unique and moving program including works by J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Jocelyn Morlock, as well as the premiere of Children’s War Diaries by Canadian composer Jaap Nico Hamburger. The new chamber symphony by Hamburger, this year’s Mécénat Musica Composer in Residence, was inspired by a compilation of diaries of teenagers murdered during the war, as well as a visit to the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem. Cantorial music in honour of Holocaust victims will be performed by soprano Sharon Azrieli and tenor Gideon Zelermyer

The Montreal Holocaust Museum educates people of all ages and backgrounds about the Holocaust, while sensitising the public to the universal perils of antisemitism, racism, hate and indifference. Through its Museum, its commemorative programs and educational initiatives, the Montreal Holocaust Museum promotes respect for diversity and the sanctity of human life.

Premier concert des Violons de l’Espoir au Canada

Le Musée de l’Holocauste Montréal, en collaboration avec l’Orchestre Métropolitain, présente Les Violons de l’Espoir, un concert sous la direction du grand maestro néerlandais Vincent de Kort. Après l’Europe et les États-Unis, Les Violons de l’Espoir seront présentés pour la première fois au Canada grâce aux musiciens de l’Orchestre Métropolitain à la Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts, le samedi 2 novembre à 19h30.

Les Violons de l’Espoir sont une collection de plus de 70 instruments à cordes restaurés par le maître luthier israélien Amnon Weinstein et son fils Avshalom. Ces violons qui appartenaient à des musiciens juifs avant et durant l’Holocauste ont résisté aux pogroms, aux camps de concentration et à l’usure du temps pour raconter des histoires d’injustice, de souffrance, de résilience et de survie. Huit de ces violons précieux se rendront à Montréal pour le concert du 2 novembre.

« … Je veux que ces violons soient joués, qu’ils fassent entendre ce qu’ils ont à dire. Car de ces violons sort un son très particulier, s’échappent des voix, des pleurs, des rires et des prières, » dit Amnon Weinstein.

Ce concert est offert en hommage aux victimes del’Holocauste et à l’occasion du 75e anniversaire de la libération des Pays-Bas par les Forces armées canadiennes. Entre le 2 octobre et le 8 novembre 1944, la 1er Armée canadienne combattit les forces nazies installées sur les berges de la rivière Escaut et libéra par le fait même le port d’Anvers. L’accès à ce port était essentiel pour le ravitaillement des Alliés et pour faciliter leur avancée en vue de défaire les forces d’Adolf Hitler et de libérer l’Europe.

Cet événement offre un programme unique et émouvant comprenant des œuvres de J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Jocelyn Morlock, ainsi que la première de Journaux de guerre d’enfants du compositeur canadien, Jaap Nico Hamburger. La nouvelle symphonie de chambre de Hamburger, compositeur en résidence Mécénat Musica de cette année, s’inspire d’une compilation de journaux intimes d’adolescents assassinés pendant la guerre, ainsi que d’une visite au Mémorial des enfants de Yad Vashem. La soprano, Sharon Azrieli et le ténor, Gideon Zelermyer offriront des chants cantoriaux en l’honneur des victimes de la guerre. 

Le Musée de l’Holocauste Montréal informe et sensibilise les publics sur l’Holocauste, ainsi que sur l’antisémitisme, le racisme, la haine et les dangers de l’indifférence. Par son exposition permanente, ses programmes commémoratifs et ses initiatives éducatives, le Musée fait la promotion de notre responsabilité collective à l’égard du respect de la diversité et du caractère sacré de toute vie humaine.

Orchestre classique de Montréal ~ A New Name for The McGill Chamber Orchestra!

80th Anniversary Season

[Français ci-dessous]

In anticipation of its 80th anniversary season (2019-2020), the McGill Chamber Orchestra is to be rebranded Orchestre classique de Montréal or OCM, as announced today by Artistic Director Boris Brott and Executive Director Taras Kulish. The celebratory launch event took place at the headquarters of BMO Bank of Montreal, the orchestra’s presenting sponsor, with the orchestra’s friends and subscribers in attendance.

Founded in 1939 by violinist, conductor, and composer Alexander Brott and his wife Lotte Brott, the McGill Chamber Orchestra quickly became one of Canada’s most established chamber orchestras, touring to five continents, recording extensively, and appearing regularly on radio and television. Now led by Boris Brott, OC, OQ, the elder son of Alexander and one of Canada’s most internationally renowned conductors, the MCO is a vibrant, innovative, and flexible ensemble consisting of the city’s best professional musicians, which presents concerts throughout the year in the finest halls of Montreal.

“My parents founded this orchestra with the highest musical standards as well as a desire to grow and educate audiences, and to champion Canadian music and artists,” comments Brott, “Our current musicians form an outstanding ensemble, including our recently-named concertmaster Marc Djokic. It continues to be a privilege to carry on the legacy of this wonderful ensemble of musicians and we look forward to this new era as the Orchestre classique de Montréal.” Maestro Brott first joined the orchestra as Associate Conductor in 1989 and was appointed co-conductor in 2000. Upon the death of his father in 2005, he was appointed Artistic Director of the MCO. 

Executive Director Taras Kulish comments, “While the orchestra was founded by Alexander Brott and his colleagues at the McGill Conservatory, our new name better reflects our identity as a professional orchestra performing in various parts of Montreal, often in collaboration with other Montreal arts organizations. In recent seasons, we have worked to extend our reach to inspire young audiences and also to welcome new Montrealers to our events. The orchestra will mostly remain as a chamber ensemble however it will expand into a larger ensemble for various concerts and collaborations as it has in the past. Our new name will more clearly define who we are while continuing to maintain our welcoming and approachable atmosphere for both new and returning audiences.”

Since its founding, many of the world’s greatest artists have appeared as soloists with the orchestra. At the same time, the McGill Chamber Orchestra has championed many up and coming artists from closer to home – including offering Quebec star Stéphane Tétrault his orchestral debut back in 2007. The OCM has also built a strong reputation of championing and creating a new repertoire of orchestral music by Canadian and Quebec composers, predating the existence of the arts councils. These new works include such composers as Pierre Mercure, Jean Vallerand, Claude Champagne, Maxime Goulet, Nicole Lizée, François Morel and of course Alexander Brott. Artistic Director Boris Brott plans to continue to develop this tradition with the Orchestre classique de Montréal. 

“It is a joy for me to share our orchestra’s passion, tone and excellence, the hallmarks of our magnificent OCM, on our 80th anniversary” comments Boris Brott, “We mark this milestone by bringing you a remarkable season featuring superb Quebec and international soloists, and partnerships with the best of the best of Montreal arts organizations. We celebrate our new name but continue our long tradition of performances with energy, elegance and a commitment to excellence, where everyone is made to feel welcome!”

Fulfilling its mission of celebrating inclusivity and diversity, the OCM has created a new program called Culture for Everyone. This program allows us the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with new immigrant communities, women’s shelters, and other Montreal organizations in offering complimentary tickets to all our performances. We have also reduced our student ticket prices to only $10 for the majority of our concerts. The OCM wants the magic of music to be accessible to everyone. 

En prévision de la saison de son 80e anniversaire (2019-2020), l’Orchestre de chambre McGill est rebaptisé Orchestre classique de Montréal,ou OCM, tel qu’annoncé aujourd’hui par Boris Brott, directeur artistique, et Taras Kulish, directeur général.Cette nouvelle appellation a d’ailleurs été soulignée par un événement festif au siège social de la BMOBanque de Montréal, présentateur de saison, où étaient conviés amis et abonnés de l’orchestre.

Fondé en 1939 par le violoniste, chef d’orchestre et compositeur Alexander Brott et son épouse, Lotte Brott,l’Orchestre de chambre McGill est rapidement devenu l’un des orchestres de chambre les mieux établis au Canada, cumulant les tournées dans cinq continents, les enregistrements et les apparitions à la radio et à la télévision. Aujourd’hui dirigé par Boris Brott, O.C., O.Q., fils aîné d’Alexander et chef d’orchestre canadien parmi les plus connus sur la scène internationale, l’OCM est un ensemble vibrant, novateur et flexible, composé des meilleurs musiciens professionnels de la ville et habitué des plus belles salles de concert de Montréal.

« Mes parents ont fondé cet orchestre selon les critères musicaux les plus rigoureux, dans l’intention d’inspirer et d’éduquer leur public tout en faisant la promotion de la musique et des artistes du Canada, explique Boris Brott. À l’heure actuelle, nos musiciens, parmi lesquels le premier violon Marc Djokic, qui a obtenu ce poste récemment, forment un ensemble remarquable. Perpétuer la tradition de ce superbe orchestre est un privilège toujours renouvelé, et nous avons hâte d’entamer une nouvelle ère sous le nom d’Orchestre classique de Montréal. » Maestro Boris Brott fait ses débuts à l’OCM à titre de chef d’orchestre adjoint, en 1989, avant de devenir cochef d’orchestre en 2000. Après le décès de son père, en 2005, il est nommé directeur artistique de l’ensemble. 

Taras Kulish, directeur général, affirme : « Bien que l’orchestre ait été fondé par Alexander Brott et ses collègues au Conservatoire de McGill, notre nouveau nom représente mieux notre identité d’orchestre professionnel qui se produit un peu partout à Montréal, souvent en collaboration avec d’autres organismes artistiques locaux. Au cours des dernières saisons, nous avons cherché à étendre notre portée, tant pour inspirer de jeunes publics que pour inviter à nos concerts de nouveaux Montréalais. L’orchestre demeure avant tout un ensemble de chambre, mais pourra prendre de l’ampleur selon les besoins des concerts et des collaborations, comme par le passé. Grâce à ce nouveau nom, nous affichons plus clairement notre identité tout en préservant un caractère chaleureux et accueillant à l’intention de nos publics, nouveaux ou initiés. »

Depuis sa création, l’orchestre a pu partager la scène avec certains des plus grands artistes internationaux. Il a également contribué à propulser les carrières de nombreux artistes de chez nous, offrant notamment à l’étoile québécoise Stéphane Tétreault sa première prestation avec orchestre, en 2007. L’OCM est aussi reconnu pour la défense et la création de nouvelles œuvres classiques des répertoires canadien et québécois, et ce, avant même l’apparition des conseils des arts. Parmi les compositeurs soutenus par l’orchestre, citons Pierre Mercure, Jean Vallerand, Claude Champagne, Maxime Goulet, Nicole Lizée, François Morel et, bien entendu, Alexander Brott. Le directeur artistique actuel, Boris Brott, a la ferme intention de poursuivre cette tradition avec l’Orchestre classique de Montréal.

« Transmettre la passion, l’excellence et la musicalité qui ont fait la réputation de l’OCM est pour moi un véritable plaisir. Il y a 80 ans que ses fondateurs, Alexander et Lotte Brott, ont eu l’ambition de créer un important orchestre qui enrichirait le paysage culturel de Montréal » dit Boris Brott. « Cette saison, notre programme soigneusement élaboré met en vedette de merveilleux solistes du Québec et d’ailleurs, en collaboration avec certaines des organisations artistiques les plus prestigieuses de la ville. Nous célébrons le nouveau nom de l’orchestre tout en perpétuant sa tradition : des spectacles énergiques, élégants et de qualité, où chacun se sent bienvenu. »

Poursuivant sa mission de célébrer l’inclusion et la diversité, l’OCM a créé un nouveau programme : Culture pour tous. Ce dernier a pour but de collaborer avec plusieurs organisations montréalaises, telles que les communautés de nouveaux arrivants, les refuges pour les femmes et bien d’autres, et de leur procurer des billets de faveur pour chaque concert. L’OCM a aussi réduit le prix des billets étudiants à 10 $ pour la plupart de ses spectacles. L’ensemble veille ainsi à ce que la magie de la musique soit accessible à tous.

collectif9 plays Gustav Mahler

Montreal’s “Dazzling” 9-piece String Band Explores New Territory

After touring extensively across North America and in China with music from their critically-acclaimed debut album Volksmobiles, Montreal’s cutting-edge 9-piece classical string band, collectif9, brings an entirely new set list to the stage featuring the music of Gustav Mahler, including original arrangements of selections from Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. The intimate ambiance of the Matahari Loft, delicately lit by Martin Sirois, lends a mysterious air to this acoustic evening of discovery on Saturday, April 8, starting at 8pm.

In revisiting Mahler’s first two majestic symphonies, collectif9 explores themes as profound as life and death, contrasting the torment of human existence with the immaculate splendor of nature. Whilst navigating through somber reflections and wry folk melodies, the group pays homage to Mahler’s distinct brand of irony. Despite the huge scale of instrumentation in Mahler’s symphonies, the individual voices are often woven as intricately as chamber music, and proved conducive to Thibault Bertin-Maghit’s new 9-voice reductions. Also included on the set list for April 8 are transcriptions of works by Gabriel Prokofiev, founder of London’s classical club-night series Nonclassical, and Canadian composer Derek Charke’s Falling from Cloudless Skies. (Night owls should stay late for a post-concert set from Want Slash Need.)

Since its 2011 debut, collectif9 has heralded a new age in genre-bending classical performance, attracting diverse audiences in clubs, outdoor festivals, and concert halls, often with staging, and amplification – as well as charisma – more commonly seen at rock shows. Their debut recording, featuring the world premiere of Canadian composer Geof Holbrook’s Volksmobiles was called “dazzling” (The WholeNote) and “an eclectic mix of five folk-inspired tunes, each attacked with vigor and verve … [from] an ensemble that has the potential to go very far indeed.” (La Scena Musicale) Recent appearances include an extensive cross-Canada tour, debuts in New York and several other US cities, and a 3-city tour to China.

collectif9 is: Thibault Bertin-Maghit, leader and bass; John Corban, Yubin Kim, Robert Margaryan, and Liz Skinner, violins; Scott Chancey and Xavier Lepage-Brault, violas; Andrea Stewart, and Jérémie Cloutier, cellos.

BEETHOVEN ~ PASSION ROMANTIQUE: The Montreal Chamber Music Festival’s 22nd Season

Beethoven image_SGPRMay 26 ~ June 18, 2017

Pre-Festival Prestige Series ~ February 1, May 6, and May 10

The Montreal Chamber Music Festival presents Beethoven: Passion romantique, dedicating its 22nd season to the spirit of Beethoven, the great master who represents the transition from the Classical to the Romantic era.  Founder and Artistic Director Denis Brott, C.M. has featured the music of Beethoven on almost all Festival concerts, anchored by the performance of the complete Beethoven string quartets over six concerts by the extraordinary Dover Quartet, who have “enjoyed a “rise to the top [that] looks practically meteoric” (Strings Magazine). Denis Brott comments:  “Like no other composer, Beethoven ushered in a new musical language inspired by the French Revolution’s Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  Beethoven’s remarkable prowess and indomitable spirit has influenced all music since, and his emotional expression and compositional innovation continue to inspire and resonate.  The Festival celebrates his genius with gratitude and gusto in 2017.”

This 22nd Festival season, which is preceded by a three-concert “Prestige Series”, features many more extraordinary artists, including superstar Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, a world premiere by Yoav Talmi, the Israeli Chamber Project, the Rolston String Quartet, the always-popular jazz series with Rémi Bolduc, Robi Botos, and Natalie MacMaster, and much more.  A total of 43 events, at all times of day, fill out the Festival schedule for more concerts, more free events, and more Beethoven than ever before!



To open the 2017 season and the Prestige Series, the Festival is thrilled to welcome back close friends, the Emerson String Quartet for a recital on February 1 at 7:30 pm at Salle Bourgie. This unmatched quartet is celebrating its remarkable 40th anniversary season with a delightful program of Mozart’s Quartet No. 15, K.421; Ravel’s Quartet in F Major; and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 3.

Beethoven Words & Music brings together several of the composer’s chamber works with texts from his journals and letters for a wonderfully intimate evening on Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 pm at Théâtre Paul-Desmarais, Canadian Centre for Architecture.  The elegant Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein, who thrilled Festival audiences last season with his performances of Mozart concerti in transcriptions for string quartet, returns alongside violinist Andrew Wan, cellist Denis Brott, and narrators in English and French, Eric Friesen and Julie Payette, respectively.

The final event of the Pre-Festival Prestige Series is Casanova, a theatrical collaboration with Montreal’s Ensemble Caprice on Wednesday, May 10 at 8 pm at Pollack Hall.  Acclaimed baritone Michael Volle takes on the persona of the 18th-century Italian adventurer, best known for his legendary womanizing, in an evening featuring music by Mozart, Vivaldi, and Gluck, with soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez.



Described by The New Yorker as “the young American string quartet of the moment,” the Dover String Quartet catapulted to attention after sweeping the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, and has quickly become a major presence on the international scene.  With its burnished warmth, incisive rhythms, and natural phrasing, the quartet’s sound is “so distinctive as to be identified within mere minutes” (Philadelphia Inquirer). The Dover Quartet will perform the complete Beethoven String Quartet cycle for the Festival, taking place over six concerts, all at Pollack Hall:  May 26, 28; June 2, 4, 9, and 11.  In partnership with the Festival, McGill’s School of Continuing Education presents a series of bilingual lectures on the Beethoven quartets, directed by Richard Turp with guest speakers including Raffi Armenian, Denis Brott, and Julie Payette.

The Dover Quartet also joins current Banff International String Quartet Competition torch bearers, the Rolston String Quartet for a concert of award winners on Thursday, June 8 at 7:30 pm at Pollack Hall.  Music will include Mendelssohn’s famous String Octet, Op. 20 and the Quebec premiere of Quartet No. 1 by Zosha di Castri, which was written for last summer’s Banff competition.



The Festival is thrilled to present two concerts featuring the spectacular young pianist Jan Lisiecki.  Just 21 years-old, Lisiecki has won acclaim around the world for his extraordinary interpretive maturity, distinctive sound, and poetic sensibility.  The New York Times has called him “a pianist who makes every note count” while Classic FM, praising his most recent album for Deutsche Grammophon, wrote:  “he may be young but Jan Lisiecki plays like a legend.”  Jan’s new album of orchestral works by Chopin, with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, also for Deutsche Grammophon, will be released in March.

On Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30 pm at Pollack Hall, Jan is joined by cellist Denis Brott in a recital of works by Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.  Then, on Friday, June 16 at 7:30 pm, he performs a solo piano programme including works by Beethoven and Chopin, closing with an arrangement for piano and string quintet of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, with the Festival Strings.



The Festival’s popular TD Jazz Series always brings in tremendous artists from home and away for three fun-filled evenings, and this year is no exception.  The three Saturday night concerts all take place at Salle Bourgie, beginning at 7:30 pm.

On June 3, Canadian saxophone icon Rémi Bolduc brings his dazzling virtuosity, refreshing style and magnetic stage presence to the Festival for a new programme:  Tribute to George Shearing: Lullaby of BirdlandTo salute the legendary pianist, Bolduc brings along a group of outstanding musicians including François Bourassa, piano; Neil Swainson on bass; Pat Labarbera on tenor saxophone, and drummer Rich Irwin, for an unforgettable evening.

Robi Botos is a virtuosic pianist, rooted in everything from Eastern European folk to classical to modern jazz. The Oscar Peterson protégé, and recent Juno winner for “Jazz Album of the Year” for his Movin’ Forward, takes the stage on June 10 with bassist Mike Downes and drummer Larnell Lewis.

To close out the jazz series on June 17, the Festival welcomes beloved Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her quartet.  Over the course of 11 record releases, including numerous gold albums, and three decades of performing thousands of live shows, often collaborating with a multitude of world renowned artists, MacMaster has remained true to her traditional and invigorating jigs, reels, and strathspeys, always leaving her audience clapping and hollering for more.


The Israeli Chamber Project comes to the Festival for two concerts at Pollack Hall, both with thrilling premieres. This dynamic ensemble, based in both Israel and New York, comprises strings, winds, and piano, all of them brilliant, prize-winning players.  Time Out New York calls them “a band of world-class soloists … in which egos dissolve and players think, breathe and play as one.”

On Tuesday, June 13 at 7:30 pm, clarinettist Tibi Cziger and cellist Michal Korman are highlighted in the Canadian premiere of Shulamit Ran’s Private Game for clarinet and cello.  They are joined by pianist Assaff Weisman, violinists Yehonatan Berick and Carmit Zori, and violist Nitai Zori, for works by Bartók, Weber, and Brahms.  The concert on Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 pm, features the world premiere of Quintet for Clarinet by acclaimed Israeli conductor, composer, and pianist Yoav Talmi, well-known to Quebec audiences following his 13-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Quebec Symphony.  Talmi will be joined by his colleagues including pianist Alon Goldstein in a concert that will include Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances for four hands and Quintet for Piano and Strings No. 2.



The Montreal Chamber Music Festival once again proudly highlights the talents of the next generation of brilliant classical musicians, including the latest crop of winners of the Canada Council’s Musical Instrument Bank.  On Sunday, June 18 at 3:00 pm at Pollack Hall, the young musicians will perform a delightful and family- friendly programme, on the exceptional collection of great violins and cellos by such legendary makers as Antonio Stradivarius and Guarnerius del Gesù, valued at over 40 million dollars.

Four different superb violinists, to include Dennis Kim, Timothy Chooi and recent OSM Manulife Competition winner Blake Pouliot, take the lead in the movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, performed with narration and projections.  The ensemble will also perform Beethoven’s Quartet No. 11, Op. 95, as arranged for string ensemble by Mahler, and Saint-Saëns’ whimsical favourite, The Carnival of the Animals, narrated by Julie Payette.



Matinées musicales

Join us for free concerts on Saturday morning June 10 and 17.  Coffee and croissants are served starting at 10:30 am at Tanna Schulich Hall, with the 1-hour concerts starting at 11:00 am.

Smartphone Concerts

Keep your smartphone turned on Tuesday, June 13 and Thursday, June 15 from 5:15 – 6pm for our unique concerts in the lobby of Tanna Schulich Hall.  Capture the concerts, featuring the young Instrument Bank string players, in your own unique style and post them for an online video competition.

 Concerts dans les rues

A series of free noon-hour concerts featuring up-and-coming musicians, at noon each day from Monday, June 12 to Friday, June 16, locations TBC.

Sunday Concerts at Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Free concerts each Sunday during the Festival: May 28, June 4, June 11, and June 18 – all at 3:30 pm.  More information at


ALL FESTIVAL TICKETS ON SALE VIA ADMISSION or 1 855 790-1245 and at all Admission outlets

Tickets for all Festival concerts:

Regular:  $ 61.84 / Seniors:  $ 51.50 / Students 26 and under:  $ 28.50

Children 12 and under, accompanied by an adult:  FREE

Taxes and fees included


Inaugural Concert for the Azrieli Music Project: Compositions by Brian Current, Wlad Marhulets, Mahler and Bernstein

Kent Nagano and the OSMMaestro Kent Nagano is conducting the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on Wednesday, October 19 at 8 p.m. at Maison symphonique de Montréal in a concert presenting a reflection on tradition, identity and on the universal character of music. Four wonderful soloists – tenor Frédéric Antoun, pianist Serhiy Salov, clarinetist André Moisan and soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez – and the OSM Chorus will join forces with the Orchestra on stage to perform masterworks by Bernstein and Mahler along with a spectacular concerto for clarinet by Wlad Marhulets, the inaugural winner of the Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music. The audience will also hear the world premiere of a groundbreaking and epic work by Brian Current, The Seven Heavenly Halls, winner of the Azrieli Commissioning Competition. The event is being presented in collaboration with the Azrieli Foundation.

The Azrieli Music Project is a daring and ambitious new initiative, fostering the creation of new orchestral works on a grand scale that is rarely seen. This first edition presents composers of two major new works reflecting on the history, culture and traditions of Jewish experience. While the Jewish experience is a  central theme of this program, music remains a universal language that transcends culture, ethnicity, time and place.

Commenting on the partnership with the Azrieli Foundation, Music Director Kent Nagano stated: “The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is delighted to take part in this ground-breaking new initiative, which sets an impressive example for both philanthropy and creation in Canada. On behalf of the OSM, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Azrieli Foundation for spearheading this collaborative project.”

Dr. Sharon Azrieli Perez (also performing excerpts from Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder) inaugurated the project in 2015, stating, “Music has always played an important role in the development of cultural identities; it reflects history and soul. In creating these extraordinary opportunities for composers of music inspired by Jewish experience, we hope to sustain music’s vital continuity through the long and rich history of Jewish people and culture. The Azrieli Music Project is a medium for innovation, creation and risk-taking by today’s most inspired orchestral composers.”


  • The World Premiere of Brian Current’s magisterial The Seven Heavenly Halls for orchestra, chorus and tenor solo (with Frédéric Antoun, tenor)
  • Wlad Marhulets’ virtuoso Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet for orchestra  and clarinet solo (with André Moisan, clarinet)
  • Bernstein’s rarely heard The Age of Anxiety for piano and orchestra (with Serhiy Salov, piano)
  • Mahler’s sublime Adagietto for orchestra and Rückert-Lieder (excerpts) for soprano and orchestra (with Sharon Azrieli Perez, soprano)

A pre-concert discussion will be held in French and English starting at 7:00 pm on the Parterre level lobby of Maison symphonique. Kelly Rice will moderate the discussion which will include composers Brian Current, Wlad Marhulets, and composer and AMP jury member Ana Sokolović.

Details of works to be performed:

Brian Current’s The Seven Heavenly Halls is a work of grand proportions, calling for full orchestra and chorus, and a tenor soloist. This 25-minute piece was inspired by the ancient Kabbalistic book of the Zohar, with a scale harkening back to the golden age of great symphonic music. “While reading through the Zohar, I immediately heard turbulent and gestural music full of orchestral colours,” says Current. “Even more inspiring was the reference to the Sefer Hekalot or the Seven Heavenly Halls, a series of ecstatic stages where each vision is marked by a different colour.”

Wlad Marhulets’ Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet brings the lively folk traditions of central Europe to the concert hall. Born in Minsk in 1986, Marhulets moved with his family to Gdansk, Poland as a child. It was there, at the age of 16, that he first heard a recording by acclaimed klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer. “Listening to this modern reinvention of klezmer music changed my life,” says Marhulets, who soon after moved to  New York City, where he met Krakauer and was taken under the wing of Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano. Marhulets’s Klezmer Clarinet Concerto was premiered by Krakauer and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Andrew Litton, in 2009.

Gustav Mahler, Jewish by birth, fought persecution throughout his entire career. Fifty years later Leonard Bernstein was able to celebrate his Jewish cultural heritage openly and to critical acclaim. Works by Mahler and Bernstein on this program bear witness to the history of composers who struggled to express personal and cultural identity through the universal language of music.

Since its founding in 1934, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) has made a name for itself as a leading orchestra in Quebec and Canada. The OSM is a cultural ambassador of the highest order, having earned an enviable international reputation for its many quality recordings and tours. The OSM proudly upholds this tradition under the leadership of its current music director, Kent Nagano, by featuring innovative programming that aims to rejuvenate the orchestra’s repertoire and strengthen its connection with the community. Over the years, the OSM has gone on tour approximately 40 times (with the most recent being a coast-to-coast tour of the United States from March 14 to 26, 2016) and roughly 30 excursions in Canada and abroad. The Orchestra has more than 100 recordings to its name on the Decca, EMI, Philips, CBC Records, Analekta, ECM and Sony labels, as well as on its own label. These recording have earned some 50 national and international awards.

The Azrieli Music Project (AMP) is a newly-established initiative of the Azrieli Foundation. Inspired by the creative vision of Dr. Sharon Azrieli Perez, AMP aims to celebrate, foster and create opportunities for the performance of high quality new orchestral music on a Jewish theme or subject.

The Azrieli Foundation is a Canadian philanthropic organization that supports a wide range of initiatives and programs in the fields of education, architecture and design, Jewish community, Holocaust commemoration and education, scientific and medical research, and the arts.

Cellist Matt Haimovitz Reaches New Heights in His Intense Engagement with the Bach Suites with Six Commissions and Premiere Recordings

PTC5186561_Coverart_SGPRMatt Haimovitz’s continuously-evolving and intense engagement with the Bach Cello Suites reaches a new zenith with Overtures to Bach, six new commissions that anticipate and reflect each of the cello suites. The new overtures expand upon the multitude of spiritual, cross-cultural, and vernacular references found in the Bach, building a bridge from the master’s time to our own. Overtures to Bach, released internationally on the PENTATONE Oxingale Series in August, follows the 2015 release of Haimovitz’s profound new interpretation of the Bach Suites, inspired and informed by an authoritative manuscript by Bach’s second wife and performed on period instruments.

“I’ve been playing and thinking about the Bach Cello Suites for over three decades,” says Haimovitz, “and with these new commissions – a culminating moment in my relationship with the Suites – I feel like I’m giving back to Bach. I’ve asked six composers, whom I admire so much, to engage with his music. It’s my form of time travel – going back into the mind of Bach through the compositional process of these composers today.”

Overtures to Bach pairs each of the new works with the Prélude, newly recorded here, from the Suite it introduces. Philip Glass simply and eloquently prepares the audience for the first Suite with his Overture, encouraging an open frame of mind. For the second suite, Du Yun creates a heartbreaking lament in The Veronica, referencing a Russian Orthodox prayer for the dead, Serbian chant, and central European gypsy fiddle music. Vijay Iyer’s Run responds to Bach’s third suite with infectious energy and kinesthetic rhythms that celebrate the natural resonance of the instrument as well as the composer’s jazz roots. Then, Roberto Sierra’s La memoria plays on our memory of Bach’s Suite IV, referencing motivic fragments while creating a kaleidoscopic musical perspective, underpinned by Caribbean bass lines and salsa rhythms. David Sanford’s tour de force, Es War, leads into the fifth suite, with a Mingus-inspired pizzicato intro, alluding to Bach’s epic fugue and quoting a Bach cantata. For the sixth and final suite, Luna Pearl Woolf is inspired by pre-Western Hawaiian chant, taking full advantage of the virtuosic properties of the 5-string cello piccolo and treating it operatically, from the low bass to the soprano stratosphere. Overtures to Bach spans more than time, linking us to far-flung corners of our musical world and offering an entrée into six distinct compositional voices. Then, as Philip Glass writes, “Just let Bach’s music begin. It’s there for the listening.”

PENTATONE – which has named Matt Haimovitz their Artist of the Season – has created an online enhanced booklet, with “In Session” videos of Haimovitz and each of the composers in the recording studio, where the new works were further developed and shaped. (The new videos – seven in total – will be available one every two weeks, starting August 1.) Also included as exclusive bonus material on iTunes is a three-movement reflection on Bach by Mohammed Fairouz called Gabriel.

The new album will be launched at Salon Christophori in Berlin on August 12 followed by select Overtures performed on tour in London, Oxford, and Bayreuth. Haimovitz’s “A Moveable Feast” – residencies that bring the Overtures and Suites to unusual locations before culminating in concert-hall performance – premiered last October at Miller Theater at Columbia University and featured in The New York Times, continue this season in cities in Arizona, Utah, Florida, New York, California, Kansas, Iowa, Connecticut, and Quebec.

The PENTATONE Oxingale Series, a new collaboration between the two labels, was launched in January 2015 with BEETHOVEN, Period., the complete Beethoven Sonatas and Variations with Christopher O’Riley. Gramophone said “Haimovitz and O’Riley play the living daylights out of these works” and included it among its list of Top Ten Beethoven Recordings. This was followed by the ORBIT, a new compilation of contemporary solo cello works, which The New York Times called “fascinating … heartwarming, scary, playful and groovy, this recording reveals worlds inside a single instrument.” PENTATONE has also released newly-remastered SACDs of Schubert recordings by Haimovitz, with Itamar Golan and the Miró String Quartet, and Haimovitz and O’Riley’s genre-blurring double-album Shuffle.Play.Listen. The 2015 release of J.S. Bach: The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena was critically-acclaimed. Gramophone said: “Those who want to be challenged without compromising tone or tuning, both of which are impeccable here, should look no further,” and ICI Musique concurred, “Matt Haimovitz has made us well aware that this music is alive, breathes, and refuses to be walled up in a stylistic protective shell. And that is the greatest achievement of this exceptional musician.”

MATT HAIMOVITZ is praised by The New York Times as a “ferociously talented cellist who brings his megawatt sound and uncommon expressive gifts to a vast variety of styles” and by The New Yorker as “remarkable virtuoso” who “never turns in a predictable performance.” He has been closely associated with J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites since the year 2000, when the former child prodigy jump-started the alt-classical revolution by taking his cello on the road across the U.S., playing the Suites in bars and coffeehouses, including New York’s now-defunct punk palace CBGB’s. Additional performance highlights this season include concerti with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Atlanta Symphony, and Tokyo’s New Japan Philharmonic. Haimovitz will also lead the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie at the Berlin Philharmonie, and perform a concerto by Isang Yun – marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Korean composer and political prisoner – with the Bruckner Orchestra with Dennis Russell Davies on tour in Austria.