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Vibraphone has pride of place at Place des Arts concerts

October, 2010

The son of a Holocaust survivor and born in 1947, violinist Gidon Kremer is known for the vast range of his repertoire, spanning beloved Baroque to exciting music that is being written today.

Having collaborated with some of the greatest names in classical music—David Oistrakh was his teacher, Martha Argerich has performed with him—Kremer has also supported composers not immediately accepted by conventional audiences. Some names, now well known among music lovers, are Alban Berg, Astor Piazzolla, Georges Enescu, Arvo Part and Philip Glass.

Ever alert to the potential Bachs—the undiscovered masters—among us, Kremer will feature the music of Lera Auerbach and Geya Kancheli, followed by a majestic Beethoven String Quartet arranged by his ensemble, the Kremerata Baltica, at Place des Arts next month.

“Lera Auerbach is a young Siberian pianist in her mid-30s,” said Paul Fortin, head of musical programming at PDA.

“She often performs her own music and has composed a great number of pieces recorded by well-known artists. Her composition Sogno di Stabat Mater was commissioned by Kremer, and is extremely interesting in its colours and complex harmonies. “Though highly chromatic, it remains a tonal work.”

Fortin described Geya Kancheli, an older composer born in Georgia, as perhaps the greatest living composer in the Russian tradition.

Violinist Gidon Kremer has collaborated with some of the greatest names in classical music. Photo courtesy ECM Records

“He has written many symphonies, operas and liturgical works. His music is spiritual and introspective.”

The Auerbach and Kancheli works showcase the unique sonorities of the vibraphone, which, though being in the percussion family, is extremely lyrical. It is an instrument Fortin knows intimately, having served as percussionist in the Montreal Symphony for 14 years. “I’ve experienced the joy of playing the vibraphone often,” Fortin said, explaining that as a percussionist, one must learn many techniques on many instruments.

And while technically “percussion” denotes an instrument that is hit, such as a drum, many percussion instruments, such as the piano, can sing.

The vibraphone, with its metal notes, its pedal that can control the length of its sound and its resonator that can create a vibrato effect much like the human voice, produces an ethereal sound. Fortin believes Beethoven would approve of the String Quartet arranged for a larger ensemble.

“This work was written late in Beethoven’s life and contains the essence of Beethoven’s language. While the intimacy of a quartet is transformed, arranging it for strings brings the work into another dimension and allows one to discover it in a completely different way,” he said.

The performance launches a stellar six-concert series scheduled almost monthly until March, with the aim of bringing excellence and diversity to music at Place des Arts by inviting renowned ensembles and great soloists, several of whom will be heard in Montreal for the first time.

Coming concerts include Kremerata Baltica/Gidon Kremer (November 4) violonist Joshua Bell (January 16), soprano Renée Fleming (January 25), mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau in a recital of lieder and jazz (February 23), Les Percussions de Strasbourg (March 1) and soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa with the NHK Symphony and conductor André Previn (March 18). Info: 514-842-2112 or



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