Friday, November 8, 2013

Montage # 130 – In Memoriam: Mario Bernardi (1930 - 2013)

As of December 6, 2013, this montage will no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address / A compter du 6 décembre 2013, ce montage ne sera plus disponible en baladodiffusion Pod-O-Matic. Il peut être téléchargé ou entendu au site Internet Archive à l'adresse suivante:

pcast130- Playlist

===================================================================== English Commentary – le commentaire français suit

As we traditionally have done in the past, we pause in November’s podcasts to remember those we have lost, and I plan three such posts this month – one involving the 50th anniversary of the passing of Francis Poulenc, and more posts (including one this next Tuesday) looking at the careers of three conductors that left us this year.

“Brilliant, driven, demanding, passionate, precise – these are the words people use when remembering Mario Bernardi, one of Canada’s premier conductors and a renowned builder of cultural institutions. Mr. Bernardi, who died June 2 at 82, was known for conducting superlative Mozart, developing top talent, championing Canadian composers and, above all, for creating from the ground up a flagship orchestra in the nation’s capital that fostered Canada’s coming of age in terms of musical excellence.”

The orchestra in question is the National Arts Centre orchestra in Ottawa, which Maestro Bernardi built and led for almost 15 years (from 1968 as its principal conductor to 1982). Born in Kirkland Lake in Northern  Ontario, Bernardi spent his first six years in Canada. After his family moved to Italy, Bernardi studied piano, organ, and composition with Bruno Pasut at the Manzato Conservatory at Treviso and took his examinations at Italy's Venice Conservatory. After graduating in 1945, his family returned to Canada where he finished his studies at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and then pursued a career as a concert pianist.

In 1957 he conducted the Canadian Opera Company, and in 1963 was coach and assistant conductor at the Sadler's Wells Opera Company (now the English National Opera). He left the UK to take on the challenge of building the NAC orchestra, and later took on the music directorship of the Calgary Philharmonic (1984-92).

After the short tenure of John Elliot Gardiner, Bernardi was invited to conduct the then CBC Vancouver Orchestra (later renamed CBC Radio Orchestra), recording with them the complete Brandenburg concertos – thus beginning a long relationship that culminated with him assuming its directorship from 1983 to 2006. Installed as Laureate conductor in Ottawa and Calgary, he continued conducting well-into retirement.

As Canada’s unofficial Kapellmeister, Bernardi had the privilege of conducting all of Canada’s major orchestras, and accompanying some of Canada’s leading soloists from Leopold Simoneau and Pierrette Alarie, to Angela Hewitt, to James Ehnes, and so many more!

The selections I retained come from the maestro’s many recordings. His complete set of Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances (recorded in the late 80’s with the CBC Orchestra) is one of my very favourites of his.

From Bernardi’s many Mozart performances, I retained a pair of “Turkish” selections – his recording of the overture to The Abduction at the Seraglio (with the CPO) and a great performance of Mozart’s Turkish violin concerto accompanying Steven Staryk with the NAC Orchestra.

One of Bernardi’s overlooked gems is his complete set of Schumann’s symphonies with the CPO – I chose the “Overture, Scherzo and Finale” from that set of 3 CD’s.

In tribute to Bernardi’s commitment to Canadian music, I chose the recording he made with the NAC orchestra of André Prévost’s Evanescence. It flows effortlessly into one of his last recordings with the CBC Radio Orchestra, the second movement from Shostakovich’s Tenth that was filler to an excellent compilation of Shostakovich Jazz-inspired works that included his two piano concertos.

I think you will love this music too.

Commentaire français

C'est avec une profonde tristesse que mous apprenions le décès du maestro Mario Bernardi en juin dernier. Son génie musical et son leadership dans le milieu de la musique classique lui ont valu des éloges tant au Canada qu'ailleurs dans le monde.

Né à Kirkland Lake en 1930, Mario Bernardi a étudié la musique à l'étranger (plus précisément au Conservatoire de Venise) avant d'entamer sa carrière auprès de la Royal Conservatory Opera School à Toronto. En 1968, il a joué un rôle fondamental dans la création de l'Orchestre du Centre national des Arts, dont il a été chef d'orchestre jusqu'en 1982.

Fait important, Maestro Bernardi accepte le rôle d'architecte de ce nouvel orchestre alors qu'il est directeur musical de l'Opéra Anglais de Sadler's Wells (aujourd'hui l'English Nationa Opera), un poste qu'il quittera afin de s'investir pleinement dans soun nouveau rôle.

Il quittera ttawa pour prendre en main l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Calgary (un orchestre provincial s'il en est un) qu'il élève parmi les rangs des grands orchestres canadiens. Plus tard, il sera à la direction de l'orchgestre de Radio-Canada à Vancouver, le dernier orchestre radiophonique à opérer en Amérique du Nord. Avec ces deux ensembles, il gravera des dizaines de disques pouur le label-maison de la SRC.

Mario Bernardi a reçu de nombreux prix et distinctions, notamment l'Ordre du Canada en 1972 et le Prix de la réalisation artistique dans le cadre des Prix du gouverneur général pour les arts de la scène en 2001.

Figurant dans le montage-hommage d'aujourd'hui, une des suites d'Airs et danses anciens de Respighi qu'il endisque avec l'orchestre de Radio-Canada, des sélections de Mozart (son compositeur de prédilection), Schumann, Chostakovitch et une des nombreuses créations canadiennes qu'il dirigea avec l'orchestre du CNA, Évanescence du compositeur Franco-Ontarien André Prévost.

Bonne écoute!