Friday, July 25, 2014

Podcast Encore: Shostakovich and Mathieu

Our Summer 2014 Friday Blog and Podcasts reach into past musings. Today's post is a repeat of a Friday Blog and Podcast from January 13, 2012.

The podcast (No. 38 in our ongoing series) can be found in our archives at

Some of the post's content and illustrations were changed to fit this month's thematic arc.

pcast038 Playlist

Our second "encore" montage in our July Canadian Content series features pianist and broadcaster Alain Lefèvre , performing piano concertos by Dimitri Shostakovich and André Mathieu. This montage was originally part of the ITYWLTMT Pianothion theme we considered in early 2012.

If the name André Mathieu sounds faniliar, it is because we featured some of his compositions on this blog before, and wrote an article with musical illustrations as part of the same Pianothon theme. Lefèvre has received praise for his efforts to revive the works of Mathieu, winning several awards for his recordings, and bringing Mathieu's music to stages the world over. For this, and his many accomplishments, he was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 2009.

Alain Lefèvre studied piano from the age of 4. His father was a clarinettist. His musical gift ensured him a place at l'École normale de Musique de Montréal. Later he studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.

In many ways, the pairing of these concertos can be viewed as somewhat odd - Shostakovich is definitely part of the "new music" current whereas Mathieu is viewed more as a Romantic throwback composer. Shostakovich's Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, was completed by in 1933 and premiered the same year by the composer at the piano and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. Despite the title, it is a true piano concerto rather than a double concerto in which the trumpet and piano command equal prominence.

As for the Mathieu concerto, according to liner notes by Lefevre, there are no fewer than six different scores of the work we are calling the Concerto de Québec, and the name changes from score to score (Symphonie Romantique, Concerto Romantique), Concerto de Quebec is a title associuated with an abridged version of the concerto used as film music – there exists a piano solo rendering of the work:

Mathieu completed the Concerto de Québec in early February, 1943, just short of his fourteenth birthday. – ten years after the Shostakovich, and decades older in style… The 25-minute Concerto betrays Mathieu's lack of formal training, and musical theorists will be quick to pounce on its episodic construction and formal weaknesses. On the other hand, there is a surging, unabashed romanticism at play here, a style inspired by Grieg, Puccini, Korngold, and above all Rachmaninov.

As filler, some solo piano works: by Shostakovich, the last of his 24 Preludes and Fugues and from Mathieu, three works, presented here in reverse order of composition.

I think you will love this music too!