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A thoughtful piano recital to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1

Thursday, October 30, 2014

French Canadian pianist Maxim Bernard has already established himself as one of today’s most promising young artists. He has performed solo recitals, chamber music, and concerts in Canada and the United States. He has worked with many esteemed conductors such as Ronald Zollman, Michael Newnham, Yoav Talmi and Charles Latshaw among others.

Born in Québec City, he began piano studies at the relatively late age of 13, but his outstanding talent and work ethic promptly led to national and international recognition. Qualities that have been praised by critics include his commendable technique, surprising maturity, boundless imagination, and rare musical sensitivity.

His career was launched in 2006 after winning the prestigious International Stepping Stone of the Canadian Music Competition. He was also a prize winner at the CBC Young Artists Competition and the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Competition, as well as first prize winner at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Concerto Competition.

He has performed as soloist with many orchestras including the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Nouveau Monde, Peterborough Symphony Orchestra and Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

Maxim Bernard earned his Masters degree and Doctorate in Piano Performance under the tutelage of Distinguished Professor Menahem Pressler at Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music, where he also taught for five years. Previously, he studied with pianist André Laplante at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he received his Artist Diploma. His qualifications have led him to serve on juries of many national music competitions.

For the 2013-14 season, Maxim Bernard performed the Canadian Premiere of Ginastera’s Second Piano Concerto with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal, and also made his debut with the world-renowned chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy. He also recently performed with the venerable French pianist, Alexandre Tharaud as part of the “Carte blanche à Alexandre Tharaud” program in Montreal.

1914-1918

A Piano Recital

For the unhappy populations who suffered through it, World War I was the nightmare of all nightmares. Some 16 million people –military and civilian - lost their lives. After the horror of the trenches, mustard gas, massive destruction, huge guns (Big Berthas), and the arrival of Bolchevism, all agreed : this must be the last great war, the war to end all wars. And yet, the good intentions would not withstand the rise of fascism and exacerbated nationalisms, fueled by a terrible economic crisis and the desire for revenge:by 1939 a second world conflict, worse still than its predecessor, would engulf humanity.

What role for the artist –and more especially the composer –as what became known as the Great War exploded? Did the terrible news received daily influence creativity? Stimulate imagination? Or stifle it? Did it orient work? These questions are all the more interesting since the beginning of the 20th century was marked by radical changes that announced the coming of a new era, full of marvellous promise. Think, for example, of the first performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in 1913; it was greeted with loud boos. Yet barely one year later the work was hailed as the most masterly composition of its time.

The programme that pianist Maxim Bernard offers us turns on works for the piano written entirely in the years 1914-1918 –as the First World War raged. It includes compositions by Rachmaninov and by Medtner, still looking to a romantic past, indeed bathed in nostalgia since that past was being blasted away by war; by Nielsen, precariously balancing between tradition and modernity; by Scriabin, turning his back on tradition and plunging enthusiastically into novelty. Bartok sought refuge in the music of the Slavic peoples and their neighbors; Fauré confided to his piano the expression of his anguish and torments; for Hindemith, his war experiences left its mark on his first piano work, disconcerting by its introversion and its avant-garde nature; while for Ravel the Great War was an involuntary source of inspiration for certain of his compositions, including the six movements of the Tombeau de Couperin, which evoke the memory of friends lost at the Front.

Despite its apparently limited theme, this programme offers a wide diversity of expressions. Maxim Bernard offers us a remarkable concentration of the musical trends arising at the dawn of the 20th century, when so many contrasting currents unfolded, announcing a century of unimaginable riches in all the expressions of creativity –amidst, unfortunately, unmitigated disasters.

1914-1918

A Piano Recital

Sergei Rachmaninoff : Étude-Tableau in C minor, op. 39 no. 1 1916-1917

Gabriel Fauré : Nocturne no.12 in E minor, op. 107 1915

Béla Bartók : Romanian folk dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 1915

Sergei Rachmaninoff :Étude-Tableau in F-sharp minor, op. 39 no. 3 1916-1917

Nicolai Medtner : Funeral March in B minor, op. 31 no. 2: 1914
    Skazki (Tale) in E minor, op. 34 no. 2 1916-1917

Paul Hindemith : In a Night (In einer Nacht) (excerpts) 1917-1919
    Dreams and experiences
    Rather fast (Ziemlich schnelle Achtel)
    Very lively, gliterring (Sehr lebhaft, flimmernd)
    Tiredness (Müdigkeiten)
    Very slow (Sehr langsam)
    Nervousness (Nervosität, nicht schnell)
    Scherzo: Extremely vigorous (Äußerst lebhaft)

Alexander Scriabin : Vers la Flamme, op. 72 1914

Intermission

Carl Nielsen : Chaconne, op. 32 1916

Maurice Ravel : Le tombeau de Couperin 1914-1917
    I. Prélude "To the memory of Lieutenant Jacques Charlot"
    III. Forlane "To the memory of Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc"
    IV. Rigaudon "To the memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin"
    V. Menuet "To the memory of Jean Dreyfus"
    VI. Toccata "To the memory of Captain Joseph de Marliave"