Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Quartets from an important Canadian modernist

2016 is the centennial year for a number of composers, notably Alberto Ginastera and Milton Babbitt. I hadn't heard anything about celebrations for Jean Papineau-Couture, who was born in Montreal on November 12, 1916, until this new ATMA Classique disc came along. It's an important release from 
the Quatuor Molinari, who I know from their excellent Kurtag, Gubaidulina and Schnittke albums for ATMA.

Papineau-Couture studied with Quincy Porter at the New England Conservatory, and then with (you guessed it!) Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Boulanger connected him with Stravinsky, and the two got along well. There's a 1944-45 photo in the liner notes of Papineau-Couture and his wife with the Stravinskys and Boulanger at Feather Hill Ranch, Montecito, California. You can hear Stravinsky's influence and the sound of modernist Paris in P-C's 1st Quartet from 1953. By the time of his second quartet in 1967 he's still resisting the siren sound of 12-tone music, but he's definitely moving in that direction. Incidentally, the piece was written in celebration of Canada's Centennial and Boulanger's 80th birthday. The most advanced work in that regard is the string trio Slanò from 1973, which has a complex, experimental sound. Both the 3rd quartet from 1996 and the 4th quartet, unfinished at his death in 2000, have a spare sound, and hearken back to early music. This is a valuable release (coming November 4, 2016). For more information on this appealing composer, visit the Papineau-Couture page at the indispensable Canadian Music Centre website.

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