A program exploring the art of transcription
Guillaume Tardif likes to build his concert programs the way a chef might put together a delectable menu. With his violin, he wants to give the audience an assortment of flavours, colours and textures. For Violinissimo, the concert upcoming in Convocation Hall this Saturday, October 4th, Tardif has planned a turn-of-the-19th-century meal with the French flavours of Debussy and Saint-Saëns, revolving around the personalities of violinist-transcribers Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Hartmann.
Tardif says he is keen to present a program of composer-transcribers like Ysaÿe and Hartmann because it allows him to illustrate periods of the violin’s history and the influence of noteworthy violinists on their times and each other. For the full program, see the Violinissimo show page on the University of Alberta website.
University of Alberta music faculty Guillaume Tardif (violin) and Roger Admiral (piano) combine forces for an entertaining panorama of violin repertoire focusing on the careers of Eugene Ysaye and Arthur Hartmann with transcriptions of Saint-Saëns, MacDowell and Debussy. Photos by Terah Jans.
Transcribers take a musical piece composed by someone else and adapt it for another instrument.
“For example, the most obvious case with the violin, because it is a melodic instrument, is to take a vocal line that is accompanied by piano and see where it sits well with the violin,” explains Tardif. “There really is a creative aspect to transcribing music.”
Tardif says his focus on transcriptions with a program like Violinissimo is about inspiring students to look at transcription as an art form in itself. It is also a practical matter for professional musicians to consider when on the road.
“Violinists on tour can afford to carry a book of songs by Debussy. They can hit the piano at the hotel and discover something new to offer the audience the next night. They can transcribe something special, take an interesting little gamble with a couple hours of work the night before a concert.”
For Violinissimo, Tardif will play on violin, with Roger Admiral on piano, two different transcriptions of ‘La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin’, Prelude no. 8, composed by Debussy. One version was transcribed by Léon Roques and the other was transcribed by Arthur Hartmann. For interest sake, Tardif says they will play the two adaptations back to back and ask the audience what they think about them heard side by side.
“We are inviting audiences to discover and enjoy the rich fabric of music in its reconstituted context and the many coincidences that frequently connect creators and performers.”
Tardif is tremendously grateful to have Roger Admiral as his playing partner for the Violinissimo project.
“He has exceptional skills when it comes to sight reading, adapting and understanding the structures of music. Working with transcriptions is completely expedited when working with Roger.”
About Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Belgium composer Eugène Ysaÿe was one of the biggest European virtuosos in the late 1800s.
“He came from out of the blue, learning to play with his father in the countryside,” says Tardif. “Discovered by Henri Vieuxtemps, he was brought back to the conservatoire after being kicked out for not being dedicated enough. He then put himself to work. He was this wonderful, creative spirit at the juncture of the German and French universes in a very difficult time of antagonism with the Prussian Wars.”
Claiming that “art is international,” Ysaÿe kept his work above nationalistic conflicts.
“Ysaÿe bridged violin salon style with the modernist languages of France and Germany, adapting the whole-tone scale to the violin technique,” says Tardif. “He was a champion of both the great Vieuxtemps tradition and of everything that was new.”
About Arthur Hartmann (1881–1956)
Arthur Hartmann was of Hungarian descent and born in Philadelphia, where he was first heard as a child prodigy in 1887.
Tardif calls Hartmann “an artful transcriber,” very much involved in the behind the scenes of the music of his time, as outlined in his memoir, Claude Debussy as I Knew Him
Like Ysaÿe, Hartmann was trained by his father. He then pursued studies in New York City before touring as a boy in Europe. He studied in Boston before embarking for Belgium in 1899 to study with Ysaÿe.
Hartmann’s transcription of ‘Il pleure dans mon coeur’ was the first authorized Debussy transcription.
Presenter: University of Alberta Department of Music
Event Title: Violinissimo
Repertoire: University of Alberta music faculty Guillaume Tardif (violin) and Roger Admiral (piano) combine forces for an entertaining panorama of violin repertoire focusing on the careers of Eugene Ysaye and Arthur Hartmann with transcriptions of Saint-Saëns, MacDowell and Debussy.
Date: Saturday, October 4
Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Convocation Hall
Tickets: $10 student, $20 adult, $ 15 senior available at the door and www.yeglive.ca/ualbertamusic
Show time details: doors open 30 minutes before performance
For more information about the artists involved see: http://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/violinissimo
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