Eric Paetkau, Music Director
Stéphane Tétreault, Cello
To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the SSO is exploring the music of solider composers and two great works written in response to the war.
Each movement of Ravel’s timless Le tombeau de Couperin is dedicated to a friend he lost in war, many of whom were friends and collaborators before the war began. Canadian John Burge captures the enduring poetry of Dr. John McCrae’s In Flanders Field in a moving piece for string orchestra.
Renowned cellist Stéphane Tétreault makes his first Saskatchewan performance with Elgar’s passionate Cello Concerto. The piece has become somewhat of a calling card for the young Quebec cellist who’s won acclaim for his performances of it around the globe.
A Song Before Sunrise – Frederick Delius
Cello Concerto in e minor Op. 85 – Edward Elgar
Flanders Field Reflections – John Burge*
Le tombeau de Couperin – Maurice Ravel
In addition to innumerous awards and honours, Stéphane was selected as laureate of the 2015-2016 Classe d’Excellence de violoncelle Gautier Capuçon from the Fondation Louis Vuitton, and received the 2015 Women’s Musical Club of Toronto Career Development Award. He was the very first recipient of the $50,000 Fernand-Lindsay Career Award as well as the Choquette-Symcox Award laureate in 2013. First Prize winner at the 2007 Montreal Symphony Orchestra Standard Life-OSM Competition, he was named “Révélation” Radio-Canada 2011-2012 in classical music, was chosen as Personality of the Week in La Presse newspaper in 2012, and received the Opus Award for New Artist of the Year in 2013. For three straight years, Stéphane
was ranked amongst “CBC Radio’s 30 Hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.”
Chosen as the first ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain, he performed alongside Yannick Nézet-Séguin during the 2014-2015 season. In 2016, Stéphane made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Nézet-Séguin and performed at the prestigious Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland. During the 2017-18 season, he took part in the Orchestre Métropolitain’s first European tour and makes his debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Stéphane has performed with violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov and pianists Alexandre Tharaud, Jan Lisiecki, Charles Richard-Hamelin and John Lenehan and has participated in a number of masterclasses, notably with cellists Gautier Capuçon and Frans Helmerson. Stéphane has worked with conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Paul McCreesh, Julian Kuerti, Timothy Vernon, James Feddeck, José-Luis Gomez, Kensho Watanabe, amongst many others.
His debut CD, recorded with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and conductor Fabien Gabel was chosen as “Editor’s Choice” in the March 2013 issue of Gramophone Magazine. His second album with pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone featuring works from Haydn, Schubert and Brahms was chosen as Gramophone Magazine’s “Critics’ Choice 2016” and recognised as one of the best albums of the year.
Stéphane was a student of the late cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky for more than 10 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Montreal.
Stéphane plays the 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius cello, on generous loan
by Mme Jacqueline Desmarais.
A Song Before Sunrise – Delius
In the summer of 1918, with the Great War grinding slowly to its end and the troubling symptoms of syphilitic paralysis — which over the next seven years would turn the vigorous Delius into a helpless invalid — on the rise, the composer sought a cure in the baths at Biarritz, where he composed A Song Before Sunrise. In its brevity (playing about six minutes), keenness of orchestral detail, and evocative power, it might easily make a third to the Two Pieces for Small Orchestra — “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring” and “Summer Night on the River” — from before the war. Indeed, it has the character of “‘Cuckoo’ revisited,” though where the latter and its companion exude an elegiac, almost mystical, rapture, A Song Before Sunrise is redolent with tongue-in-cheek blitheness. Delius is even said to have likened the clarinet figure in the last bars to a rooster’s sunrise greeting. Dedicated to Philip Heseltine — known as Peter Warlock to all lovers of English song — the piece was first given by Sir Henry Wood at a Promenade Concert in September, 1923.
Cello Concerto in e minor – Elgar
Elgar is not known to have done any work on the concerto until 1919. However, as far back as 1900 the cellist of the Brodsky Quartet, Carl Fuchs, had extracted from Elgar an agreement to write a cello concerto. Fuchs later wrote to Elgar reminding him of this agreement. In 1903, Fuchs’ friend the cellist Paul Grümmer reiterated the request orally, and in 1906 by letter. So the idea of such a piece was not new.
The concerto was composed during the summer of 1919 at Elgar’s secluded cottage “Brinkwells” near Fittleworth, Sussex, where during previous years he had heard the sound of the artillery of World War I rumbling across the Channel at night from France. In 1918, Elgar underwent an operation in London to have an infected tonsil removed, a dangerous operation for a 61-year-old man. After regaining consciousness after sedation, he asked for pencil and paper, and wrote down the melody that would become the first theme in the concerto. He and his wife soon retired to the cottage in an attempt to recover from their health problems. In 1918, Elgar composed three chamber works, which his wife noted were already noticeably different from his previous compositions, and after their premieres in the spring of 1919, he began realising his idea of a cello concerto.
The concerto had a disastrous premiere, at the opening concert of the London Symphony Orchestra’s 1919–20 season on 27 October 1919. Apart from the concerto, which the composer conducted, the rest of the programme was conducted by Albert Coates, who overran his rehearsal time at the expense of Elgar’s. Lady Elgar wrote, “that brutal selfish ill-mannered bounder … that brute Coates went on rehearsing.” The critic of The Observer, Ernest Newman, wrote, “There have been rumours about during the week of inadequate rehearsal. Whatever the explanation, the sad fact remains that never, in all probability, has so great an orchestra made so lamentable an exhibition of itself. … The work itself is lovely stuff, very simple – that pregnant simplicity that has come upon Elgar’s music in the last couple of years – but with a profound wisdom and beauty underlying its simplicity.” Elgar attached no blame to his soloist, Felix Salmond, who played for him again later. Elgar said that if it had not been for Salmond’s diligent work in preparing the piece, he would have withdrawn it from the concert entirely.
In contrast with the First Symphony, which received a hundred performances worldwide in just over a year from its premiere, the Cello Concerto did not have a second performance in London for more than a year.
Flanders Fields Reflection – Burge*
Nurhan Arman, Music Director of the chamber orchestra, Sinfonia Toronto, commissioned Flanders Fields Reflections for the group’s 2005-06 concert season and premiered in March of 2006. In 2008, Nurhan and the orchestra subsequently recorded this work on a CD devoted entirely to some of Burge’s music for string orchestra. Flanders Fields Reflections was the title track of this CD and the recording of this work received the 2009 Juno award for the Best Canadian Classical Composition. That virtually all Canadian citizens and most English speakers in the Western world will immediately know that this musical work draws its inspiration from John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” is a good indication that this is perhaps the most famous poem ever written by a Canadian. Born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1872, Dr. John McCrae died in 1918 at Wimereux, France of pneumonia while on active service as a medical officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I.
“In Flanders Fields,” was first published in the magazine, Punch, in 1915, and later appeared posthumously in a small volume of his poetry that bears the same title. Flanders Fields Reflections is scored for string orchestra and is in five movements, each of which is titled with a phrase taken from the poem. The poem is remarkable in the way that it follows the fixed poetic form of the rondeau (which requires the repetition of the opening phrase at the end of the second and third verses) while expressing the extreme emotional gamut of loss, despair, sacrifice, obligation and hope. When one hears this poem recited at a Remembrance Day service, the words resonate with a depth that is transcendental in its power to convey what Wilfred Owen, another World War I poet, described as, “…the pity of war.” It is this resonance that the composer has tried to capture.
At times, the music is literal in its approach, as with the wind effects in the first movement’s, “The Poppies Blow,” or the high, bird-like violin solo in the second movement’s, “Still Bravely Singing.” The middle movement’s, “We Are The Dead,” is captured in a slow funeral march while the final movement conveys the sentiment, “We Shall Not Sleep,” with a melody that keeps returning and an extended series of endings. The work’s most expressive music is found in the fourth movement’s interpretation of “Loved and Were Loved.” These few words represent so vividly, the individual tragedy that is contained within each and every death which is in stark contrast to the numerical tallies of war fatalities that can be summarized all too quickly. In this movement, a simple descending line of six notes is maintained throughout, as if to symbolically show that our search for love is perhaps humanities” most constant desire. As the poem makes clear, we cannot forget that we are alive and free today because of those who gave up their own lives or loved ones.
Le tombeau de Couperin – Ravel
In 1919 Ravel orchestrated four movements of the work (Prélude, Forlane, Menuet and Rigaudon); this version was premiered in February 1920 by Rhené-Baton and the Pasdeloup Orchestra, and has remained one of his more popular works. The orchestral version clarifies the harmonic language of the suite and brings sharpness to its classical dance rhythms; among the demands it places on the orchestra is the requirement for an oboe soloist of virtuosic skill, as the oboist takes the melody in the Prélude and the Menuet as well as for the pastoral C minor section of the Rigaudon, where it is accompanied by guitar-like pizzicati.
Only a few years after Ravel’s own orchestration, Lucien Garban (working under the pseudonym of Roger Branga) produced a version of the piece for ‘small orchestra’ with a piano-conductor, consisting of the Prélude, Menuet and Rigaudon. He had previously transcribed the full suite for piano four hands in 1919.
Several other composers have since created orchestrations of those two movements which Ravel omitted, the Fugue and the Toccata. David Diamond has orchestrated the second movement Fugue, while the Hungarian pianist and conductor Zoltán Kocsis has produced his own version of both the Fugue and the Toccata. However, here, the Toccata, scored for a very large orchestra, goes far beyond the limits of Ravel’s own, small orchestra, and the Fugue is set for winds only. Another instrumentation of Fugue and Toccata by pianist Michael Round was recorded by Vladimir Ashkenazy (Exton, 2003): the score is published (as two separate titles, ‘Fugue’ and ‘Toccata’) by Edwin F. Kalmus. Round’s version of the Toccata adds percussion, requiring up to five players. Kalmus omitted the percussion parts from the published score so as to exactly match the orchestration of the rest of the suite, but these parts are available separately, directly from the orchestrator. In 2013 the British composer Kenneth Hesketh orchestrated the Fugue and Toccata for the exact orchestration of the original four-movement orchestral suite. The first performance was given by the Goettingen Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph-Mathias Mueller. The scores are available from Schott Music, London.