Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alain Lefèvre and Walter Boudreau Shake the Earth

A performance of indescribable brilliance  
                                            Maison Symphonique de Montréal, January 15th, 2013

Alain Lefèvre

On Tuesday evening January 15th, pianist Alain Lefèvre performed the astonishing Concerto “l’Asile (Création Mondiale) with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under the baton of Ludovic Morlot. It was composed by Walter Boudreau. The unforgettable concert took place inside the gloriously new Maison Symphonique de Montréal. 

Geniuses – mad geniuses – that is what this concert was about. It took Mr. Boudreau about three years to compose the work whose three movements embody the tortuous life of the late Claude Gavreau, a visionary who inspired the creation of Mr. Boudreau’s concerto. Collaborating intensively with Mr. Lefèvre on the superhuman endeavour, Mr. Boudreau knew that it would take one of the world’s greatest pianists - also a world-class composer - to achieve the final rendering and performance of his massively difficult masterpiece. He knew he wanted to create alongside Alain Lefèvre.

Walter Boudreau

 Mr. Boudreau wrote the work in four years “in and out” as a tribute to the avant-garde Quebec poet and author Claude Gauvreau (1925-1971). 

Claude Gauvreau

During his short life the poet experimented heavily with LSD, modified the French language turning into a new form of incomprehensible poetic communication. He never achieved the recognition or the support which he so wished for. This tragic figure may have ended his life, but his ideas lived on - championed by another mad genius, Mr. Boudreau who is very much alive; he is also the director and conductor of the SMCQ. 
The twelve-tone composition he composed demanded the most prolific piano playing through the 45 minute-long work. Mr. Lefèvre’s herculean technique combined with his immeasurable passion was breathtaking. Hands crossing over hands, non-stop lightning speed cadenzas up and down the keys, octaves, and trills and syncopated lines whose first beats had to join up with the  percussive section, then the flutes, sometimes the horns and strings. Nothing seemed or was written to magically connect together, and yet it all did, in a way that was more fantastic than one could believe possible. In fact, Mr.Boudreau explained that he created this work so that the piano – represented the poet Gauvreau who was off on its own trying to connect to the orchestra which more or less represented the indifference of society. Rhythmically unpredictable is the composition; both protagonists (piano and orchestra symbolizing Gauvreau and society respectively) seemed to embody the pain and punishment endured by Gauvreau himself. Orchestra and piano had a challenging task keeping up with the other. In fact, six minutes into the work, Maestro   Morlot stopped it all, and started the performance again – having left out an entire page! Was it any wonder Mr. Lefèvre kept a handkerchief atop the piano. 
I felt Mr.Lefèvre carried the lion’s share of élan for the entire performance. His extraordinary understanding of the concerto combined with his earth-shattering technique marvelously communicated the dramatic intensity in this exciting work. 
I began to feel that he knew the night had to lie with him. At times, the percussion was a nano-second off the timing of the piano punctuating entrances and final notes, but it was explained to me, that orchestra and pianist had four hours of rehearsal to pull it all together. 
As for the composition itself, the first movement burst into our ears like a tsunami. It rarely let up. The second movement resembled a slow macabre dance. There were heart-breaking moments of utter beauty in melody line but that did not last for long. A sudden interjection of horn would break it all and then the intentional chaos would once again commence. Prokofiev, Schoenberg and Rachmaninov rolled into one is what I could hear; Scriabin, Stravinsky and Liszt as well. Now take the hardest most prodigiously taxing bars to play in all these composers and know that such rigorous demands constitute the entire concerto. Rarely was Mr. Lefèvre allowed to rest. Like the tormented soul of Mr. Gauvreau himself, this great pianist – a world treasure - personified this poet’s genius. He did so with relentless passion and pianistic perfection. This trio of mad geniuses enthralled me! 
This concert was recorded by Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique and will be broadcast coast to coast next January 22nd at the “Soirees Classiques” hosted by Mario Paquet. Alain will present the Concerto de l’Asile again this Season with the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and its conductor Fabien Gabel on 
May 29th and 30th.

 CD now on Anelekta Label.

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