Composer Alain Lefèvre – Defender of Canadian Classical Music
Alain Lefèvre – Analekta is proud to announce the release of André Mathieu: Concerto No. 3, the 21st album by the great pianist and composer Alain Lefèvre to be released by the label. Alain Lefèvre unveils the results of three years of hard work by Jacques Marchand, George Nicholson and himself aimed at restoring, in its original form, André Mathieu’s famous Concerto No. 3.
In 2008, the author, host and lecturer George Nicholson discovered the original score for two pianos of André Mathieu’s Concerto No. 3 written in the Québec composer’s own hand. The differences, which were noteworthy, between this original score and the Concerto de Québec, the well-known, modified, version of the work, were the starting point for an enormous undertaking aimed at restoring this masterwork of Mathieu’s. Jacques Marchand, composer and conductor of the Orchestre symphonique régional d’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, was entrusted with the demanding work of reconstructing the score, a task that stretched over a period of close to three years, with Alain Lefèvre and Georges Nicholson more than ably assisting.
Presented as a world premiere in February 2017 in Buffalo, where it was performed by Alain Lefèvre (who has been responsible for Mathieu’s rehabilitation in cultural memory both here and elsewhere) and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the renowned JoAnn Falletta, the reconstituted Concerto No. 3 was enthusiastically received by the audience. Recorded at those performances, the album André Mathieu: Concerto No. 3 accurately conveys the brilliance of Alain Lefèvre and the enthusiasm of the musicians, aware as they were of sharing a highly emotional and one-of-a-kind moment. JoAnn Falletta had previously collaborated with Alain Lefèvre in presenting works by Mathieu – in New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2013, among other settings.
It was in the autumn of 1942, 75 years ago, that young Québec prodigy André Mathieu, just 13 years old and at the peak of his glory, began writing his Concerto No. 3, which he would finish the following summer. A few years later the producer Paul L’Anglais acquired the rights to it and had arranger Giuseppe Agostini adapt the work for the movie La Forteresse (Whispering City in an English-language version). Rechristened Concerto de Québec, it was this version that André Mathieu recorded for Radio-Canada on his return from Paris in 1947. Revisited 30 years later by Marc Bélanger as the basis for a recording by pianist Philippe Entremont and the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, the version made by Giuseppe Agostini for the film would be revised in 2003 by pianist Alain Lefèvre, who went on to use it for the recording of the work with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec. (2018 will therefore mark the 15th anniversary of that album.)
In Paris, critics unanimously hailed the child as a “little Quebecer Mozart.” Rachmaninov pronounced him “…a genius, more so than I am.” He also said that André Mathieu is the only one that may claim to be his successor.
Unfortunately André Mathieu was forgotten when he became an adult. The Québec society could not deal with such a genius. Mathieu was 18 years old when he composed his concerto no. 4.
We asked Alain Lefevre about Andre Mathieu and his defense on Canadian Classical music.
When did you first hear about Andre Mathieu?
About four years ago, I was walking past a music school in Montreal and heard this music; I fell in love with the music and wanted to know more about it. It is unfortunate that Andre Mathieu was an alcoholic, but what a shocking sound. My first project, with this repertoire was with Analekta Records and we had great success with it. I performed all over the world, including Carnegie Hall.
I know you’re very passionate about Andre Mathieu, what motives you to perform his works?
In Canada we have a major problem as we have a short history for Classical music. We have focused so much on contemporary music that composers like Mathieu have been left behind. Mathieu has his proper place in classical music.
Is there a personal favourite piece from Andre Mathieu you like?
My favorite is concerto No 3. It is simply a masterpiece, great music. I want to defend it.
There are comments made on social media that he (Andre Mathieu) sounds like Rachmaninov, what do you say to those people?
It’s strange but some argue that Rachmaninov was bad and a minor composer. Debussy heard Brahms and thought that Brahms was bad. It could be true. Mathieu had his own style, much like Gershwin had his style for the American sound.
There was s tory that a woman left you a bag full of his works, Do you know who left you the treasures?
Yes this lady was his lover. I am very lucky to have received it and we are still friends today.
Are you hopeful that someday Andre Mathieu will be as big as Glenn Gould and deserve his place in Quebec music history, not just some side street in the east end.
My goal is to defend Canadian pianists and to give them their place in music history. There are many young pianists playing Mathieu’s music today and I am very happy about this.
Do you see future collaborations with other genre of music?
I will continue to fight for Canadian music, like Mathieu and Boudreau. It’s a long process by I will give my very best. There is a huge repertoire of Canadian compositions and needs to be explored.