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Concerto pour Ondes-Martenot

Concerto pour Ondes-Martenot

THE WORK

Jacques Hetu's four movement Concerto for ondes Martinot was dedicated to Jean Laurendeau, who gave the premiere performance in Paris on September 1995, accompanied by the Orchestre National de France, directed by Charles Dutoit. This work is fairly unique in that it treats the ondes Martinot - an instrument primarily used for orchestral colour as a virtuosic solo instrument. Given that this instrument was championed by composers linked with the Paris Conservatoire, it is perhaps no surprise that Hetu would feature it in such a major work. Hetu studied analysis with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire from 1962-63.

Designed and built in 1928 in France by Maurice Martenot, the ondes Martenot it is a keyboard instrument with some unusual features, among them a finger-ring attached to a ribbon that can be pulled to achieve portamento and other pitch-bending effects, a lever located under the keyboard to control timbre, and a loudness controller to the left of the keyboard. The ondes Martenot became the first successful electronic instrument and the only one of its generation that is still used by orchestras today.

In 1948, Montrealer Andrée Desautels was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire to study the instrument with its inventor. In 1950, Martenot's sister Ginette was invited to Montreal by Desautel to give a recital of the ondes Martenot on Radio Canada. This was Canada's introduction to the instrument. In addition to Claude Champagne's Altitude (1959), and Gilles Tremblay's Cantique de durées (1960), over a dozen Canadian composers have written major works for the instrument. Hetu's Concerto for Ondes Martenot is one of the most recent examples of Canadian music written for this electronic instrument.

THE COMPOSER

Jacques Hétu was born in Trois-Rivières in 1938. In 1956 he was accepted into the Montréal Conservatory where he studied composition with Clermont Pépin. In 196l he completed his studies at the Conservatory and in the same year he won the composition prize of the Festival du Québec, the prestigious Prix d'Europe and a Canada Council award. From 1961 to 1963 he studied with Henri Dutilleux at the École Normale de Musique in Paris and took Olivier Messiaen's class in analysis at the Conservatoire de Paris.

Hétu gives priority to poetry, emotion and to coherent discourse; he is also sensitive to the plastic aspects of sonority and the structural rigour of his contemporaries. Within traditional forms, he arranges elements in a cyclical manner based on the affirmative force of the thematic material, rigorous writing and the requirement for unity.


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