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CD booklet
Toquade

La Scena Musicale
June 1, 2017

With the first recording of her career, violist Marina Thibeault strikes a balance ¬between spirited and sentimental, tradition and innovation, accessibility and abstraction, leaving us with a clear and compelling understanding of the breadth of both the repertoire and the instrument itself. Thibeault has a sensitive but firm touch, painting long lines in which sounds become ideas. The disc opens with the Valse sentimentale from Tchaikovsky’s Six Pieces Op. 51. The transcription of the piece, originally written for piano, highlights the thematic binaries – the dark timbre of the viola combined with Thibeault and Fung’s flexible phrasing gives an aching sense of suspended time. Stepping back several decades with Mikhail Glinka’s Sonata in D minor for viola and piano, the duo finds sophistication in a work written when the composer was only in his early twenties. The movement, Allegro moderato – which posthumously became isolated from the incomplete sonata to become a standalone piece – is an exercise in a traditional Classical form, but also exhibits an idiomatic sensibility to the viola unique to Glinka.

The centre selections of the recording are for solo viola: Hindemith’s Sonata Op. 31 no. 4, Ana Sokolović’s Prelude, Jean Lesage’s Toquade, and Milan Kymlička’s Rubato e Agitato. Aside from the Hindemith, which is required learning for any violist worth their salt, the pieces either are composed for Thibeault herself, or, as in the case of the Sokolović, gained new life in her hands. Throughout the Hindemith, Thibeault maintains an exceptional diction and clarity of tone, exhibiting maturity well beyond her years. Sokolović’s gypsy-influenced Prelude captures the more meditative side of the instrument, an aspect that Thibeault manipulates with ease. Indeed, as the composer writes in the notes to the piece, “My viola writing has not been the same since I met her.”

Heavily influenced by the Baroque period, the title track, Toquade, is the perfect demonstration of Thibeault’s dexterity and facility up and down the fingerboard. This feat is made all the more impressive with the knowledge that her 1854 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume viola is on the larger side. Dedicated to Thibeault and premiered shortly before the composer’s death in 2008, Kymlička’s short work packs a fairly emotional punch, the Rubato a dark reverie centred around the open strings of the viola while the Agitato makes use of the inherent tension in semitone relationships. The CD is capped off with Bohuslav Martinů’s Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano, in which Thibeault demonstrates her characteristic lyricism and colourful sound palette, drawing on a broad vibrato. For this work, I wish Fung were more present in the sound mix – if only to better appreciate their outstanding collaborative relationship. At first glance, the mix of periods and composers on this recording may feel eclectic, but the album coheres around Thibeault’s sensitivity to each composer’s -vision without sacrificing her personal voice.

Kiersten van Vliet – La Scena musicale
 

The WholeNote
May 31, 2017

The Quebec violist Marina Thibeault is joined by Vancouver-born pianist Janelle Fung on Toquade, a recital of works for solo viola, and viola and piano.

Tchaikovsky’s Valse sentimentale, a transcription of the last of his Six Morceaux for Piano Op.51, is a fine opening track, followed by the first movement of Glinka’s Sonata in D Minor. The heart of the CD, though, is the excellent performances of four works for solo viola, including three by contemporary Canadian composers: Hindemith’s Sonata Op.31 No.4; Ana Sokolovic’s Prélude (2006); Jean Lesage’s Toquade (2016); and Milan Kymlička’s Rubato & Agitato (2008). The latter work, written shortly before the composer’s death, was dedicated to Thibeault and premiered by her in Prague the same year.

A lovely performance of the Sonata for Viola and Piano Op.31 H335 by Bohuslav Martinů rounds out the CD. Written in 1955 when Martinů was nearing the end of his life and becoming increasingly unhappy in the United States, its lyrical, rhapsodic nature allows both performers to shine.

Terry Robins - The WholeNote 

Medium Large
April 7, 2017

 « Elle est bonne, elle a quelque chose à dire, à faire avec son instrument », déclare Frederic Lambert à Médium large au sujet d'une des révélations Radio-Canada de 2016-2017, [Marina Thibeault] dont voici le premier album. « C'est un disque qui est fantastique parce qu'il est vraiment à l'image de l'artiste, mais aussi de l'alto moderne. Il faut tendre la main vers toutes sortes de répertoires, et c'est ce qu'elle fait. »

Link to Medium large site: http://bit.ly/2oQPn4n

Musique pour tous
April 3, 2017

Cet enregistrement est consacré à des oeuvres pour alto solo, ou avec accompagnement du piano. Il constitue une superbe présentation de l'altiste Marina Thibeault, révélation de Radio-Canada 2016-2017. Le programme est un éventail intelligent de pièces qui illustrent parfaitement toutes les capacités expressives de cette jeune et talentueuse musicienne.
Son jeux, toujours élégant, précis et absolument musical, se prête très bien aux pièces et mouvements de musique russe, (valse de Tchaikovski) et (l'Allegro moderato de Glinka) qui sert comme une introduction à l'enregistrement.

Avec la sonate pour alto solo de Hindemith, on rentre dans un univers plus intime, disons confessionnel, qui donne l'opportunité à Marina Thibeault de faire ressortir ses qualités de soliste. La sonate est suivie de trois autres pièces de compositeurs contemporains, un prélude d'Ana Sokolovic, Toquade qui donne le nom à l'enregistrement, écrite par Jean Lesage en 2016 et un Rubato et Agitato du compositeur Mylan Kymlicka. Ces œuvres pour alto solo, sans accompagnement, sont le noyau central de l'enregistrement. Espèce de développement, si l'on veut, elles vont servir à l'altiste à faire valoir ses qualités interprétatives où sa sonorité riche et aux couleurs chaleureuses, sont mises de l'avant.

Pour finir ce magnifique enregistrement, on assiste à une communion sage et équilibré dans la superbe sonate pour alto et piano de Martinu. C'est une oeuvre pas évidente à jouer. Les artistes trouvent ici le terrain propice pour un dialogue profond, où les couleurs et nuances de l'alto sont accompagnés par un jeux précis et intense du piano. C'est une véritable communion de timbres qui sert à rendre hommage à une partition sublime de la musique de chambre du XX siècle.

Un petit paragraphe pour souligner la très bonne complicité artistique de la pianiste Janelle Fung, qui accompagne la soliste avec une musicalité et expressivité accomplies.

Cet enregistrement est une véritable révélation !

Philippe Adelfang - Musique pour tous
 

ICI Musique
March 31, 2017

L’altiste Marina Thibeault, notre révélation Radio-Canada 2016-2017 en musique classique, sort son premier album, Toquade, sous étiquette Atma. Un premier opus grâce auquel la jeune artiste démontre qu’elle a du cran en plus d’avoir du talent.

Je dis qu’elle a du cran, car le répertoire qu’elle a choisi de jouer n’est pas des plus faciles, surtout pour un premier album. Elle aurait pu choisir des mégas succès connus de tous, arrangés pour l’alto bien entendu, comme le Cygne de Saint-Saëns, l’Ave Maria de Schubert ou la Vocalise de Rachmaninov. Que nenni. Elle a opté pour du vrai de vrai répertoire d’alto (un premier bon point) et, qui plus est, un répertoire exigeant pour l’interprète et taillé sur mesure pour un public curieux adepte d’une écoute attentionnée.Finalement, elle ose aussi quelques pièces pour alto solo (alors là, chapeau)!

Les pièces de Tchaïkovski et de Glinka (l’un des pères de la musique russe) sont les plus romantiques de l’album. On découvre ensuite une Sonate pour alto solo de Paul Hindemith et une Sonate avec piano de Bohuslav Martinu, deux compositeurs passablement méconnus qui s’expriment dans un langage engageant, épicé ça et là de quelques dissonances. Finalement, quelques pièces contemporaines d’un certain Kymlicka et des Québécois Jean Lesage et Ana Sokolovic.

Marina s’exprime avec beaucoup de puissance émotive et en exerçant un contrôle impeccable sur sa projection sonore. Janelle Fung l’accompagne parfaitement au piano.

Notre Révélation classique démontre ici qu’elle a la trempe d’une artiste de haut niveau, qui sait manier aussi bien les codes actuels de l’autopromotion efficace (elle est très présente et active sur les réseaux sociaux), sans toutefois perdre de vue l’essence de son art : exprimer avec force et conviction la beauté et la complexité d’une musique qui ne se résume pas à quelques titres répétés en boucle.

Bravo Marina!

Frédéric Cardin – ICI Musique 

CBC First Play
March 30, 2017

"I believe the viola is now in its golden era," asserts Marina Thibeault, an eloquent new proponent of the instrument. "Great players are touring the world as soloists and today’s composers are giving the instrument a lot of attention."

We talked to Thibeault about her debut album, Toquade (Crush in English), due out April 7 on ATMA Classique. It's a bold, personal statement, presenting new and recent solo works alongside standard repertoire — that is, if you can call any music for this neglected instrument "standard."

"It’s not rare, after a recital, that audience members tell me it’s their first time hearing the viola, other than in a chamber music or orchestral context," she explains. "I’ve also had a few young violinists come up to me and say that a certain piece I played made them want to switch to viola. That’s pretty much the best compliment a violist can get!"

Over the past year, Thibeault has been enjoying the spotlight as Radio-Canada's classical "Révélation," and Toquade is one result of that designation.

'Spark, virtuosity and energy'

The title track of Toquade is a new work for solo viola by Jean Lesage written especially for Thibeault. "I once mentioned to Jean that a lot of new music for viola is dark, meditative, melancholic and I was hoping for a change," she confides. "Then, one day, I had a nice surprise in my inbox: a piece full of spark, virtuosity and energy!" She and Lesage worked on the piece together a few times prior to the recording sessions, to make slight modifications on a few hand contortions, but otherwise the piece fit Thibeault like the proverbial glove.

Rubato & Agitato by Milan Kymlicka, also for solo viola, came to Thibeault's attention 10 years ago, when she was playing with the North Czech Philharmonic under Canadian conductor Charles Olivieri-Munroe.
"He invited me to play solo with his orchestra, and I also played about 10 recitals, some for solo viola, some with Charles — he is a pianist as well," Thibeault recalls. "Charles was a great friend of Czech-Canadian composer Kymlicka and he thought it would be good for us to work together one day. He sent me the piece by mail as a gift, a couple of days before I was taking off for the tour, and I loved it so much, I decided to play it on every concert. The premiere was in Mozart's house in Prague."

'Play it like you're a Gypsy grandmother!'


The third recent work Thibeault includes on Toquade is Ana Sokolovic's 2006 Prelude for Solo Viola, inspired by Balkan Gypsy folk music. "I’ve been playing Ana’s Prelude since May 2015. We had a very good connection and I knew instantly that I wanted to record that piece. She attended the recording session last October and said, 'Play it like you’re a Gypsy grandmother!' Best advice I had that day!"

Few composers have done as much for the viola as Paul Hindemith, so it's no surprise Thibeault plays one of his Sonatas for Solo Viola on her debut album. However, it wasn't part of her initial plans.

"Funnily enough, I never thought of including Hindemith on my first album until last summer. Attending Tabea Zimmermann’s masterclasses at the Hindemith Institute in Blonay, Switzerland, opened my eyes to the beauty in his music. There is so much to do with sound, contrast and characters. Hindemith was himself a violist and his writing is so rewarding for us — except for the Sonata, Op.11, No. 5, which is probably the hardest piece in our repertoire! It was an amazing experience to be part of the concert where Zimmermann’s class played all sonatas (and facets!) of Hindemith."

'Joy and camaraderie'

For the rest of the album, Thibeault performs with pianist Janelle Fung. "Janelle and I have been working together for about two years," Thibeault notes. "We had a very similar musical upbringing [both are graduates of the Curtis Institute and Juilliard School] and shared a lot of common chamber music teachers."

Fung concurs: "There's a strong musical and personal affinity between us," adding that their musical partership has always been natural, "imbuing our work together with a lot of joy and camaraderie."

Vancouver-born Janelle Fung is based in Montreal, where she's in constant demand as a collaborative pianist. (Matthew Perrin)
Together, Thibeault and Fung play a selection of Eastern European works, chosen for rather personal reasons.

The first movement of Glinka's Sonata in D Minor "showcases so many colours of the instrument [and] reminds me of Mendelssohn's writing," Thibeault points out. The arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Valse sentimentale, Op. 51, No. 6, is their way of honouring violinist Ivry Gitlis, whose famous rendition makes both Thibeault and Fung "swoon." And Martinu composed his Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 31, while teaching at their alma mater, the Curtis Institute, near the end of his life. Thibeault adds, "It was written for Lillian Fuchs, known as the 'first lady of the viola.'"

Robert Rowat - CBC First Play