The Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM) invites fans of contemporary classical music on a trip to Eastern Europe on Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Salle Claude-Champagne. Its conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt spoke with us about the works on the program and the challenges facing music today.

“I turned to countries that we don’t usually go to, whether it’s Slovenia, the Czech Republic or Turkey,” says the one who has been at the head of the NEM since its founding in 1989.

She was also able to take advantage of a residency by Ukrainian composer Alla Zagaykevych last fall at Le Vivier to commission the work And only the reed glistens in the sun…, which will be premiered on Friday.

“It’s a very quiet music, very suspended, a landscape of war. Music that is quite dark, but very beautiful,” says Ms. Vaillancourt of this work inspired by the friendship between two Chinese poets over 1,000 years ago.

The creation will have been preceded, during the concert, by two Slovenian works of about ten minutes each, namely Shadows of Stillness by Nina Šenk and Fired-Up by Vito Žuraj, respectively written in 2020 and in 2013.

If the first work, revolving around a brass trio, is inspired by the calm following the confinement of the start of the pandemic, the second, created in Milan by Quebec chef Jean-Michaël Lavoie, is inspired by the friction of ‘a match.

“Musicians manipulate stones, struck or rubbed, which is not easy since they also have to manage their own instrument”, explains Lorraine Vaillancourt, about Fired-Up.

After the break, it is the turn of the countries that begin with “t”, Czechia, with Solitudo (2003) by Martin Smolka, and Turkey, with Requiem for a Lost Land (2009) by Tolga Yayalar.

According to the head of the NEM, the first score, which uses micro-intervals (intervals smaller than the semitone) “is particularly inspired by blues, jazz, with almost tonal melodies, because the composer has detuned certain notes, which gives a particular color”.

It is more the importance of rhythm that stands out in Yayalar, whose work, the only one ever performed in concert by the NEM (in the early 2000s during a residency at Harvard University), questions the relationship between Istanbul’s millennial heritage and modernity.

“How is he going to say that in music?” You have to come and hear it to understand! “says Ms. Vaillancourt.

The artistic director pleads both for the creation and for the formation of a true contemporary canon. “To feel like hearing things again, you have to have a certain background. But we don’t build this memory in the public, especially with the disappearance of the radio, “she said, referring in passing to the late CBC Cultural Channel of Radio-Canada, passed to the wringer in 2004.

The artist remembers how lucky she was, in her native Saguenay, “to be able to hear things we didn’t even know existed”. She also talks about her mother, of modest means, who turned up the sound when she heard Ligeti playing on the old state radio.

“There are natures that always want to discover, that are attracted to things they don’t know. But that’s not the majority. Kids are like that, they want to see the same movie 150 times because they liked it. It’s very human,” admits Lorraine Vaillancourt.

You don’t have to be a “specialist” to love the contemporary. “It’s like with painting, illustrates the musician. We don’t spend our time understanding how it was done. We like colors, shapes, movements, we like to recognize certain things or not… If we have curiosity, we can develop a sense of analysis and go further. We can also receive things in a very direct, very primary way. »

“If you agree to take the trip, you can be sure that you will go somewhere. We’re taking you! “, invites the chef.

The piano is not always a relaxing instrument, but it will be under the fingers of Alexandre Tharaud on May 5 at Bourgie Hall. The pianist and his guests invite music lovers to come and hear, from 10:15 p.m., a meditative program while being comfortably seated or lying down. Early risers can attend a musical reading of his book Show me your hands at the same place from 7 p.m., to the sound of Rameau, Schubert… and Tharaud!

La Chapelle de Québec and its conductor Bernard Labadie will make their last Montreal appearance of the season on May 12 (7:30 p.m.) at the Maison symphonique with a Handel program that suits them like a glove, a program “tested” last month at Carnegie Hall , sorry! Accompanied by Les Violons du Roy and soloists Magali Simard-Galdès, Tim Mead and Neal Davies, they will make us vibrate to the sound of — it couldn’t be more appropriate — Coronation Anthems, Music for the Royal Fireworks and the ‘Ode for Queen Anne’s Birthday.

The French conductor and violinist Julien Chauvin stands out in Europe with the ensemble Le Concert de la Loge, which he founded in 2015 with a view to dusting off the French lyrical and instrumental repertoire. We will have the chance to hear him at the head of Arion from May 19 to 21 at Bourgie Hall. A fairly expanded Arion, since Mozart’s great Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”, will be on the program, as well as his Oboe Concerto, which will shine the spotlight on Quebec soloist Daniel Lanthier, who is leading an intense career in Europe.

Francis Choinière has not finished surprising us! He will soon show his gift of ubiquity… or almost. Indeed, on the evening of May 20, at the very moment when GFN Productions, the company he founded with his brother and a friend, will present a film-concert around Return of the Jedi at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier under the direction of American conductor Erik Ochsner (concert also given in the afternoon and the evening before), Choinière will conduct his Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Music Lovers next door at the Maison symphonique in the magnificent and rarely heard Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams.