Breaking New Paths for Violin. An Interview with Guillaume Tardif.

Innovation is impossible without deviation, and the early 20th century is especially known for being a time of musical upheaval. In this era, some composers created masterworks which changed classical music by redefining it.

Come discover the fascinating musical ideas of Karol Szymanovski's Three Myths, Bela Barok’s First Violin Sonata, and Igor Stravinsky's Duo Concertant as realized by violinist Guillaume Tardif and pianist Roger Admiral at the University of Alberta’s Convocation Hall in Edmonton, Saturday, February 9th, at 8:00 pm.

Tardif describes the program, titled Breaking New Paths for Violin, as “magical - with sonorities that in the early 20th century were quite new, inspired by scales that were not very used at the time, such as the octatonic scale and influenced by travels to exotic places.”

He says the Szymanovski piece ranks as the most magical of these pieces. “It is very sensuous, very fleeting, lots of effects. It’s like a symphony poem for violin and piano. It is very inspired like Debussy, but Szymanovsky probably went one step further with the complexity of the texture with a bit of (Strauss).”

Bela Bartok, on the other hand, was very interested in the musical expression of folkloric details.  Tardif describes First Violin Sonata as a big piece.

“It is a masterpiece. Roger was the one that wanted to play it and at first I was afraid of it. I’m not sure if I will ever not be afraid of it, it is quite challenging,” he says with a laugh. “It has terrifying logos to it. You get into a very different universe with Bartok. Its intriguing movements. The middle movements are just gorgeous and it also has tremendous moments of dissonance. But after awhile, you get to accept these dissonances and see how they enrich the language.”

Stravinsky was especially noted for taking inspiration from the classical period and using sources that were literary or from ballet. “The piece he puts together here (Duo Concertant with Samuel Dushkin, 1932, later choreographed by Balanchine) is a suite of dance movements.”

“It is always the second or third greeting that makes you fascinated with Stravinsky - it may be dissonant and it may be difficult to understand at first. There are a lot of recurrences and displacements of rhythms, but as an idea, it is always very fresh, clear and clean.”

All three pieces are very rich and played one after the other, which allows an audience to appreciate the creativity of the 1910s. When you consider what was also happening in the visual arts at that time - for example, Picasso and Fauvism - the 1910s would have been an amazing, stimulating time.

“That’s what I would want someone to think - someone that may not know much about the music and could be afraid of listening to it, whether it be students or people from the community. When they see the name Bartok, they might say to themselves, I don’t understand it. Just come to the concert with a heart open to gesture and colour and textures. They are themes and ideas that are transformed in a different way than Mozart or Beethoven.”

Tardif wants the audience for this program to make links between these composers.

“It shows the next step that happens to a very old instrument - the violin,” says Tardif. “The violin was rooted for 400 years and then became a percussion instrument, a wind instrument, an organ of sort. The function of the violin was transformed over a very short amount of time and this is what we are showing.”