My Diary

29 March 2017

Some ideas on music & musical program – May 2017 – Tokyo, Japan By Violinist Laurence Kayaleh

Dear Friends of Music,

Laurence Kayaleh

Since the early stages of my artistic life, I was eager to learn new repertoire. Of course, there is always endless beauty to discover in music, even in the regularly performed repertoire. The musical literature is incredibly rich, inspired, and inspiring. Every time I work on a Brahms or Beethoven sonata, or any work of the standard repertoire, I approach it as if it were the first time I read it, even if I have already performed it many times in concert. Music grows, as we grow as human beings. The general conception of interpretation, and the understanding of composers’ indications become much deeper with time and experience. A genuine artist never knows a work completely, even after years of dedication. The artistic evolution is constant; it never ends. This is also the beauty of the Arts.
The repertoire written for the violin is vast (although not as vast as the piano’s!).

Even though I regularly perform and cover well-known repertoire ranging from the Baroque through the contemporary eras, I believe it is also my role, as a performer, to present lesser-known works but very inspired to a larger audience. There are some remarkable jewels out there yet to be explored—a real gold mine.

Karol Szymanowski’s Sonata for Violin & Piano in D minor Op. 9 was composed in 1904, in Warsaw. It was created in April 1909 by violinist Paul Kochanski and pianist Arthur Rubinstein. The work was composed in the style of late Romanticism which he highly appreciated and respected at that time. The work is dedicated to Bronisław Gromadzki, an amateur violinist and good friend of Szymanowski. The young Szymanowski, a pupil of Zygmunt Noskowski, was then 21 years old. He demonstrates in this work a very fine mastery of the classical form.

Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré’s Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 2 in E minor, Op. 108 is a masterpiece of artistic depth. It was written in 1916, five years before his sublime Piano Quintet in C minor Op. 115 (1921), and only eight years before his death. The human and musical evolution in the 40 years between his first and second violin sonatas is quite striking. The work certainly reflects and expresses World War I torment and human suffering… The musical writing demonstrates great inspiration and maturity.

Sonata Op. 108 was written during the third period of his life throughout which Fauré was suffering from hearing loss problems.

The gorgeous theme in the Andante from the discarded Symphony in D minor of 1884 is full of beauty and expression.

The work was premiered by Lucien Capet and Alfred Cortot on November the 10th, 1917 at the Société Nationale de Musique. The sonata is dedicated to the Queen of Belgium, Her Majesty Elisabeth.

After Szymanowski’s and Fauré’s lesser-known sonatas, the program will conclude with the superb and one of César Franck’s best-known works, his Sonata for Violin & Piano in A major. The sonata was written in 1886. It was Franck’s wedding present to the young violinist and composer, Eugène Ysaÿe. Ysaÿe performed the work for the wedding guests with pianist Léontine Bordes-Pène. Both Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène gave the first official public performance of the sonata on December 16th, 1886 at the Museum of Modern Painting in Brussels.

May 5, 2017
Recital in Tokyo, Japan
with pianist
Yusuke Kikuchi

The role of a performer is quite subtle. One must follow and respect the musical text and the composer’s indications, while in a way “reimagining” the piece using the eloquent and precise indications given by the composer. There is a distinct but fragile line between what the performer can do or not to serve the composer’s intentions without it being detrimental to the personal interpretation.

The artists need to emphasize the coherence in the sound colors to create a total “communion” between the instruments, thus favoring the general atmosphere and respecting the color of the harmonic architecture. This is always a very critical step in chamber music, made even more complex by the uniqueness of every musician.

© Violinist Laurence Kayaleh – 2017

07 December 2014

Vœux de Fin d’Année 2014

Chers Amis de la Musique,

Le temps passe vite et nous voilà déjà à la veille d’une autre année qui s’achève, remplie de beaucoup de musique, de voyages, de belles rencontres, de partages et d’émotions. C’est l’occasion de vous remercier très sincèrement pour le soutien continuel de beaucoup d’entre vous, d’année en année. Les musiciens ne seraient pas grand chose sans un public de fervents mélomanes qui sait apprécier et comprendre le grand Art de la Musique – cette parole universelle qui saura toujours atteindre le coeur du monde, quelle que soit la culture… La musique est un équilibre vital dont nous avons tous besoin. Comme le disait Nietzsche « Sans la musique, la vie serait une erreur »… Ainsi, la communion qui naît dans une salle, entre les artistes sur scène et le public, crée l’inspiration propre à cet instant qu’est le concert. Cette énergie humaine contagieuse incite le musicien à créer, à donner le meilleur de lui-même et à communiquer un message au-delà de toute parole…

Je vous retrouverai sur scène dès le mois de février 2015 dans l’intégrale des superbes oeuvres pour violon et piano de G. Catoire au Conservatoire de Musique et d’Art Dramatique de Montréal et à la Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur à Montréal avec le pianiste Stéphane Lemelin, ainsi qu’auprès de mes chers collègues, Lambert Chen et Elizabeth Dolin, pour d’autres concerts incluant le Trio à Cordes en sol majeur op. 9/1 de Beethoven, le Duo de Kodaly et la merveilleuse Sérénade pour Cordes en do majeur op. 10 de E. Dohnanyi – Les Rendez-Vous du Dimanche : De l’Allemagne à la Hongrie.

Je vous souhaite à tous de Joyeuses Fêtes auprès des vôtres, et une nouvelle année 2015 heureuse et prospère !

Joyeux Noël, Frohe Weihnachten, Buon Natale, Merry Christmas !

Laurence

14 August 2014

Greetings from France !

visuel_annonce_txt_journal_fete_savoie_0814_large

Here are pictures of my stay near Annecy, France, where I performed this week with Georges Kiss (August 12).

The musical program was dedicated to Bach and Mozart. We ended up playing two encores, including J.-S. Bach’s Sarabande in D minor for solo violin.

The sound and the beauty of the church were breathtaking…We enjoyed it tremendously !

A heartfelt THANK YOU to the organizers of the Festival « Les Fêtes Musicales de Savoie » for their generous welcome, to my wonderful colleague, Georges, and to our awesome audience !!

Laurence on the road.

Photographs : A. Othenin-Girard

10 June 2014

Un Voyage Musical Estival !

Chers Amis de la Musique,

Quelques mois se sont écoulés depuis ma dernière “carte postale” ! Le temps passe trop vite et les activités s’accumulent, toujours aussi passionnantes et inspirantes. Et entre temps, des éléments techniques du site devaient subir des mises à jour.

L’hiver fut très froid au Canada cette année ! Mais la Musique ne cesse d’illuminer nos cœurs, animant chaque instant de ma vie par le partage qu’elle inspire au quotidien…

Mes étudiants à l’Université de Montréal, en violon et en musique de chambre, ont merveilleusement bien travaillés cette année. L’investissement et les résultats de chacun d’entre eux furent très gratifiants en tant que professeur. J’ai eu le bonheur de voir naître des étincelles dans leurs yeux au sein de chacune de nos séances de travail. Et sans le savoir, nos élèves nous apprennent d’innombrables merveilles humaines, artistiques, et instrumentales. J’analyse sans relâche mon travail instrumental personnel, tels que les aspects techniques, la conception générale des œuvres etc., mais on ne cesse jamais d’apprendre (et heureusement !). Les caractéristiques de chaque élève, les éléments à développer ou à acquérir, me poussent à aller toujours plus loin dans mes recherches…

Nous avons conclu la saison musicale par une très belle sortie de classe le samedi 3 mai 2014. Je joins quelques photos de l’événement à ce texte !

Quant à mes concerts, l’hiver fut intense avec la reprise du Souvenir de Florence en février dernier, à Montréal, ainsi que des concerts violon et violoncelle avec la violoncelliste Elizabeth Dolin, au mois de mars, incluant une prestation à l’Eglise de la Visitation qui possède une acoustique tout à fait exceptionnelle pour les instruments à cordes. Quel bonheur que de pouvoir y interpréter les œuvres du grand J.-S. Bach !

Je me trouve actuellement en Suisse où je me produirai au Festival du Château de Bossey, près de Genève, en concerts de musique de chambre et dans la superbe Suite pour violon et alto no. 3, op. 19 que j’interpréterai avec ma sœur Céline, à l’alto.

Le Festival réunira sur scène les brillants violonistes de la Kayaleh Violin Academy, ainsi que des musiciens qui se retrouvent souvent à l’occasion du festival annuel du Château
(www.festival-chateaubossey.ch).

Le programme du concert du 20 juin 2014 sera consacré à des œuvres écrites pour différentes formations de musique de chambre, mettant en valeur la beauté très complémentaire du violon, de l’alto, du violoncelle et du piano. Ce voyage musical vous transportera en Allemagne avec le pétillant Octuor de F. Mendelssohn et le Quintette pour piano de R. Schumann que ce dernier composa à l’âge de 32 ans et qui fut créé en 1843 avec Clara Schumann au piano. Les prochaines escales du concert auront lieu en Pologne avec la Suite pour deux violons et piano de M. Moszkowsky, au Royaume-Uni avec le Sextuor pour cordes du compositeur et merveilleux altiste, F. Bridge et enfin, en Russie avec le fameux Souvenir de Florence de P. I. Tchaïkowsky, œuvre d’une grande profondeur et d’une structure musicale exceptionnelle !

Le Concert Gala du Kayaleh Chamber Orchestra aura lieu le samedi 21 juin. Cette année, l’orchestre mettra à l’honneur la Scandinavie et la noblesse très intérieure de sa musique pleine de grâce, d’intimité et aux ambiances des plus inspirantes…

Ces deux concerts permettront aux mélomanes de découvrir les nombreuses couleurs et subtilités que renferment tous ces instruments et qui seront mises en valeur dans leur beauté la plus pure.

Aussi, l’artiste-peintre, Catherine de Saugy, exposera ses tableaux tout au long du festival.

Une belle semaine de partage artistique et humain s’annonce au cœur d’une météo déjà
très estivale !

Je me produirai également à Toronto, au Canada, cet été, où j’entamerai la préparation d’un nouvel enregistrement prévu en automne, ainsi qu’en France, près d’Annecy.

D’ici les prochaines nouvelles de mes aventures musicales, j’espère que vous profiterez tous pleinement d’un début d’été ensoleillé et reposant !

Avec mes pensées musicales d’Europe,

Laurence

03 December 2013

2013 end-of-year : Thank You & Happy Holidays to all !

Dear Readers !

A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU for your amazing support throughout the year, for attending performances and for sending me some very touching messages !

The Art of Music is a vocation, a passion. Expressing oneself through this universal language is certainly a God-given gift and privilege … It is also very demanding, including self-discipline and a tremendous amount of daily physical and intellectual efforts, with some difficult moments as well ; questionings, fatigue, low energy and even, doubts. Despite those natural “ups and downs” of life, a musician is asked to “function” immediately, anytime, no matter the circumstances. And behind the musician, there is a human being living, with emotions, impressions, and vulnerability. The great Maria Callas would have turned 90 years old on December the 2nd, 2013. She represents for me this supreme combination of superhuman strength and human fragility, fears and need to be surrounded with care…

Therefore, I’m deeply grateful for a supportive public throughout the years, to my wonderful friends and brilliant colleagues, to my dear students from whom I’m learning everyday, and last but NOT LEAST, to my devoted and cherished parents and family who are my inspiration …

I wish you all a magical Holiday Season, and a New Year 2014 filled with happiness, good health, lots of great music and love !

I’ll be back in 2014 with new projects, including another complete work recording, concerts in France, exploring more violin teaching via Skype, and more :). Meanwhile, please check out my Official YouTube Channel for updates.

JOYEUX NOËL !!

Laurence

14 November 2013

VIOLIN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – 3

MY WORST STAGE EXPERIENCE !

QUESTION :

What was your worst stage experience ?

LAURENCE KAYALEH’S ANSWER :

About 8 years ago, I participated in a performance of Henri Dutilleux’s String Quartet “Ainsi la Nuit » (1976). The piece is very interesting but also extremely complex and difficult to put together. We worked intensively on it. This concert was the last event of a festival that was taking place in Montreal. Full house, the radio was broadcasting the concert and we were all quite nervous !

We started the first page of the piece (Nocturne), with soft and mysterious sound effects (i.e. lots of harmonics, quick changes in dynamics, pizzicati). After a few bars, I had the impression that my score was moving. I thought that this impression was a reaction to stress ! But NO, my score was indeed moving until it completely fell on the stage floor. In fact, the top of my music stand wasn’t fixed well, and everything collapsed !? While still playing (like an awkward acrobat !), I desperately tried to catch the score with my legs but it happened to be even worse…! My colleagues were looking at me, hoping for the best, but…we really had to interrupt the performance. I felt terrible, horrible, ashamed, devastated 🙁 … We started again the piece from the beginning. Luckily, we didn’t play much before the incident, as this would have been extremely disturbing and demoralizing.

Believe it or not, but the same situation happened to our violist the second time we played the quartet (around the same bar !). We had to stop AGAIN, and we all had – including the public – the best laughter ever. All this seemed unreal !…

After a good deep breath, we played Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit (the complete version this time !), and it certainly was our best performance of it :).

NOTE : The music stands were all quite unstable in this hall, and we had already experienced some problems during rehearsals ! Voilà, I’m still laughing while writing the story !!! Watch out your music stands or…perform from memory 🙂

Laurence

12 November 2013

VIOLIN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – 2

“Pre-Performance Routines” banane

QUESTION :

How do you prepare yourself before a performance ?

LAURENCE KAYALEH’S ANSWER :

I practice my violin every day 🙂 ! Of course, a daily practice routine is essential. But I’m also very concerned with the physical preparation, almost like an athlete… No secrets ; a healthy body has a direct impact on the brain abilities, powers and faculties. This means that concentration, memory, reflexes etc. are considerably improved when living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. And standing for hours on stage or while rehearsing requires a good physical condition and resistance ! I’m working out at least three times a week, and more when my schedule allows it. I try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Ideally, I need a good 9 hours of sleep, but this is very personal depending on your own natural biological rhythm.

NOTE : I always have bananas backstage as this fruit is an excellent source of potassium, a natural stress reducer. It contains a protein that the body converts into serotonin which helps to relax. Two to three bananas provide energy for about two hours !

Laurence

10 November 2013

A New Musical Season !

Dear Readers,

I guess it’s time for a new Diary post. The past months were filled up with chamber music sessions, masterclasses, rehearsals, teaching, traveling, concerts, my sister’s wedding and even a few weeks break !!

I started the 2013-2014 musical season with a brand-new class at the University of Montreal, including some wonderful, passionate and talented students. They all work admirably well, which is very gratifying as a teacher !

Traveling !

I opened my concerts season with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor as guest soloist with the Drummondville Symphony, Canada, under conductor Pierre Simard on October 3, 2013. This concerto always had a special place in my life. Since my childood, my parents were listening to Jascha Heifetz’s recording, and I used to sing the first phrase of the concerto all the time. I first performed the concerto at age 13 when I was in Vilna, Lithuania. I was participating in a summer masterclass program directed by David Oistrakh’s former students such as Igor Oistrakh, Viktor Pikayzen, Khalida Akhtiamova. It was an honour to play for these artists and perform this concerto for them, knowing that they grew in the 20th century Golden Age of violinists… Since then, I played the concerto many times, including two performances as guest soloist with the Basel Symphony, Switzerland, under conductor Pavel Kogan, himself a violinist and son of two great Russian violinists, Leonid Kogan and Elizabeth Gilels (pianist Emil Gilels’ sister). I was then 15 years old and the experience of those two concerts is still an unforgettable one…

Backstage !

The second movement of Prokofiev’s G minor Violin Concerto is certainly one of the most gorgeous pieces written for the violin !!

Backstage !

Three weeks later started the violin and cello concerts project in Toronto, Ontario. Cellist Elizabeth Dolin and myself are regularly performing together since a few years in different chamber music ensembles. This year, we decided to work on a new project involving only violin and cello works. Aside from the famous Brahms Double Concerto, the unaccompanied repertoire for those two instruments is unfortunately limited, but there are two outstanding (and very difficult and challenging !) duos ; the Duo by Zoltán Kodály inspired by Hungarian gypsy music, and the transparent Sonata by Maurice Ravel ! Both works were written around World War I (1914 & 1920-22), and the duos are characterized by interesting sound effects, including pizzicati, harmonics, varied bowings etc. Two J.-S. Bach’s works are completing this program : the Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello performed by Elizabeth, and I’m playing the Chaconne in D minor for Solo Violin. This program was very well-received by our public in Ontario, Canada.

In rehearsal

We gave three performances in a period of four days in Toronto. The first concert took place at the University of Guelph. We were exhausted but also very excited with this artistic challenge of concentration, reflexes and attention !! Other concerts might take place in British Columbia next season. In the meantime, other performances of this program will be presented in Montreal this season, including a concert on December 1st, 2013 at the Montreal Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Arts (please, see my website Events calendar for more details).

My Concert Dress
after dry-cleaning !

Last Thursday, on November 7th 2013, I fulfilled a dream that had been accompanying me for a long time : playing Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous sextet “Souvenir de Florence”. This event was the opening concert of a brand-new concert series in Montreal created by talented young cellist, Eli Weinberger. The members of the sextet were myself and Ewald Cheung, violin – Lambert Chen and Scott Chancey, viola – Elizabeth Dolin and Eli Weinberger, cello. The concert took place at Pollack Hall, McGill University. This hall has excellent acoustics, although we had some scary moments during the general rehearsal in the afternoon. We couldn’t hear each other on stage due to some time delays in the sound caused by an empty hall… But all went beautifully in the evening. We were welcomed on stage by a warm and an enthusiastic public !

Flowers received after
Prokofiev’s performance 🙂

A new recording project is scheduled for next year. The project is still young, but the current developments seem to be interesting and inspiring ! More details to come.

After Tchaikovsky’s
performance

I would like to thank some of the young violinists and music lovers for sending me their violin questions. It’s been a very busy period, but I’ll try to answer some of your questions ASAP. I’ll be posting in my Diary !

At the train station

Meanwhile, many thanks for your great support, your kind messages and for attending performances !

Hope you all had a great Halloween 🙂

Until next time,

Laurence

14 October 2013

Le Violon et le Violoncelle : un dialogue aux couleurs infinies !

Le public peut souvent entendre ces deux instruments dans différents contextes, accompagnés d’un piano, d’un orchestre, ou encore aux côtés de divers instruments. Il est cependant assez rare d’apprécier les qualités de ces deux magnifiques instruments sans accompagnement. Ces concerts permettront aux mélomanes de découvrir les nombreuses couleurs et subtilités que renferment le violon et le violoncelle et qui seront mises en valeur dans leur beauté la plus pure.

Les instruments à cordes permettent aux artistes des possibilités d’expressions remarquables se rapprochant de la voix humaine, un défi de maîtrise technique complexe. La diversité sonore qui caractérise ces instruments est aussi variée que les humeurs qui définissent la vie. Être capable d’intégrer l’instrument au corps et savoir “parler” à travers cette voix très personnelle est sans doute le langage le plus intègre, qui dépasse toutes les barrières de l’artifice.

La communion de ces instruments à cordes nécessite une harmonie parfaite entre les artistes qui doivent alors sentir et anticiper le souffle de chacun pour un équilibre parfait, donnant ainsi l’impression d’écouter un seul instrument.

Les œuvres au programme comprendront le superbe et passionné Duo de Kodály imprégné de la musique hongroise populaire, la Sonate pour Violon et Violoncelle de Ravel écrite peu de temps après la première guerre mondiale – une œuvre aux contrastes et aux ambiances marqués – ainsi que des œuvres de Bach pour violon et violoncelle seuls.

Nous espérons vous y retrouver nombreux !

Laurence

Les dates des concerts (automne 2013)

24 octobre 2013 : University of Guelph (Toronto, Canada)

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26 octobre 2013 : Caledon Hills Chamber Concerts (Toronto, Canada)

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27 octobre 2013 : Événement Privé (Toronto, Canada)

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17 novembre 2013 : Brossard, Canada

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1er décembre 2013 : Conservatoire de Musique et d’Art Dramatique de Montréal

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28 May 2013

VIOLIN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – 1

LE SON ET LA VIE

Je mentionne souvent l’importance cruciale de la diversité sonore. Le son est l’empreinte du musicien et le reflet même de la vie qui anime l’artiste.

QUESTION :

A la sortie d’un concert que je donnais dernièrement, on me demandait comment je perçois les « couleurs » du son, et qu’est-ce qu’elles représentent pour moi.

REPONSE DE LAURENCE KAYALEH :

Pour répondre à cette question complexe et pertinente, je dirai qu’elles reflètent avant tout l’âme qui habite chacun d’entre nous. Il y a autant de couleurs sonores qu’il y a de vies ou d’humeurs sur terre. C’est un monde infini et je crois qu’avant de songer à une quelconque vie sonore au sein de la musique, les « couleurs » doivent vivre en soi. Ça va bien au-delà de la technique, même si cette dernière reste un outil essentiel à l’expression musicale.

Rien ne remplacera donc le vécu de l’artiste, même la plus ingénieuse des techniques instrumentales. Le temps et l’expérience sont les clefs de l’imagination essentielle à la création.

Lors d’une prestation musicale, je suis littéralement capable de visualiser la couleur d’une note. Il y a les couleurs vives, sombres, les pastelles, voire parfois l’absence de couleurs…creuses ou mystérieuses etc. La « peinture de la musique » est un univers en soi… Selon la phrase que j’interprète, l’ambiance, l’énergie, l’intériorité, le charme, la profondeur, les tonalités dans lesquelles je me trouve, qu’elles soient majeures ou mineures, il y a toujours une couleur sous mes yeux – sous mes doigts. L’imagination est donc un élément principal. Aussi, la musique met admirablement bien en scène les états d’âme, les personnages que nous sommes et cette vie miraculeuse qu’est la nôtre…

Sur le plan instrumental, il est impossible de dissocier l’archet de la main gauche. Cependant, le développement d’une technique d’archet complète est primordial. Je travaille régulièrement différents coups d’archet avec une main gauche calme et détendue, et un son à part entière et expressif dans l’archet. Je suis attentive à ce qu’il soit égal, varié, coloré, vivant, et je surveille sans relâche les transitions sonores afin qu’elles soient progressives, souples et équilibrées, ainsi que l’organisation de l’archet et de sa vitesse. Je me mets souvent face au défi de jouer le plus lentement possible, avec le métronome, tout en me concentrant déjà sur l’expression et l’interprétation musicale complètes et ce, uniquement au niveau de l’archet. J’évite donc d’avoir recours au vibrato qui pourrait compenser ou masquer un manque de vie dans l’archet. J’essaie de créer l’illusion de mouvement au sein du phrasé dans l’archet, malgré un tempo lent et contrôlé. C’est un travail quotidien qui s’entretient, qui demande beaucoup de discipline et qui prend des années à se développer.

La souplesse de la main gauche est essentielle à la vie sonore et aidera le développement des différentes vitesses de vibrati au service des ambiances musicales et des couleurs dont je fais état plus haut. Si la moindre jointure est bloquée, on percevra alors une raideur dans le son et ça ne pardonnera pas. J’opte toujours pour une posture aussi naturelle que possible, en évitant toute exagération. Si, en pratiquant, vous perdiez toute sensation naturelle, déposez l’instrument et observez dans un miroir la posture de votre bras gauche – de l’épaule à la main – et maintenez-la par la suite en intégrant l’instrument au corps. Vous aurez ainsi déjà une bonne partie du travail de réalisée. Une erreur majeure et fréquente chez l’instrumentiste est celle de changer d’attitude corporelle face à l’instrument. Ce dernier devrait être, au contraire, intégré au corps, telle une jointure supplémentaire, voire complémentaire !

THE VIOLIN SHOULDER REST

QUESTION :

Violinists keep asking me about shoulder rests, and whether it is better to remove it ; the endless questioning !…

LAURENCE KAYALEH’S ANSWER :

Well, the perfect solution does not exist as each morphology is unique and changing throughout life.

mentonniere

There are different concepts and point of views about this issue. I’m myself very tall. My neck is quite long and after having tried several options on myself, I certainly need a shoulder rest. In all cases, never force on the neck. If you need to lift the head to place the instrument, this is definitely a sign of tension. On the opposite, when there is not enough height, you might have to lift the left shoulder, or lower the head, to hold the instrument. This can cause or contribute to serious back, neck, fatigue and headaches problems. When practicing, try to check your body alignment regularly. I also believe in the importance of keeping the left hand completely free while playing, though the head should hold the instrument with a complete freedom of movement and full body mobility.

If you do need the use of a shoulder rest, try to choose one which isn’t reaching the back of the instrument, or which isn’t too tight on both sides of the violin. This can considerably reduce the sound quality and its projection. Never forget to try out simultaneously comfortable chinrests !

Hope this helps !! N’hésitez pas à me poser vos questions. I’ll answer them as much as I can !
Till next time, enjoy your violin practice !

Laurence

22 May 2013

Montreal International Musical Competition 2013 – Violin

Dear Readers,

Last month tour seems already far away ! I came back to Montreal on April the 25th. Two days later, I started rehearsing at McGill University for a concert given on May the 1st, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The series « Youth and Pros » is taking place in the new Bourgie Concert Hall which is part of the Museum of Fine Arts. Inaugurated upon the restauration of the church Erskine and American, the hall has become one of the most Inspiring places in Montreal. It was my first performance in this hall and the acoustic is wonderful.

The concept of the series is to offer the opportunity to the most prepared and talented students in Montreal to perform in concert with professional and experienced artists. For this event, we welcomed Justine Pelletier, piano, Victor Fournelle-Blain, violin, Joseph Novakovich, cello, Eric Abramovitz, clarinet. They all are marvelous, attentive and sincere young artists !

As for the « Pros », there was cellist Antonio Lysy (University of California, Los Angeles) who used to be a professor at the Faculty of Music of the McGill University, violist Douglas McNabney (Faculty of Music of the McGill University, Montreal) and myself (Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal). The concert opened with Brahms Clarinet Trio, I played in the Brahms C minor Trio with Antonio and Justine and we ended the evening with Schubert’s String Quintet in C major. This piece is one of the most extraordinary chamber music work written for strings. It is almost unbelievable that such heavenly inspired music was composed the year of his death, at age 31 …

Since, I’m quite busy preparing my university students for their final recitals and exams. It’s always demanding and stressful for them (and for the teachers !). The daily physical and mental training is tremendous and it is often the time for students to realise how imporant is every detail in the art of music, how huge is the yearly achievements and how crucial are a good concentration and a healthy lifestyle…

In the meantime, I followed closely and with much interest the Montreal International Musical Competition held from May 7 to 17, which was dedicated this year to violin.

I was a member of the jury for the pre-selection of the competition between March 4th to 8th. We all heard about 127 recordings of candidates !! The level was very strong this year.

I was also invited to comment the two evenings of the competition final on May 14th and 15th, live on Radio-Canada – Espace Musique, from the Maison Symphonique at Place des Arts. This certainly will remain a memorable experience in my artistic life ! It was in a way quite pedagogical. I was asked to talk about technical and artistic elements related to each performance of the six finalists. I needed my full concentration but radio presenter Mario Paquet, producer Michèle Patry, and the whole crew were all very welcoming and they made the experience much easier for me and very pleasant. Most of them have recorded many of my concert performances. It was wonderful to work again together on this project ! I met with the CBC crew as well and was interviewed after the candidates performances.

I attended each semi-final recital (at Bourgie Hall !) as I wanted to hear them live in a different repertoire with piano before commenting on their final performance. I took notes and listened carefully to every detail and specific qualities and characteristics which were differentiating one candidate from another. When the names of the six finalists came out, we found out that we were going to hear four Tchaikovsky and two Brahms concerti, both in D major and composed in 1878 ! I performed many times both concerti in concert and it was fascinating to hear six completely different performances of these masterpieces and see young musicians having their own sound, their own feelings and conception of the works. We could observe how unique we all are !

The general atmosphere was healthy. An artistic competition is always complex and tricky. It is in fact impossible for two musicians to « compete ». And beyond arts, we all are extremely different as human beings … This makes it a subjective experience. But a competition is a good exposure and a way to perform new repertoire, develop stage experience and meet with many excellent musicians around the world !!
The team of the Montreal International Musical Competition is awesome. People are surrounding the musicians with much support and even, love and care. This surely makes the experience more inspiring for them, considering the amount of stress.

It was also impressive to see the musicians of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and violinist Maxim Vengerov conducting the orchestra, playing and supporting the candidates with such energy and beauty !!
I’m always moved to see young artists devoting their lives to the difficult art of music, and see them preparing for their performances with such huge and long-term discipline. They certainly are going against nowadays system in which everything goes very fast…and for this, one needs strong belief, conviction, passion and character !! Even musical careers start and end often too soon. The human development behind the artist cannot be forced. Only time gives us the privilege of discovering ourselves !

I invite you to listen to audio excepts of my comments on the MIMC final. Rights issues didn’t allow me to insert any musical except.

Until next time, happy musical Spring,

Laurence

Extrait de l’animation Radio

Laurence Kayaleh, invitée spéciale, et l’animateur, Mario Paquet, couvrant la finale du Concours Musical International de Montréal les 14 et 15 mai 2013 – en direct sur Radio-Canada (Espace Musique) de la Maison Symphonique de la Place des Arts, Montréal, Canada.

Montreal International Musical Competition 2013
  • Marc Bouchkov, Belgium (1st prize)
  • Stephen Waarts, USA (2nd prize)
  • Zeyu Victor Li, China (3rd prize)
18 April 2013

Tournée (4ème partie) : Bravissimo à nos Jeunes Ambassadeurs Artistiques !

Chers Amis de la Musique,

Spectaculaire lac gelé
entre Québec et Saguenay,
le 17 avril 2013 !!

Nous voici sur notre route en direction de Trois-Rivières après un court séjour de 24 heures à Saguenay. Demain, le 19 avril, marquera la dernière journée de jury au Concours de Musique du Canada (CMC) après une tournée de trois semaines à travers la province du Québec.

Ce fut à nouveau une expérience enrichissante sur les plans artistique et humain ! On nous a informés que les copies des commentaires du jury sont gardées environ cinq ans au concours et sont ensuite déposées aux Archives Nationales.

Vue de ma chambre donnant
sur la Rivière Saguenay.

Nous avons entendu de brillants candidats durant toute la tournée. Le niveau général de préparation est assez remarquable et le talent et la beauté humaine couronnent l’événement… Je me surprends d’ailleurs souvent à retenir mes larmes en écoutant ces jeunes artistes en herbe et en discutant avec eux. Leur passion, leur maturité, leur curiosité et leur profond désir d’apprendre sont non seulement émouvants, mais très encourageants. Certes, le monde avance vite, ne laissant souvent plus le temps nécessaire au développement culturel. Mais tous ces jeunes ambassadeurs de la musique classique sauront défendre avec distinction cette noble cause. Il s’agit sans aucun doute d’une future relève musicale et de mélomanes avertis de grande qualité !

Cathédrale
de Chicoutimi !

Un grand bravo à tous les candidats. Ils ont tous remportés à mes yeux un grand prix : celui d’un investissement artistique admirable au cœur d’une société où la musique classique est trop souvent
brimée …

Je souhaiterai aussi remercier très chaleureusement mon cher collègue, Michel, avec qui j’ai échangé des instants musicaux intenses et passionnants, ainsi que tous les responsables du Concours de Musique du Canada, les directeurs des conservatoires et les bénévoles pour leur travail très précieux et essentiel visant à soutenir nos jeunes au sein de leur développement artistique (et humain !), pour leur grand dévouement et pour le mémorable accueil réservé aux membres du jury !

Laurence d’une route pluvieuse du Québec 🙂

15 April 2013

Tour (part III) : The Musician : a Heart, a Brain and… Discipline !

Dear Readers,

Porte Saint-Jean by night !

I arrived last night in Quebec City. I was finally able to sleep and rest during the drive. Buses became very comfortable. It’s pleasant and relaxing. My short visit to Montreal was VERY intense. I couldn’t lose a minute as I’ll be on the road for quite a bit. And everyday reality goes on with bills,  tax period, laundry, cleaning…life 🙂 !!

Quebec City is always an experience ! I almost forgot the peaceful feeling of being here. The hotel is gorgeous. We are all staying in a “Manoir” in the old city which has a distinctive charm. I’m used to standard hotel rooms, wherever I go. Such a place has its own character. How inspiring ! And I woke up and smell fresh croissants this morning !!
It’s good to meet again with the CMC team. We didn’t see each other for only two days, but I was starting to miss our crew ! When we share such intensive days on a long period of weeks, we also develop a wonderful bond of friendship.

The CMC sessions in Quebec are taking place at the music conservatory which is the province second in size, after Montreal. We were warmly welcomed by the director of the conservatory, Louis Dallaire. The coincidence of this meeting in Quebec during the CMC is special as Louis used to be the general director of the competition from 1995 to 2009. This year, he has been named Honourary Patron for the CMC in Quebec. 
I had the privilege to cross the whole country for two months in 2009 as a jury for the CMC during his last tour as general director. It was memorable, with laughter, stress, rushes, last minute planes, music, long drives, the Rockies and Lake Louise, good restaurants, spinach salads tasted all over the country, lots of great talents etc. etc. etc ! He was the Soul of the competition. His dedication was exceptional.

With Michel Fournier,
Louis Dallaire and
Marie-Josèphe Lemay.

I’m practicing my violin during breaks for my upcoming concerts. At the time we were touring with Louis, he organized all the practice rooms for me in universities and concert halls. Today, he does it again but in the institution that he is leading ! Life is surprising.

Gifted people are not always necessarily born in big cities and I’m often impressed by the number and the level of talents when I’m visiting smaller cities. Today, while listening to the candidates, I could see (again !) how crucial is a healthy lifestyle in the demanding vocation of music !

Every Art has its own challenges, but music embodies so many elements. First the natural sense of style and phrasing, or the ability to create symbolic colours through the only tool of sound, untouchable and subjective, is one of the most inspiring but also very challenging element to develop. This is also what characterizes a musician ; the Sound ! It is like a fingerprint, a signature !! A deep introspection of one’s own thoughts and feelings should guide a musician in this continuous search which also reflects the human behind the artist, life experience etc.

The intellect, while analyzing a music score or performing it, is also continuously active. And feelings or emotions without a brain can never be balanced and controlled.

Impressive painting of
Niccolò Paganini in
the concert hall
(Conservatory of
Music, Quebec City).

This concentration on stage can be sometimes experienced to such an extent that a musician can really have the impression of being away, in “another world”. When this happens, it is probably one of the strongest feeling that can be experienced.

The instrumental reflexes are conditioned. This is why a daily, intensive and well thought practice is crucial. It is like a sportsman. Such a discipline is the key to the tools which will allow a musician to “speak” through the language of music, and go beyond the sole instrumental technique.

A part of the painting !!

I believe that a musician needs a heart that is able to give everything and a mental of steel. Not easy and certainly a lifelong challenge !!

Here is a special thought to my students who are working hard and progressing beautifully, and to all the young artists embracing music with passion and sincerity…

Until next time, enjoy the pictures and I thank you for your loyalty !

Laurence from the road.

13 April 2013

Tour (part II) : More talent !

Dear Readers,

It is 07:22am and I’m already on my way back to Montreal for a 24 hours “transit” ! I’ll go to the violin maker for my upcoming concerts, change luggage, practice a few hours, have a good night sleep before heading to Quebec City !

I enjoy to travel and to discover new places ! I like airports, train stations atmospheres. I always feel that it’s also a good way to “stop the clock” for a short while. I can’t go anywhere while flying or driving. I have no choice but to rest, read and…write !

Somewhere between Quebec
and Montreal on
April the 13th, 2013 !

It is snowing, it is grey, it is cold but at least, I don’t feel it as I’m spending time in concert halls, enjoying the sunshine of the talented musicians I’m hearing all day !

Upon my arrival to Rimouski, I was welcomed by Marie-Josèphe at the station. She is partly in charge of the tour and assisting us (the jury) with travel facilities, scores, transmitting the comment sheets and announcing the final results to the candidates. What would we do without her help and smile ?

Hotel room… with functional
heating this time !

Once at the hotel, I realized that the heating wasn’t working in my room. The weather was windy and very cold. It was already 11:30pm and we were starting the next session early in the morning. I asked for another room but the night was (too) short !

The conservatory concert hall was renewed a few years ago. Wood is the primary building material of the hall which gives warmth and roundness to the sound. The hall possesses very good acoustics. No excuses for the candidates :). The conservatory facilities are quite impressive. Practice rooms are very well settled, isolated, clean and welcoming. We were received by the director of the institution, Benoît Plourde, with whom I worked at the time I was a professor there. It was quite moving to meet after all these years. He is admirably supporting the cause of classical music. The major cuts and the critical financial situation of the conservatory throughout the province isn’t easy on the administration and the professors …

Rimouski chapter of the CMC is well organized and the people in charge are all very helpful and generous. We were spoiled !

We heard lots of string players on Friday. Surprisingly, there weren’t many violinists in Montreal. The majority of the candidates are usually pianists. Maybe this is due to the fact that the violin is more difficult and challenging than the piano (sorry pianists…I’m kidding !). We heard many cellists in Montreal as well. I was particularly happy to hear more violinists yesterday. They are all very well guided. The professors are doing a tremendous work. Teaching remains a heavy responsibility. I’m questioning myself before each teaching session (being often more nervous than before a concert performance !), always wondering if I’ll be ready enough to assume it. We have a part of each student’s future in our hands … Thanks to the parents who play an essential role as well !

As my colleague Michel said to the public : “it is remarkable to see young people of that age devoting hours, months and years of their lives to culture, arts and to the elevated discipline that classical music requires, knowing that they are evolving in an effortless society, where mass media are praising artists “instant careers and success” … It is indeed very encouraging !

Three floors high
Casavant’s organ
pipes, 1921
(Saint-Germain
Cathedral, Rimouski) .

We ended up at the Cathedral of the city where the last candidate performed on the organ. This Casavant instrument (1921) is impressive. It was restored in 1979. The organ pipes are three floors high ! Even though I’m 6 feet tall, I felt VERY small next to it with my violino piccolo !!

I’m thanking all the candidates for expressing their happiness, satisfaction and gratefulness towards our comments and our mission to help them as much as we can in their artistic development !

I’ll now take a short nap before reaching my city of adoption, Montreal !

A bientôt for the next story. Enjoy an excellent weekend !

Laurence from the road

Bravissimo and thank you, dear Sarah and Emily 🙂

11 April 2013

Tour : CBC, CMC & more !

Dear Readers,

With my colleague,
pianist Michel Fournier

Last week’s CBC-Radio concert in the Virtuosi Concert Series, University of Winnipeg, was a treat. I enjoyed performing again in the series and Paul and Elizabeth played beautifully as always. We were warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic public and by the committee members, especially by the director, Harry Strub and his wife, Cathy, who invited us with such generosity. The CBC crew was very efficient and it was quite wonderful to play a CBC concert again considering the major budget cut of the past years… I remember most concerts being radio broadcast at the time I started to perform in Canada. It used to be a great way for the public to discover and follow musicians nationwide, throughout the years and encourage culture as well. But this is unfortunately another topic…

Stay tuned on June the 30th 2013, on CBC-Radio !

There was a snow storm during the night following my concert in Winnipeg and I’m now traveling to Rimouski, Quebec, where snow is welcoming us tomorrow again ! Where is Spring 🙂 ?

I’m joining the jury of the Canadian Music Competition for the second time. The first time took place on a two months national tour. I got invited to join the jury for the national tour again this year but my other artistic activities and responsibilities didn’t allow me to do so. Therefore, I’ll be touring the Province of Quebec this time !

The competition is celebrating its 55th edition which started officially on April the 1st, in Montreal. We spent an intensive week. My colleagues are all wonderful, very helpful and they are doing everything in order to support young talents in their musical development. We heard some very good candidates in Montreal. The general level is excellent and I’m always thrilled to see young people already devoting an important part of their activities to Arts, Music and Culture.

As a member of jury, our responsibility is challenging. A typical day would start around 9am and finish…12 hours later ! We are asked to write all the detailed comments on each work while listening to the candidates. They all keep the jury’s written comments. We need to be coherent, which isn’t always easy while listening, analyzing and following bar numbers in the scores !! We are commenting on artistic and technical elements, always in a constructive manner as the mission of the competition is to support young musicians. The CMC offers also the rare opportunity for the candidates to meet with the jury after their performance to discuss the comments and ask questions. I enjoy this part a lot as it is very pedagogical (and human !). Such an experience brings a lot into my teaching activity and even into my own playing !

Arriving in Quebec City !

We need our maximum concentration, adding to it frequent traveling hours. We all try to be very careful with sleeping hours and healthy diet. One can easily lose control of a healthy natural rhythm due to irregular schedules and heavy fatigue !

In all this, I’m trying to fit in some violin practice hours as I’ll be performing concerts soon…and my students who will be presenting their exams, masters and doctorate recitals in a few weeks ! Days are too short !!

Next stop : Rimouski Conservatory of Music ! Can’t believe I used to travel 14 hours from Montreal every week at the time I was teaching there…!
Looking forward to Quebec City !

Until next time, be well and continue to encourage classical music ! We all need your support !!

Laurence from the road.

22 March 2013

L’Oreille : Un Trésor Incomparable

Chers Lecteurs,

Aujourd’hui, alors que je me trouvais en répétition, très concentrée et tout “ouïe”, je me suis subitement retrouvée fascinée par les facultés inouïes de l’oreille humaine…

L’oreille est sans doute l’un des organes les plus fragiles et ce, malgré une capacité naturelle extraordinaire qui surpasse toutes technologies sonores, même les plus perfectionnées. L’oreille est capable de distinguer un nombre impressionnant de sons et de fréquences. Aussi, plus la concentration est grande et plus l’oreille est en mesure d’identifier les sons. Imaginez, par exemple, un chef d’orchestre : ce dernier est capable d’entendre toutes les voix musicales écrites dans la partition, ainsi que les harmonies complexes que constituent ensemble les nombreux instruments de l’orchestre qu’il dirige. Il peut percevoir la moindre erreur ou la moindre modification sonores, même au sein d’une seule section de son ensemble. C’est d’ailleurs le propre d’un grand chef d’orchestre : son pouvoir d’écoute !

Un musicien développe son oreille tout au long de sa vie. Une écoute très approfondie des subtilités sonores forge l’oreille. Elle devient alors très aiguisée et apte à déceler des détails beaucoup plus affinés.

L’oreille bâtit une “image mentale” du contexte sonore qui l’entoure. Les bruits ou les sons, caractérisés par leur puissance et les fréquences graves ou aiguës, provoquent des vibrations aériennes qui atteignent le tympan. L’oreille perçoit alors ces vibrations en sensations auditives. Bien entendu, ces sensations sont transmises au cerveau.

Les sons musicaux représentent des couleurs et des effets, parfois minimes mais pourtant, si importants au sein d’une interprétation de qualité. Ensuite, un musicien se produit souvent au sein d’un groupe. Il doit donc savoir s’écouter tout en écoutant les musiciens qui l’entourent, voire anticiper intérieurement le texte musical qu’il interprète. Un instrumentiste à cordes doit aussi apprendre à corriger les notes qu’il joue. Un violon, par exemple, ne possède pas de touches aux notes musicales prédéfinies. Il crée lui-même la note. Il lui faut donc une oreille très entrainée afin de faire les ajustements adéquats.

Je me souviens que lorsque j’étais en plein montage de l’un de mes enregistrements, j’avais été émerveillée de découvrir de nouvelles voix au sein de la partition de l’œuvre que j’avais enregistrée. Et pourtant, je l’avais étudiée et analysée scrupuleusement. Je connaissais toutes les parties en détails. Mais mon oreille m’a surprise et m’a dévoilé d’autres prodiges de la partition que j’interprétais.

L’oreille est un abîme sans fond tout comme la force de la nature dont nous faisons tous partie intégrante…

Et malgré tout ceci, Beethoven écrivit sa grandiose Neuvième Symphonie alors qu’il était…sourd. Comme Romain Rolland décrivit ce géant de la musique : “Il est bien davantage que le premier des musiciens. Il est la force la plus héroïque de l’art moderne. Il est le plus grand et le meilleur ami de ceux qui souffrent et qui luttent”.

Soignez vos oreilles, qu’elles soient celles d’un musicien ou celles d’un mélomane. Surveillez les expositions prolongées aux décibels élevés. Les lésions peuvent être malheureusement irréversibles.

Bonne écoute !

Laurence

03 March 2013

From Jazz to Improvisation

When I’m not with Beethoven, Prokofiev, Brahms, Bach, Debussy or Mozart, I enjoy listening to Jazz music. It’s one of my fun and relaxing hobbies 🙂 !

Good Jazz harmonies are very interesting. Characterized by innovative musical ideas and freedom of expression, it is reflecting the musician’s mood of the moment. One needs to be a natural musician to be a good jazz player, improvising being the key element defining this style of music. I guess that’s a quality that every good musician should develop. But this is clearly not something one can learn, like any God-given gift or natural language !

“Jazz is a mental attitude rather than a style. It uses a certain process of the mind expressed spontaneously through some musical instrument. I’m concerned with retaining that process”. (Bill Evans)

Even a classical music performer is in a way “recomposing” the piece that he or she is performing. For me, the challenge is to respect the musical indications and to get the closest possible to the composer’s intention and message. I try to read as much as I can about the composer’s history, or even about the instrumental and technical aspects related to the work I’m performing (like bowings or fingerings, for example). I strongly believe in the (often) long tradition related to the history surrounding a piece of music, which is to me immutable. At the same time, great composers’ Hearts and Souls remain forever a mystery and they are no longer with us to express their inspirations…
That’s where the performer’s creative role starts from my point of view ; to carve the work in one’s personal manner while respecting the musical fundamental architecture. I name it the improvisation of sound, ambiances, colours, moods, dynamics etc. And with enough sound creation and imagination, a musician can even give the impression of Tempi changes without modifying at all the pulse and the metronomical speed. Paradoxically, it is this unique touch which defines every classical musician in a context of an extremely well structured and organized music score.

I once read : The best improvised music sounds composed. The best composed music sounds improvised. How true this is !

I guess Music is a balance between structure and the ability to let ourselves receptive to the flow of inspiration and to improvisation !

Apart from some Gershwin pieces, I have never tried playing Jazz on the violin. Maybe one day, who knows…but only for my own pleasure :).

Laurence

14 February 2013

A musical journey…

Dear Music Lovers,

I’ve been thinking for quite a long time of sharing some of my general impressions on the violin technique, on the Art of Music or about my concert experiences and adventures in various cities. Music is crowning by its heavenly and universal language, bringing people and cultures together.

The privilege of expressing myself through music is a vocation in which every day is a new start. I believe artists always had an important responsibility. Throughout centuries, Arts have reflected and even influenced history, cultures and have built people’s minds, hearts and ability to see the world from a different and deeper perspective. Today, this responsibility is even greater considering a world in which we all live too fast, in which values, respect and the natural time needed to learn, to develop and to properly discover the innate resources that characterize any of us is not sufficiently taken care of. It took six years to Gustav Mahler to achieve his magistral Resurrection Symphony …

I’m frequently telling my students the virtues of patience in their own instrumental practice. The artistic (and human !) developments should be bottomless. Also, behind every authentic artist lives a great, cultivated, humble, respectful, loving and considerate person, eager to learn and to grow through life experience !

Sometimes, I can work on a single note of music, looking for that specific sound colour or expression I’m hearing in my head, for hours, days…years. The closer we get to our goals, the further away they often seem. It never ends…

Looking forward to sharing more about the magic that surrounds my instrument of predilection !

Laurence

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Laurence’s articles in My Diary are written alternately in English and in French.

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Georgy Lvovich Catoire - Laurence Kayaleh
Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 20 “Poème” (1906) // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)
  1. Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 20 “Poème” (1906) // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)
  2. Sonata No. 1 in B minor, Op.15 (1906) – Barcarolle : Andante // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)
  3. Sonata No. 1 in B minor, Op.15 (1906) – Allegro non tanto, ma appassionato // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)
  4. Sonata No. 1 in B minor, Op.15 (1906) – Allegro con spirito // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)
  5. Elegy in D minor, Op. 26 (pub. 1916) // 1 – Georgy Lvovich Catoire (1861-1926)

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