“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.
CBC First Play: Marina Thibeault, Toquade
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.
Toquade, CD review (La Scena Musicale)
Kiersten van Vliet
The new ATMA Classics CD ELLES seems apt for a month when there seems to be a great deal of music, opera & theatre created by women, celebrating female creativity, and perhaps extra noticeable with last week’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. There was Stacey Dunlop’s Lonely Child Project, Sook-Yin Lee’s Unsafe at the Berkeley Street Theatre, School Girls at Buddies, Revisor choreographed by Crystal Pite. And upcoming we get Next Wave Workshop from Musique 3 Femmes (and Tapestry), and the Toronto City Opera’s La traviata. And those are just the recent/current ones I’m aware of.So I’ve been listening incessantly to ELLES.
ELLES—Marina Thibeault (Barczablog)
Clara Schumann’s Three Romances Op.22 appear again on another recital of works by women composers, this time as the opening tracks on ELLES, featuring the Canadian duo of violist Marina Thibeault and pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone (ATMA Classique ACD2 2772 atmaclassique.com/En). There’s no word on the transcription source (a viola version was published in 2010) for this or the following work on the CD, the Trois pièces pour violoncelle et piano by Nadia Boulanger. Written in Boulanger’s mid-20s, some seven years before she gave up composition to concentrate on teaching, the piano again features prominently in three brief movements, two of which were transcriptions of organ improvisations.
A very brief setting of a Goethe poem by Fanny Hensel, Mendelssohn’s highly talented sister, precedes the two major works on the disc: Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Viola and Piano from 1919; and the Sonate Pastorale for solo viola by the American violist Lillian Fuchs. A professional violist, Clarke left a wealth of viola works that finally seem to be attracting the amount of recording attention they richly deserve. Written in New York, her sonata is redolent of contemporary French music.
In all the viola and piano works, Thibeault plays with a pure tone and a smooth melodic line, ably supported by Scarfone; there are times, perhaps, when a stronger attack could be used. That, however, is exactly what we get in the two unaccompanied works that follow. Fuchs wrote little in a long life (both she and Clarke made it into their 90s) but the three-movement Sonate is a simply terrific work that brings the best playing on the CD from Thibeault.
Another solo work that began as a piece for cello, young Canadian composer Anna Pidgorna’s The Child, Bringer of Light from 2012, ends the CD. Its eight continuous sections use a variety of techniques to great effect and once again show just how talented a player Thibeault is.
Terry Robbins – The WholeNote May 2019
What is worthwhile comes to us by directed chance. We cannot sample everything yet we choose much of what we find at critical junctures. So I did not simply find today music, Elles (Atma Classique ACD2 2772) in my mailbox. I asked for it explicitly. And I am glad I did.
It features women composers, Romantic through Modern, with apt and fine-honed performances by Marina Thibeault on alto/viola and Marie-Eve Scarfone on the piano. What strikes me after quite a few listens is the poise of the artists. They give us a striking musical demeanor. The viola, much as I might love Leonid Kogan ecstatic high notes on violin, has an alternate universe of burnished sounds in the somewhat lower register and I have a special love for that. Ms. Thibeault knows what she is about and takes perfect advantage of the inherent sound of the instrument to accentuate the musical possibilities suggested and prescribed by the composers on the program. And Ms. Scarfone responds with an equally burnished pianism that goes a long way to ensure an entranced listen.
So the selection of works seems rather inspired. It begins with Clara Schumann; Trois Romances, op. 22; a work of unabashed depth and piercing presence. Then the mood becomes ever more focused as we revel with Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) and a starcasted viola version of her Trois pieces pour violincello et piano. It is one of her most memorable chamber works and the version here is haunting. I find such programs well enhanced with the presence (as here) of something by Fanny Hensel (Mendelssohn), a touching nocturne based on Goethe vision of nightfall. Goethe admired her music and she quite clearly appreciated his poetry.
The last duet work is by a composer I have only come to appreciate in the last decade, Rebecca Clark (1886-1979). Her Sonate pour alto et piano; is one of her classic pieces and the version here is as inspired as it deserves to be.
Perhaps the highest point of the program occurs at the end, a leap into the modernity of the later then-as-now with two extended solo viola works played with a convincing fervor by Ms. Thibeault. The 1956 Sonata Pastoral composed by violist Lillian Fuchs (1901-1995) makes a lovely and gritty impression, which is then seconded by the living and thriving Anna Pidgorna and her The Child, Bringer of Life.
In the end I am left with a feeling that an important recital has been savored, that my appreciation for the viola and its deeply inimitable possibilities have been well realized with works by women I hear and learn from, revel in, that I bask within the hearing of same.
Viva Marina Thibeault, viva Marie-Eve Scarfone, and viva Elles.
Marina Thibeault, Marie-Eve Scarfone, Elles, Schumann, Boulanger, Hensel.
“Radio-Canada named violist Marina Thibeault its classical “Révélation” for 2016-17 and part of that designation will be the production of her debut album (Hindemith, Martinu and a new sonata by Ana Sokolovic). Thibeault, who won first prize in the string category of the 2015 Prix d’Europe, played the Schnittke Viola Concerto with the McGill Symphony Orchestra in February, and the Stamitz Viola Concerto with the Camerata Orchestra in Santiago, Chile, in June. She’s a founding member of Trio Canoë — with clarinettist Jean-François Normand and pianist and Philip Chiu — and they’ll do a Debut Atlantic tour in September and October. Thibeault was recently given the use of a 1854 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume viola and a W.E. Hill & Sons bow, on generous loan from Canimex. In addition to hearing her play that beautiful instrument, you could also take a Sivananda Yoga class with her (she’s a certified teacher.) Also, pug dogs? She’s a big fan.”
30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30
The small Boston Court Pasadena theater was gripped by powerful string playing on Saturday night. The concert, “A Companion Guide to Women Composers and Rome” starred an all-women string trio performing works by women composers as well as Andrew Norman’s The Companion Guide to Rome.(…)Violist Marina Thibeault gave a thunderous account of Anna Pidgorna’s The Child Bringer of Light for solo viola. The piece, based on Carl Jung’s archetype of the Child, afforded Thibeault the opportunity to channel the emotions of her two young children, she told the audience. Often bowing between the viola’s chinrest and bridge, as opposed to the usual zone between bridge and fingerboard, Thibeault showcased the viola’s versatility. The piece was rhapsodic, and Thibeault’s playing spanned a wide emotional range through rapidly changing lines of dissonance. Her playing was rich and warm, even at moments of cacophony.(…)All roads in this program led to Rome in Andrew Norman’s The Companion Guide to Rome. It was an exciting end to the program, providing each member of the trio opportunities to stand out. The piece comprises nine disparate movements, each based on a different building in Rome. It has received many performances since its composition and is developing a reputation as a crowd-pleaser among the contemporary repertoire.
An air of theatricality suffused the performance when Möhler and Thibeault, at different moments, stood and left the trio to perform a solo movement on the side of the stage. Throughout the nine movements, the ensemble played with a uniform aggression that was both thrilling and controlled. The piece’s final movement filled the hall with long waves of consonant harmonies, as the players dug deep into the strings.
Although spanning composers from different generations, the music on the program formed a cohesive whole. The programming choices made sense, and the pervading emotion was adventure and the varied sounds the strings could make with different bowing techniques. Möhler, Thibeault, and Herlin complimented one another, while also enjoying moments for solo virtuosity. The quality of playing was consistently strong across the ensemble. While modern fare was the subject of Saturday’s performance, I would be thrilled to hear this trio’s take on more standard repertoire.
Ben Kutner is a Los Angeles-based composer, music writer, and lecturer. His music has appeared at venues across the U.S. and he is the founder of the New Parnassus Ensemble.
Women Reign at Boston Court Pasadena (San Francisco Classical Voices)
Violist Marina Thibeault’s baby boy Lucien was having a nap backstage during her concert but woke up in time for the encore. So mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta held him while they performed a lullaby for him.
Violist Marina Thibeault, pianist Frederic Lacroix and mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta were performing in a gala concert at the Dominion Chalmers United Church in Ottawa just before Christmas.
Marina’s baby boy Lucien was having a nap backstage during the concert, but he woke up just in time for the final piece… which happened to be a lullaby.
So Marina brought Lucien out and Wallis held him while they all performed Brahms’s ‘Geistliches Wiegenlied’ to the baby.
And luckily for us, someone filmed the whole special performance.
Viral video with baby Lucien
University of British Columbia School of Music, in Vancouver, Canada has this week announced the appointment of Canadian violist Marina Thibeault to its teaching faculty – effective from the commencement of the 2019-2020 academic year.
A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and McGill University, Marina will assume the role of Assistant Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at the School.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Marina Thibeault to UBC … a versatile and accomplished musician, she promises to bring great energy and artistry to this position,” Acting School of Music Director Alexander Fisher has said.
“I am thrilled and honoured to join the established and innovative UBC School of Music … I very much look forward to working and collaborating with the outstanding faculty and students, developing research and contributing to the rich music scene of Vancouver and British Columbia,” Marina has this week told The Violin Channel.
Vancouver’s University of British Columbia Announces Violist Marina Thibeault To Its Faculty
The Best modern work for viola and orchestra (Slipped Disc)
Design web: Samuel Lalande-Markon | Photos Vedanta Balbahadur