Labèque Sisters – Le carnaval des animaux
On 26 October 2017 I once again got the chance to go to the Konzerthaus in Vienna for a Labeque sisters concert. I’ve been following their concerts since back when I was a student. I was very impressed by wild Katia at that time because her technique was amazing, and she dared to use the lid of the piano’s keyboard as a sound effect. As the music piece reached its peak she slammed the lid shut, then opened it again. At that moment I was pretty shocked by her action! I wondered if she had damaged the expensive Steinway.
In the programme they played Le carnaval des animaux by Camille Saint-Saëns. For most audiences this is an interesting piece, and this is also a suitable piece for kids to get to know about classical music. This humorous musical suite contains 14 movements and imitates animals sounds in a very unique way.
- Introduction et marche royale du lion (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion): when my son first heard this music he started to walk around with big steps. The main verse made him move immediately, with no need for any explanation. There is a part where two pianos occasionally make low runs of octaves which suggest the roar of a lion.
- Poules et coqs (Hens and Roosters): two pianos, clarinet and strings without cello and double bass imitate the sounds of hens and roosters, but some kids can’t guess what those sounds should be. Is it possible that some city kids never heard the sounds of hens or roosters, so that they can’t associate those instruments’ sounds with certain animals?
- Hémiones (animaux véloces) (Wild Asses: Swift Animals): wild asses are not the kind of animals to be restrained. Two pianos represent the sounds of wild asses that have been spooked, and run around to escape danger.
- Tortues (Tortoises): when I ask my students about the speed of a turtle, I always get the same answers back. No kid has ever told me that turtles are fast. The interesting verse in this piece comes from the famous cancan, in which dancers kick their legs so that audiences can see underneath their skirts. This verse is played three times slower to represent the turtle’s movement on the ground. This really makes me laugh.
- L’éléphant (The Elephant): my son really loves the part in Disney’s 1967 film of The Jungle Book where the little elephant marches with the big ones. When he hears this piece of music he says it sounds like an elephant is playing a trumpet (it is actually a double bass). Well, the sounds of elephants have been imitated pretty realistically in the cartoon.
- Kangourous (Kangaroos): many students are aware that kangaroos are known for jumping. This piece represents kangaroos’ movement, when they jump and stop to look for something. A student says rabbits can jump too; why can’t this piece be called rabbits? I really do not know the answer. Maybe the composer preferred kangaroos?
- Aquarium: flute, glass harmonica, two pianos, two violins, viola and cello (string quartet) represent the sounds of animals’ movements in water and the way how bubbles in water rise to the top. It’s quite a mysterious melody. A student says it does not sound like an aquarium, but like Harry Potter! How interesting a kid’s imagination is. If you have time, please try to make a glass harmonica by yourself at home and play with your kids. All you need is some glasses with different amounts of water inside. Enjoy your composition.
- Personnages à longues oreilles (Characters with Long Ears): two violins alternate playing high, loud notes and low, buzzing ones (in the manner of a donkey’s braying “hee-haw”). I personally don’t think it sounds like a donkey, but music is a subjective experience. Everybody feels different.
- Le coucou au fond des bois (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods): two pianos play large, soft chords like the sound in the woods while the clarinet plays a single two-note ostinato, over and over from distance. A wonderful way to represent the sounds. Students can recognise the sound of a cuckoo bird immediately. This is a piece that kids do not forget.
- Volière (Aviary): The flute shows great technique and represents bird sounds with a very quick rhythm. A very happy movement to improve your mood right away.
- Pianistes (Pianists): this movement represents two pianists practising their scales. It imitates beginners and their awkwardness, and in the end they make it. Some parts sound really awkward, and remind me of Laurel and Hardy. A student asks me why it sounds wrong. I can only assume it’s the composer’s black humour.
- Fossiles (Fossils): the composer uses the xylophone to evoke the image of skeletons playing card games, like the bones clacking together to the beat. It is an animate piece. At that time the xylophone wasn’t a fixed element in orchestras. So this piece of work is the pioneer for the xylophone taking its place in orchestral music. Generally percussion can help kids to develop their feelings of rhythm and understand proportions in mathematics.
- Le cygne (The Swan): cello and two pianos create a beautiful scene, like a swan moving elegantly across a lake. This was the only one publication of this work in the lifetime of Saint-Saëns. This music was choreographed as The Dying Swan. This beautiful but sad performance has been very popular worldwide since the charity event in St Petersburg.
- Final (Finale): all instruments take part in the full ensemble, as if all the animals were coming out to celebrate. The work ends with a series of six “hee-haws” from the jackasses, as if to say that the jackass has the last laugh, before the final strong group of C major chords. What a wonderful musical party! Everybody likes it.
The Labèque sisters have been playing two pianos together for years, and they only need to look into each other’s eyes to communicate, with no words needed on stage. I never would have thought that they would prepare a surprise for their fans: time for an autograph! I have not been so nervous for a long time, and I waited in the queue like a little kid. The sisters were very friendly, but my heart jumped so fast as I gave them my CD to sign. I used my poor French to say how much I love their music and thank them for giving us such a wonderful gift.
There is no border for music! If you are interested in their performance, you can check this out: George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Give it a try!
2017 年10 月26 日我找到機會，又到維也納Konzerthaus 聽拉貝克姊妹的雙鋼琴演奏。我從學生時期就追著這兩音樂家的演奏會。當時我對作風大膽的Katia 印象很深，因為她不但鋼琴彈得好而且敢把鋼琴鍵盤的蓋子當音效使用！彈到忘我時她在曲目高潮快結束時將琴蓋用力關下又打開。當下讓很愛惜鋼琴的我心驚膽跳！一直想著那台名貴的史丹威琴是否被她弄壞了。
這次的曲目中有卡米爾·聖桑的動物狂歡節(Saint-Saëns – Le carnaval des animaux)，對大部分的聽眾是一首比較有趣的曲目，尤其對小孩當入門古典音樂是蠻適合的。這是一系列室內樂組曲，由十四首小品組成，以各種樂器生動地描寫許多動物而聞名 。
1. 序曲及獅子進行曲（法文：Introduction et marche royale du lion）：我的兒子第一次聽這首曲目時自然而然的開始踏步走，所以進行曲的主旋律馬上可以帶動人，不需要認何解釋。而且兩部鋼琴輪流彈半音音階，聽起來像獅子吼的聲音。
2. 公雞和母雞（法文：Poules et coqs）：這首曲目分別用兩部鋼琴、小提琴、中提琴及單簧管依序模仿公雞和母雞的叫聲，但有些孩子只聽得出像鳥鳴。可能現在有些城市的孩子沒有聽過雞啼所以較難想像樂器想表現的音效吧？
5. 大象（法文：L’éléphant）：我兒子非常愛森林王子卡通裡小象跟者大象行軍的那一段故事。聽到這曲目他說像大象吹喇叭 (其實是 低音提琴)，像牠們笨拙的移動。看來卡通裡大象的聲音模仿得有逼真。
7. 水族館（法文：Aquarium）：這首曲目用長笛、玻璃琴（現時大多使用鋼片琴或鐘琴取代）、雙鋼琴、弦樂四部（減去低音提琴）來詮釋水中游動的動物及慢慢升起的水泡。蠻神秘的旋律。有個學生說聽起來不像水族館，比較像哈利波特！想像力豐富的孩子真有趣。有時間的話可以嘗試自己製作玻璃琴( 用玻璃杯裝不同高度的水 ) 和孩子一起調音創作喔！
8. 長耳動物（法文：Personnages a longues oreilles）：第一、第二小提琴輪流奏出特殊的音效，模仿長耳動物（驢子）的叫聲。我自己覺得模仿的音效不太像，但是音樂真的是很主觀的體驗，每個人的感觀都不同。
9. 森林中的布穀鳥（法文：Le coucou au fond des bois）：雙鋼琴演奏布穀鳥的旋律，像在荒野森林中，單簧管則躲在後台吹奏負責模仿布穀鳥的叫聲，從遠方傳來。傳達很美的意境。學生馬上聽出是模仿布穀鳥的叫聲，一首不會讓孩子忘記的曲目。
13. 天鵝（法文：Le cygne）：大提琴和雙鋼琴共同創作優美的意境，像一隻美麗的的天鵝在湖畔舞動。這是作曲家在世時唯一公開的曲目，也被編成芭蕾單人舞－ 《垂死的天鵝》。淒美的演出在聖彼得堡的慈善演唱會非常受歡迎。
音樂無國界！如果你們對她們的演出有興趣，George Gershwin 的 Rhapsody in Blue非常值得欣賞喔！