Montreal quartet showcases Yukon talent

Music often plays second fiddle to visuals in film. Quatuor Bozzini, a Montreal string quartet, wants to correct this. On Tuesday, when the group performs at the Yukon Arts Centre, they will take centre stage, against a backdrop of film.

Music often plays second fiddle to visuals in film.

Quatuor Bozzini, a Montreal string quartet, wants to correct this.

On Tuesday, when the group performs at the Yukon Arts Centre, they will take centre stage, against a backdrop of film.

“If you look at movies, you might remember the main theme song if it’s really good,” said

Clemens Merkel, a violinist with the quartet. “But usually the music goes completely in the background, which is something we find really annoying.”

During the show, Quatuor Bozzini will perform an 18-minute piece by Yukoner Daniel Janke. It’s called River, and its last movement will be accompanied by a video that includes archival audio recordings of Yukon pioneers who grew up working on the Yukon River “during the heyday,” said Janke.

It includes the voices of Bishop Isaac Stringer, George Dawson, Laurent Cyr and Ida May Mack.

“The short film I made is a poetic look at the end of that era.”

This is the second quartet Janke’s written. “I vaguely followed the sonata form,” he said.

“The string quartet is like the rock band of the classical world—the punk band. It’s a high-intensity working atmosphere. Writing for strings is very gymnastic. You can really dig in as a composer.”

For Merkel, Janke’s piece “manages to put you, step by step, in the mood. When the images come, the music steps back a bit. But the music from the first three movements resonates with you. It’s very interesting, psychologically.”

Quatuor Bozzini will perform two other pieces. One is Daydream Mechanics by Michael Oesterie, off the group’s album Portrait Montreal. It’s accompanied by an abstract animation made by Jean Detheux.

The third is Les Petites Portes by Bernard Falaise. The score takes inspiration from an advent calendar, comprising of 25 miniature songs.

“It’s very diverse,” said Merkel. “There’s funny stuff. It’s rare that music, at least classical music, is funny.

“We play to a clapping groove. It’s not one of those holy concert rituals. It’s much more close to the people, close to the public.”

Canada’s Musicworks magazine has lauded the Quatuor Bozzini “intense musicality and immense sensitivity.” Germany’s Die Zeit called them “phenomenal.”

Another German publication, Nordwest-Zeitung, wrote that the group “puts a silent, calmly precise, thoughtful and highly intense argumentation against a noisy world.”

Quatuor Bozzini like to mix it up with other artists. They’ve performed with dancers, actors and writers in the past. And they’ve made waves in Montreal’s lively improvised music scene.

“For a classical string quartet it’s pretty adventurous,” said Merkel.

The show starts at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Tickets are $27 for adults, $17 for children or seniors.

Contact John Thompson at

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