Le Sacre du printemps: Quartetski Does Stravinsky

Quartetski / Pierre-Yves Martel

On revisite ainsi l’œuvre de Stravinsky dans une écoute renouvelée et vivifiante… Circuit, Québec

The extended instrumental solos never outstay their welcome, and Martel’s pungent distillation of the work’s essence continually throws up surprises… The Arts Desk, UK

Prix Opus 2013-14: Disque de l’année — Finaliste

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Quartetski offers a reinterpretation of this monumental work which scandalized Paris in 1913. While staying true to the spirit of the composer, the ensemble uses the composition as a laboratory for sonic experimentation. The result is a new kind of chamber music that mixes traditions, styles and approaches to arrive at a sometimes chaotic, sometimes challenging and always captivating performance. Reuniting five pillar musicians of Montréal’s experimental music scene, the project will capture listeners familiar with the original work, and new ears will be just as curious.


CD (AM 213)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 213
  • 2013
  • UCC 771028121328
  • Total duration: 49:48
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 35 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Cléo Palacio-Quintin, Circuit, no. 25:2, August 24, 2015

Le groupe Quartetski1 est composé non pas de quatre membres, comme son nom le laisse entendre, mais bien de cinq musiciens tous très actifs sur les scènes de musique actuelle, autant au Québec qu’à l’étranger: Isaiah Ceccarelli (batterie), Bernard Falaise (guitare électrique), Philippe Lauzier (clarinette basse et saxophone soprano), Pierre-Yves Martel (viole de gambe et objets divers) et Joshua Zubot (violon) 2. Sous la direction musicale de Pierre-Yves Martel, qui élabore leurs orchestrations depuis 2007, cet ensemble d’improvisateurs aguerris s’attaque à des œuvres du répertoire en les réinventant avec leurs sonorités originales, tout en respectant l’esprit des créateurs.

Après s’être frotté avec succès aux musiques de Sergueï Prokofiev, Duke Ellington, Erik Satie, Henry Purcell, Tobias Hume et John Cage, c’est à la demande du Festival Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques3 (MNM) que Martel a osé se lancer dans une adaptation du fameux Sacre, à l’occasion du centenaire de la création de l’œuvre. Le défi était de taille pour parvenir à conserver l’essence de cette œuvre symphonique historiquement marquante en la réinterprétant dans le contexte d’un ensemble de cinq musiciens, mais Quartetski s’est prêté au jeu avec brio, et le résultat est éloquent.

Les principaux thèmes mélodiques sont bien reconnaissables et savamment intégrés dans des textures électroacoustiques et instrumentales improvisées. Martel a brillamment réussi à réorchestrer les passages les mieux connus en gardant l’essentiel, et ceux-ci nous apparaissent tout aussi envoûtants que dans la version originale. Parmi ces fameux motifs et rythmes tirés de l’œuvre de Stravinsky s’imbriquent des passages plus libres qui se fondent naturellement, et nous emportent ailleurs, dans des sonorités plus actuelles, frôlant même parfois le rock, tout en demeurant ancrés dans l’esprit de ce Sacre mythique.

On revisite ainsi l’œuvre de Stravinsky dans une écoute renouvelée et vivifiante, dans laquelle les improvisateurs créent de nouveaux espaces d’improvisation où ils mettent en évidence leur propre langage et virtuosité, toujours sans dénaturer l’âme du Sacre et son énergie tellurique. Ce disque s’est d’ailleurs retrouvé finaliste pour le prix Opus du Disque de l’année — musiques moderne, contemporaine, pour la saison artistique 2013-2014.

Depuis cette parution sur cd, le groupe s’est aussi attaqué à l’œuvre pour piano Mikrokosmos de Bartók. On peut d’ailleurs en entendre des extraits en concert sur la nouvelle plateforme La fabrique culturelle.tv4. Un enregistrement sur disque paraîtra également sur l’étiquette DAME/Ambiances Magnétiques d’ici la fin de 2015… à surveiller!


  1. Pour plus d’informations sur l’ensemble, voir: (consulté le 27 mai 2015).
  2. Les musiciens Amy Horvey (trompette) et Miles Perkin (contrebasse) ont aussi contribué à certains projets du groupe, mais les cinq membres ici nommés sont ceux ayant participé au disque, mais également aux plus récents projets de l’ensemble.
  3. À propos du festival MNM, voir: (consulté le 9 juin 2015).
  4. Voir: (consulté le 5 juin 2015).
On revisite ainsi l’œuvre de Stravinsky dans une écoute renouvelée et vivifiante…


Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, March 14, 2015

Pierre-Yves Martel’s Quartetski are based in Montreal. They’ve already reinterpreted Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives and there’s a Bartók disc in the pipeline. Martel’s approach is looser and more anarchic than Hofbauer’s, the ballet recast for drums, electric guitar, reeds and violin. Martel plays viola da gamba, and, tantalisingly, what’s listed as “objets divers”. The 32-minute original is extended here to nearly 50 minutes. The score’s folky roots emerge more strongly, and the improvisation is a lot freer. The extended instrumental solos never outstay their welcome, and Martel’s pungent distillation of the work’s essence continually throws up surprises: the wonderful overlaying of duple and triple time rhythms in Augers of Spring, and the chilliness at the opening of the ballet’s second half. Quartetski’s Sacrificial Dance is a freer, spookier affair: drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli pounds out Stravinsky’s rhythms against a sustained chords and scratchy vinyl samples, before the music fades out. If you love this piece, don’t feel you have to choose between Hofbauer and Quartetski. Buy both.

The extended instrumental solos never outstay their welcome, and Martel’s pungent distillation of the work’s essence continually throws up surprises…

Heard in

Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear, August 25, 2014

With 101 years of concerts, riots, discussions, thesis, influence, acceptance, canonization, you would think there isn’t much more that can be said about Stravinsky’s immaculate, ground-breaking Rite of Spring. However, this quintet’s interpretation is forcing us to reopen the tomes. Isaiah Ceccarelli on drums, electric guitarist Bernard Falaise, Phillipe Lauzier on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, violinist Joshua Zubot and ringleader Pierre-Yves Martel also on viole de gamba and “diverse objects” here deliver a candid version of the work that’s based in straightforward score adherence and detours that range from slight to wild, but always back to the map — and always interesting.

Apart from a deep muffled drone, the introduction of L’adoration de la terre begins on queue with Lauzier delivering the high C and rhapsodic opening gesture; Falaise gently plucks out pinpoints to cover the brass counterpoint. Just as faint, Zubot joins to complete the intimate trio. Things are going exactly as planned, the performance washes over you, you’re rising to heaven — bam, one minute and forty-seven seconds marks the first frenzied burst of instrumental twisting, guttural breaths and string disfigurement. As if suddenly unpossessed, the band immediately hops back into character before Ceccarelli and Falaise lurch into a bluesy stomp. Zubot goes it alone with a stark, pan-tonal rogueness as prelude to the Augures printaniers (the staccato 8th note part with lots of accents that you can almost shake Devil horn hands to — the portion John Williams ripped off for Jaws). For this movement, the crew restrains the otherwise tension with Ceccarelli opting for jazz brushes and all working muted and mezzo forte. However, it isn’t long before the members burst into a brash groove, complete with Gene Krupa drum bashing. The group moves forward with the lugubrious, snake-charmer Rondes printanières, laying into the swaggering pulse of Stravinski’s vision while adding Lauzier’s steamy Coltrane-esque exploration on top. Rocking out, guitar string and amp mangling, barely audible drones and a raging barn-stomping frenzy follow to close out the first half.

Le sacrifice tracks the same model of faithfulness and interjection, the latter delivered with woo to convince that the deviations should be there. The act flows from dinner theatre to corner slinking lounge with a great deal of space near the beginning. As the group approaches Glorification de l’élue (the percussion-heavy bombast), the air is frantic with Martel taking a nimble extended solo. The players launch back in and cadence just as Falaise takes flight with something not quite metal, but certainly heavy: dense, warbling, detuned chords that slightly shift pitch, hang, and dissolve like clouds on the verge of thunder. Ceccarelli steps in and the two put a dirge-like punctuation on the Golden Mean of the piece. The ostinato of Action rituelle des ancêstres (again, being a Star Wars child, I associate this with the Jawa sand crawler) starts like a lamb, works into a two-headed lion and burns out. The finale is a curious medley of mechanized grinding and rumbles from what seems to be a turntable also playing a short hazy loop of Stravinski’s original in reverse. Soon everyone wails, the beat grows three heads due to Falaise’s distortion and Ceccarelli’s assault, and cut.

It is a daunting task filled with ghosts throughout history to tackle Le Sacre as a small chamber ensemble and make it your own, but there is nothing bare-bones about this version. The approach could have gone Three Bears: one is too rigid, the other too wild, free and disrespectful. Quartetski’s augmentation of this landmark work is just right.

Quartetski’s augmentation of this landmark work is just right.


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 929, April 21, 2014

A new bunch of CDs from Ambiances Magnetiques. From Goldstein and Wiens we know earlier releases as a trio with Ganesh Anandan and John Heward. This time Jean Derome is their partner. As a trio however they have already performed for a longer time. On april 12th, 2013 they recorded this crystal clear recording in the studio. Goldstein playing violin, Wiens mainly prepared electric guitar plus kalimba, and Derome alto sax, flute and objects. Intense and concentrated improvisations with lots of colour and sounds. Fine interplay and interaction between these reputed players, with some breath-taking moments. Like Derome, Robert Marcel Lepage is one of the founding members of Ambiances Magnétiques. He didn’t release many albums in the last few years if I’m right, but now he strikes back with two releases. He presents the more light-hearted and accessible part of the Montréal musical spectrum. Le lait maternel contains 18 compositions Lepage wrote between 2003 and 2010 for film. It has some very catchy tunes like the jumpy Le Rock du Bungalow that evokes orchestral film music from the 60s. Good time music! Very friendly music, tapping from a diversity of styles and idioms. Pieces on Canard Branchu leave some more room for improvisation, but in essence this is also an album of melodious and harmonious music, typical for the Ambiances scene since the 80s. Again performed for a big ensemble of 9 musicians. So both albums offer a bunch of well-defined tunes, dressed up in fine arrangements giving voice to many different instruments and sounds. They may not surprise you, but will sure entertain you. With the new release by Palardy we turn again to a more serious face of this scene. Again we are dealing with one of the early member of the Ambiances scene. Self-taught Danielle Palardy Roger made her mark since the early 80s with groups like Justine, Wondeur Brass and Les Poules. In the last few years — since about 1998 — she concentrates on writing for Ensemble SuperMusique, an ensemble that was founded by her. Compared with earlier projects by her, this one is most close to composed new music and deals with the play between improvisation and composition. Le Caillou is one of her oldest and most played works for this ensemble. It “is a simple game piece in which the players pass the musical development of the piece to each other while building up a slow crescendo; another set of instructions tells the musicians to trace back their steps and play as exactly as possible what they did play the first time around”, Roger explains. The one that surprised me most this time is Quartetski doing Stravinsky. Quartetski is a project founded by Pierre-Yves Martel in 2007, focused on reinterpreting works of classical composers in an improvised setting. They reworked compositions by Prokofiev, Purcell, Satie, Ellington, Cage, a.o. Because of the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring they decided to chose this work. Besides Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, objects), we hear Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, soprano sax) and Joshua Zubot (violin). Marvellous job in transposing this orchestral work for small ensemble. Martel started from Stravinsky’s two-piano version of this composition. His re-working leaves the original work in tact concerning spirit, energy and drive that is in the original piece. Adding room for improvisation. Chapeau!



Massimiliano Busti, Blow Up, no. 191, April 1, 2014

Rielaborare in forma cameristica una pietra miliare come Le Sacre du Printemps non è impresa da poco. E’ una scelta complessa, che da un lato richiede un notevole intuito nell’individuare gli elementi chiave da collocare al centro della propria opera di “aggiornamento” e dall’altro presuppone un grande sforzo nel distaccarsi in modo plausibile dalla partitura originale. Un processo che l’ensemble Quartetski ha perfettamente messo in atto in questa riedizione che brilla per inventiva e soluzioni avventurose, grazie a passaggi improvvisati che rendono giustizia allo spirito originario e ai bagliori elettrici della chitarra di Bernard Falaise che proiettano brillantemente nella dimensione contemporanea la scrittura di Stravinsky. La materia sonora trascende il tempo e si colloca in uno spazio ideale fra febbre fauvista e “rock in opposition”, fra esaltazione del rito pagano e stilizzata ricerca di tanta produzione targata Ambiances Magnétiques. Senza timore di scandalizzare i puristi, proprio come fece il compositore russo nella Parigi del 1913.

Listening Diary

François Couture, Monsieur Délire, October 23, 2013

After Prokofiev, Pierre-Yves Martel’s Quartetski tackles a founding work of modern music: Le Sacre du printemps. First of all, Quartetski has become a quintetski: Martel on viola da gamba, Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet and soprano sax), Joshua Zubot (violin), Bernard Falaise (el. guitar), and Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums). Martel’s arrangement is faithful to Stravinsky’s ballet — each section is duly represented and cared for — while allowing for moments of freedom, textural plays, and tricks that make sure we don’t miss the symphonic orchestra. Execution is precise yet fluid. I was expecting a more thorough reinvention of the work, but this remains a brilliant arrangement that retains pretty much all the marvel and genius of this most important piece of music.

This is a brilliant arrangement that retains pretty much all the marvel and genius of this most important piece of music.

Quartetski Does Stravinsky

Wende Bartley, The WholeNote, October 15, 2013

The opening concert of the Music Gallery’s X Avant New Music festival began with a huge explosion of energy Friday, October 11. The high-octane sounds coming from the Gordon Grdina Trio set the stage for the Montréal-based Quartetski and their retake of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. As I mentioned in my October WholeNote column, this work caused a riot when it premiered 100 years ago in Paris. As I was sitting listening to the brilliance of this reworking of the original, I couldn’t help but wonder how those audiences of 1913 would respond. I imagined Stravinsky himself with a huge wide grin dazzled by the eclectic palette of sounds, many of which would have been unheard of in his day. As for the audiences? Perhaps so shocked and stunned they wouldn’t be able to move, let alone begin a riot.

But back to the music and its brilliance. For starters, there was the instrumentation: viola da gamba, violin, drums and eclectic percussion, various sound/noise objects, electric guitar with effect pedals, bass clarinet and soprano sax. But it was the seamless movement between scored sections and improvisation that captured my attention. The referencing of the original music was unmistakable — the familiar melodies and the driving rhythms. But with the addition of improvisation, the individual virtuosic skills of each player shone; they approached their instruments as full-on sound generators including saxophone multiphonics, the bowing of the tailpiece of the gamba and a scratchy LP recording. One of my favourites was a DIY noise machine made by putting a stick in a styrofoam ball and placing it on a moving potter’s wheel, with the styrofoam ball acting as the sound resonator. (…)

After the concert, I asked the group’s founder and viola da gamba player Pierre-Yves Martel about how this piece came together. He told me that after listening to various orchestral versions, he studied the two-piano reduction created by Stravinsky. He proceeded from there to make an arrangement based on each player’s skills and unique talents. One of his fascinating ideas was to use various lines from the orchestral score that would not normally be heard so distinctively — such as the tuba and flute parts. His creation was then brought to the group and honed into its final form through a collective process of improvisation and revisions. (…)

… with the addition of improvisation, the individual virtuosic skills of each player shone…

Quartetski Does Stravinsky. Entrevue avec Pierre-Yves Martel

Mathieu Charlebois, Ma mère était hipster, October 13, 2013

Il y a 100 ans, à Paris, Le sacre du printemps, plus récente composition de compositeur russe Igor Stravinsky faisait scandale. Les rythmes percutants et les harmonies dissonantes ont eu l’heur de ne pas plaire au public du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. S’ensuivit des huées, des sièges arrachés et presque une émeute.

Se passera-t-il la même chose avec la relecture du Sacre que propose le groupe Quartetski sur son nouveau disque, Quartetski Does Stravinsky? «Ho, ce serait vraiment cool!», répond Pierre-Yves Martel, leader et arrangeur de Quartetski.

[NOTE: Nous étions au lancement du disque, et il n’y eut pas émeute. Tant pis.]

Dans le passé, Quartetski s’est attardé à des œuvres d’Érik Satie, de Prokofiev et de John Cage. Les arrangements transforment ces pièces du répertoire classique en prétexte à l’improvisation et à l’exploration.

C’est à la demande du festival Montréal Nouvelle Musique (MNM) que Quartetski s’est attaqué au Sacre du printemps. «Je n’aurais jamais osé sinon», nous a dit Pierre-Yves Martel.

MMEH: Pourquoi cette résistance?

Pierre-Yves Martel: Je suis un fan de Stravinsky, mais pendant six mois, je me suis demandé comment j’allais faire sonner ça. Nos précédents projets étaient faits à partir de pièces courtes, où on pouvait simplement improviser après le thème. Avec le Sacre, ça ne fonctionne pas: il faut le jouer d’un bout à l’autre.

Aussi, les autres projets partaient de pièces pour piano seul ou pour viole, que je réarrangeais pour plusieurs instruments. Ici, c’était l’inverse: il fallait passer d’un orchestre symphonique à un petit groupe.

MMEH: Quels sont les points importants du Sacre, les éléments qu’il fallait absolument conserver?

P-Y M: D’abord, l’aspect rythmique. C’est ce qui compte avant tout.

Ensuite, il y aurait la simplicité. À premier plan du Sacre, il y a des mélodies simples, qui s’empilent et forment ensuite une masse complexe. Mais au départ, il y a la simplicité.

Densité, simplicité, mélodie, rythme.

MMEH: Ramener tout un orchestre à cinq musiciens sans perdre l’essence du Sacre, est-ce que ça a été aussi difficile qu’on l’imagine?

P-Y M: Dans sa version orchestrale, c’est un chef-d’œuvre. Partant de là, tu peux le jouer n’importe comment, ça va bien sonner. On avait donc une bonne base sur laquelle travailler, mais oui, ça a été difficile.

J’ai beaucoup écouté la version pour orchestre, puis j’ai travaillé avec les partitions de la réduction pour deux pianos, faite par Stravinsky lui-même. J’ai fait un premier arrangement avant de laisser de côté même la version piano. J’ai simplifié encore et changé des choses sans trop réécouter la version orchestre. Je voulais l’oublier, pour pouvoir en faire autre chose.

En fait, c’est surtout une question de faire des choix. On ne pourra jamais avoir toute la masse de l’orchestre, alors il faut choisir ce qu’on va garder et laisser. J’ai pris les mélodies et j’ai tenté de choisir les notes les plus importantes dans l’accompagnement, pour qu’on sente l’harmonie. On ajoute le grain des instruments, la batterie, un peu d’électro, un peu de viole préparé: tout ça ajoute de la masse, de la palette sonore.

MMEH: Quel a été le passage le plus difficile à adapter?

P-Y M: Le dernier mouvement. Tout était fait, et il ne restait plus que la Danse sacrale, ce long segment qui change constamment de métrique. C’est en 4/4, puis en 7, puis en 3, etc.

Je ne voulais pas que ça sonne comme du rock progressif. On fait donc un long crescendo, avec des indications d’impro un peu vagues, dans une montée qui mène vers la finale: le motif rythmique joué par la batterie. C’est un peu comme du Godspeed You! Black Emperor, à la limite.

Derrière tout ça, je fais jouer l’enregistrement d’une version pour orchestre de la Danse sacrale, mais à l’envers. C’est gravé de manière artisanale sur un disque vinyle, alors ça griche et l’aiguille reste prise à certains endroits. Ça tombe en boucle, puis ça décoince…

C’est très différent de la version pour orchestre. J’aime qu’on finisse de cette façon, alors que les gens ont des attentes parce que c’est l’un des mouvements les plus connus du Sacre.

MMEH: Stravinsky, il était plus rock, jazz ou musique actuelle?

P-Y M: Dans sa première phase, avec le Sacre, Petrouchka et l’ Oiseau de feu, c’était du rock, c’est clair.

C’est ce que j’ai essayé d’aller chercher avec les arrangements. Au départ, j’avais orchestré avec des cuivres, comme d’habitude, mais à mi-chemin, j’ai complètement changé de direction.

J’ai aussi ajouté une guitare, pour avoir des accords et j’ai essayé d’écrire de façon idiomatique pour chaque instrument, pour que ça sonne le plus naturel possible. C’est peut-être ce qui fait sortir le rock par moment.

MMEH: Le Sacre du printemps fait-il ses 100 ans?

P-Y M: Ho Non. Ça sonne toujours totalement moderne. Stravinsky n’est pas comme d’autres compositeurs de la même époque, comme Schoenberg ou Webern. Leurs œuvres étaient plus conceptuelles, elles sont devenues très datées. Stravinsky est allé à la source et il est resté simple. Il travaillait avec des mélodies, souvent venues du folklore, avec de vieilles musiques traitées de façon très moderne.

Pierre-Yves Martel: Je suis un fan de Stravinsky, mais pendant six mois, je me suis demandé comment j’allais faire sonner ça.


Matthew Ritchie, Exclaim!, October 1, 2013

It’s no easy task adapting the work of modern classical composer Igor Stravinsky. But if there’s a group up for the challenge, it’s Montréal-based avant-garde outfit Quartetski. In honour of the 100th anniversary of the symphonic songwriter’s magnum opus The Rite of Spring, the fanciful five-piece has offered up a reinterpretation of the two-part classic in the form of Quartetski Does Stravinsky, which you can stream in full ahead of its October 10 release on Ambiances Magnétiques.

The ensemble is made up of Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba, objects), Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone) and Joshua Zubot (violin), and according to a press release, fans of the Russian composer and his original compositions “will find these experimental re-workings are surprising and exciting, and new ears will be just as engaged and entertained.”

It’s no easy task adapting the work of modern classical composer Igor Stravinsky. But if there’s a group up for the challenge, it’s Montréal-based avant-garde outfit Quartetski.