I have always been fascinated by France, awed by its beauty, and excited by its culture, which is an intriguing mix of deep tradition and innovation. Certainly this was the case in the post-romantic era of musical development at the end of the 19th century and in the early decades of the 20th century. I am particularly engaged by works that defy easy categorization, and in this respect the French post-romantic era is rich indeed. Perhaps it follows that I am attracted to artists who were tenaciously independent in their vision. Certainly not all the music of that era fits into the influential impressionist movement, and some of the more atypical works, although extremely beautiful and worthy, have been lost in the shuffle and essentially overlooked. It is my wish to help bring these deserving works to the attention of the public.

Widor, for example, is not well-known as a composer of piano chamber music, rather, he is principally known as a prolific composer of music for the organ. Inspired by the discovery of his charming but little recognized Four Pieces for Piano, Violin and Cello, which are included on our CD, The Romantics, I thereafter researched more of this wonderful composer’s piano chamber repertoire at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Among other gems, I discovered Widor’s Soir d’Alsace (Evenings in Alsace) for Piano Trio, which includes four beautiful pieces depicting four very different evenings in Alsace, a region in northern France where Widor spent some of his youth. Ensemble Vivant’s concert performances of Soir d’Alsace have inspired no end of requests for us to record this beautiful music. The same is true of our performances of Debussy’s Trio in G Major and Saint-Saëns’ Septet in E Flat Major.

Claude Debussy was only 18 years of age when he wrote his Trio in G Major, his only Piano Trio. This work was part of an initial outburst of creativity by the young composer and signaled his transition from performance to composition. Interestingly, the unpublished score was discovered only in 1980. This work is full of romantic references but the beginnings of his own richly impressionistic writing are in evidence. By contrast, Camille Saint-Saëns had little use for new musical forms, and cast back to pre-romantic “classical” music. This is clearly heard in his Septet in E Flat Major, nevertheless, a highly unusual work. Saint-Saëns was a long-time member of La Trompette, a performing society that had been established at the science-oriented imperial Military Academic in Paris by students who played wind instruments. In 1880, at the request of the society’s organizer, Saint-Saëns composed his Septet for trumpet, piano and strings. Debussy’s Trio and Saint-Saëns’ Septet are certainly part of the mainstream piano chamber music repertoire, but these truly glorious works deserve wider recognition.

By popular demand, Ensemble Vivant’s previous CD, Audience Favourites, includes a movement from each of Widor’s Soirs d’Alsace, Debussy’s Piano Trio in G and Saint-Saëns Septet in E Flat Major. The complete performances of each of these magnificent works are included here on Fêtes française. The creation of this unique, beautiful compilation has been exciting, and the opportunity to share these musical treasures with our audiences remains the greatest part of that thrill.

Catherine Wilson
Pianist/Artistic Director of Ensemble Vivant

Fête française CD



Trio in G Major: Claude Debussy

  1. Andantino con Molto Allegro
  2. Scherzo Intermezzo
  3. Andante Espressivo
  4. Finale

Soirs d’Alsace, Op. 52:
Charles-Marie Widor

  1. En Route
  2. Ciel d’Orage
  3. Le Calme Renait
  4. Promenade Sentimentale

Septet in E Flat Major, Op. 65 for trumpet, two violins, viola, cello, bass and piano:
Camille Saint-Saëns

  1. Préambule
  2. Menuet
  3. Intermède
  4. Gavotte et Finale


Catherine Wilson, Piano/Artistic Director

Erica Beston, violin

Norman Hathaway, violin

Sharon Prater, cello

Dave Young, bass

With Special Guests:

Jonathan Craig, viola

Philip Seguin, trumpet

Catherine Wilson Review, Burlington Standard Press

…pianist Catherine Wilson, the pride of Canada…

Burlington Standard Press

Vermont, USA

Rick Wilkins CD Review, Rick Wilkins, C.M.

This is the highest-level chamber music making. No matter the genre, there is magic in Ensemble Vivant’s music-making

Rick Wilkins, C.M.

musician, composer, arranger

Rick Wilkins CD Review

fête française Review, WholeNote

Wonderful performance… congratulations to Ensemble Vivant for uncovering these works and presenting them with their usual flare.

David Olds

WholeNote Magazine, Canada

fête française CD Review

Ensemble Vivant Review, The WholeNote

Ensemble Vivant… this is chamber music at its evocative best!

The WholeNote Magazine

Ensemble Vivant Review, David Bullard

…Thanks again for a great performance and wonderful program…molti bravi to Ensemble Vivant… please have Ensemble Vivant return very soon!

David Bullard, Director

de Blasiis CMS at the Hyde

NY, U.S.A.

Catherine Wilson Review, Neville Bowman

Led by a remarkable pianist, Catherine Wilson, Ensemble Vivant boasts a collection of musicians whose abilities and qualifications are second to none… a diversity of beautifully played music and sound (with vibes… Don Thompson, O.C.) from Bach to Piazzolla to Widor… wonderful interpretations… highlight of the Kelowna Community Concert Association series. I had the pleasure of spending time with the group after the concert and they are a fun, humble and inspiring group of musicians… such tremendous mutual talent and respect within the ensemble… Merci Ensemble Vivant!

Neville Bowman

musician, composer for B.C. Arts

Catherine Wilson Review

fête française CD Review, Toronto Star

Beautiful, poised performances…reveal the deep musicianship and light interpretive touch of these Toronto-based musicians led by pianist Catherine Wilson.

John Terauds

Toronto Star

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