The Concert Hour
Weekly or biweekly music program
Broadcast from 1954 to 1966 by Radio-Canada and occasionally CBC
Average running time: 1 hour
Announcer: Henri Bergeron
Producers: Pierre Mercure, Gabriel Charpentier, Noël Gauvin, Françoys Bernier, Jean-Yves Landry, Pierre Morin, Guy Parent, etc.
Set designers: Claude Jasmin, Robert Prévost, Jean-Claude Rinfret, etc.
Costume designers: Solange Legendre, Richard Lorain, Claudette Picard, André Vaillancourt, etc.
Graphic artist: Frédéric Back
Operas, operettas, symphonies, concertos, ballets, etc. In the course of 207 programs over 13 seasons, L'Heure du concert presented some 300 musical or choreographical works, either in their entirety or as excerpts. Broadcast live until the introduction of pre-recording on videotape, these programs were produced by Pierre Mercure and Gabriel Charpentier, both multidisciplinary artists and composers, the pianist and conductor Françoys Bernier, and a number of other highly talented people.
A pioneering program
While helping to build the reputation of the Radio-Canada television network, L'Heure du concert gave the Canadian public a chance to discover rarely produced masterpieces from the classical music repertoire. It also served as a springboard for young artists of the likes of opera directors Paul Buissonneau and Irving Guttman, choreographers Ludmilla Chiriaeff, Françoise Riopelle and Jeanne Renaud, musicians Glenn Gould and Jon Vickers, and conductors Roland Leduc, Alexander Brott and Wilfrid Pelletier. Almost 14,000 artists contributed to these music programs, many of which were illustrated in various ways by Frédéric Back.
In these early years of television, when everything had to be invented from scratch, Frédéric Back created ingenious live animation for the sequences he illustrated. When L'Heure du concert presented excerpts from a work, announcer Henri Bergeron would introduce them and provide some context by describing the preceding scenes, depicted in a series of drawings done by Frédéric Back. Sometimes Back would illustrate Bergeron's introduction, but more often he would devise various ways to enliven the programs by illustrating the score or the lyrics. With a rigour that became legendary, he would systematically research his subjects in order to provide audiences with the most authentic possible reflection of the places and periods evoked in each work. He usually had only a week to complete his creations, which he would fine-tune during rehearsals on the day leading up to the evening's concert.
A one-man band
Frédéric Back used whatever media he could to vary the style of his illustrations and make them more dynamic. As can be seen in Prince Igor, he would design scenery with amazing perspectives that would allow a stationary camera to both pan over it and focus in on certain details. In The Four Seasons, shots of the dancers were superimposed over his hand-drawn sets, which he animated by means of movable parts. For Scaramouche, he developed the technique of paper cut-outs and 2-D puppets cut out of sheet metal, animated live in perfect time to the music in a sequence lasting over eight minutes. For Fête et parade, the inspiration for his acclaimed animated short Taratata, he invented a system of simple visual effects that created the illusion of movement for his hand-drawn characters.
The CBC Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Paul Scherman, plays excerpts from Borodin's Prince Igor, accompanying ...
Pianists Charles Reiner and one of his students play Darius Milhaud's Scaramouche, illustrated with an animated film by Frédéric Back.
Fête et parade
The CBC Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Fernand Graton, plays Michel Perrault's Fête et parade, with trumpet soloist Jacques Lecomte. Illustrations by Frédéric Back.
Les Quatre saisons
The McGill Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Alexander Brott and featuring violinist Hyman Bress, plays Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, accompanied by illustrations and animation by Frédéric Back.
The McGill Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Brott, plays works by Handel, Mozart, Vivaldi and Louis-Claude Daquin, as well as Divertissement ...