Montreal Gazette: Review: Montreal Symphony Orchestra

March 24, 2011

File the MSO concert of Tuesday night under miscellaneous: a little Brahms, a little Strauss, more than a little Grieg, and fully 22 minutes of Denys Bouliane, whose Vols et vertiges du Gamache was given its world première.

This cello concerto is an attempt to compare and contrast aboriginal and European culture with a fable from Anticosti Island as a point of departure. Or so one reads in the program.

Of course, music has more important things to do than adhere to some complicated cross-cultural agenda. This piece accomplished more, with evocative sounds that extended beyond the usual modernist array of clusters and glissandi. We heard hard rhythm, free-form fantasy, soft murmurs, brassy shouts, touches of lyric tonality, swaths of atonal anything-goes.

Happily, there were individual (if connected) movements to lend it all a sense of sequence, and a dynamic spirit of interplay between soloist and orchestra. The music sounded human, not academic. The committed work of Matt Haimovitz, especially during the cadenza, had much to do with the success. One wonders whether his instrument will require amplification in the new concert hall. Salle Wilfrid Pelletier was never kind to cellists.

Matt haimovitz et Luna P - 05-11-2009

Kent Nagano, returning to Montreal after many weeks abroad, applied his usual mind for detail to the challenging orchestral part. He summoned quite another mood in Grieg’s arch-romantic Piano Concerto, with the cooperation of 39-year-old Nikolai Lugansky, who played the cascading figures of the Adagio with lapidarian beauty.

Nagano deployed a big string section, to good effect. It would be nice to hear more concertos with the full complement. Credit Denys Derome with a magical horn solo.

Brahms’s Haydn Variations, the opening selection, was bland enough to send Nagano to the wings with no curtain call. He fared better at the end of the evening with a boisterous and pictorial treatment of Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel. Tempos were fluid and not too fast. Humour abounded. One gets the sense that Nagano’s residency in Munich has left him with an aptitude for that city’s most famous musical native.

The orchestra sounded full-bodied and Germanic. Good horns, of course. Good everything. You can hear the Thursday night repeat broadcast live on Radio-Canada (100.7 FM).

by Arthur Kaptainis

View article at Montreal Gazette

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