Review by Danny Gaisin
On October 31st, 1961, a novice concert writer had his first byline article published in Montreal’s ‘Georgian” newspaper. The subject was the Montreal Symphony Orchestra; the conductor was Zubin Mehta; the opening work was a Verdi overture and the rookie scribe was one Daniel Jesse Gaisin. The kid dared to chastise maestro Mehta for reproving the audience for inopportune applause. Fifty-five years and millions of published words later, I am now the one upset by such ill-conceived behavior. Last night, I once again had the opportunity to hear & critique the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.Fellner performing LVB’s 4th with the OSM & conductor Nagano
The OSM (MSO) is internationally acclaimed for its recordings and consistent apogee standard of technical excellence. The conductor Kent Nagano is certainly a worthy successor to Pelletier & Mehta as conductor and music director…the man is my hero! Attending the OSM in Toronto’s magnificent Roy Thomson Hall with its amazing acoustics and total visibility would definitely make the evening a personal candidate for O.A.R.’s TOP TEN 2016. But hearing Till Fellner interpret the Beethoven 4th piano concerto (G-major, op.58) was an aural and emotional event for this ‘supposedly’ more experienced and jaded critic.
From the solo introduction through the famous overlapping stretto, Fellner displayed a technical tightness that seemed to belie the emotion the soloist contributed to his reading. Every note appeared to be something cherished. The demanding right hand cadenzas were so explicitly performed that this writer experienced emotional hackles and wetting eyes. This was a benchmark interpretation.
The andante 2nd was given a deliberate, almost overly dramatic presentation. The familiar theme was exquisitely interpreted. Each recapitulation of the rondo was seemingly more progressively creative; if such is possible. The harmonies delineated in the tonic scale, always a hurdle for both orchestra and soloist exploited the experience of Nagano and his insight.
The second work was Henri Dutilleux’ Symphony No. 2 “Le Double”. This contemporary (1960) work is unfamiliar to yours truly but it is both fascinating and certainly unforgettable. Utilizing 12 musicians arranged around the podium, the 2 winds; 2 violins, cello & viola plus harpsichord & celesta (softer glockenspiel) enhanced by 4 kettle drums, one would expect the piece to be atonal…such is not the case. ‘Le Double’ is anything but dissonant.
The final work was Ravel’s ‘La Valse’. This has become a showpiece for the OSM; categorically the equivalent of Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’; Liberace’s “I’ll be seeing you” or Bob Hope’s “Thanks for the memory”. The awesome lilt and élan makes such affinity and worldwide acceptance seem totally understandable. The encore; an orchestral arrangement of the composer’s “Pavane for un infant défunte”. A surprising choice given the rather somber overtone integral to the work. Methinks a brief excerpt for ‘Bolero’ might have been more fun! Then yet another encore – Ligety’s Romanian Rhapsody. This rather unused piece reflects the Kodaly & Bartok school of the composer. Finally, the well-deserved standing ovation and shouts of ‘Bravo’.
One final observation; referring back to paragraph one…the TSO audience never broke the silence after each movement. YIPPEE and another ‘Bravo’ for your cultural savvy!