18 August, 2011

Review: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal 02

Photo: Dominique Lafond
Wednesday 17 August
Usher Hall

By Mateusz Jazdzewski

In The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka describes how to main character Gregor is bewitched by violin music played by his sister which calms him and helps him forget his existential problems. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal had the same effect – from both the performers and the spectators one could feel the extraordinary focus that comes before an unforgettable experience. This is thanks to an interestingly designed programme connecting three completely different pieces of music providing both soothing tunes and energetic and emotional strokes.

At first the orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano, introduced us to the music of Takemitsu who is renownedas one of the most recognised Japanese composers of all time. Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s performance showed us why – A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden is a dream-like composition resembling Claude Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun was brilliantly interpreted, especially by the violin section.

The next part of the concert was a solo vocal performance from mezzo soprano Waltraud Meier whose powerful voice made the lyrics of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder deep and moving. The orchestra stayed withdrawn enough to expose Meier’s vocal capabilities yet still created a suggestive and coherent background.

The final element was truly the icing on the cake. Stravinsky’s The Firebird was performed with extraordinary imagination. The composer was neither understood nor appreciated in his time – his music was believed to be too chaotic, unpredictable and uneven. The OSM’s performance proved that this is a virtue rather than any kind of disadvantage. Powerful drums combined with soothing violins and explosions of energy were followed by long minutes of intimate music. This challenging piece displayed both the genius of the composer and the technical skill of the orchestra.

The enthusiastic audience did not want to set the musicians free and the long ovation led to two encores. And for those wanting even more, the orchestra’s soloists performed a programme of chamber music at the Queen’s Hall today which included Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, Unsuk Chin’s Fantasie mécanique and Schubert’s Octet.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 12 August – 4 September. Browse and book online at eif.co.uk or call 0131 473 2000.

This article has also been published on stv.tv which features reviews, previews and features from this year’s Festival.

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