A breathtaking end to the season at the Orchester Métropolitain with a great concerto from the repertoire and three fine Franco-Russian bites from the beginning of the 20th centurye century interpreted by a conductor more than ever inspired and a sparkling soloist.
Posted at 7:00 a.m.
It was the late pianist Nicholas Angelich who was originally to be seated in the grand Steinway of the Maison symphonique on Saturday evening in Rachmaninoff. We rather had, in the Concerto noh 2 of Brahms, his colleague Seong-jin Cho, who won the gold medal at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2015 while Charles Richard-Hamelin received the silver.
It will be remembered that Nézet-Séguin and Cho had replaced conductor Valery Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsouïev at short notice during a Rachmaninoff concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York on February 25, a few hours after that the Russians had begun the invasion of Ukraine. They therefore found themselves in Montreal in much more serene circumstances.
the Concerto noh 2 de Brahms is among his greatest interpreters of Russians such as Emil Guilels and Sviatoslav Richter, who have delivered several muscular and urgent testimonies. Cho and Nézet-Séguin, however, have a more relaxed conception of it.
This is particularly evident in the tempo of the first movement, which favors singing and not virtuosity. Hardly a surprise here when we remember the long-winded Brahms symphonies offered to us by the conductor of the Métropolitain just last spring. And after all, the movement is aptly titled “Allegro non troppo”.
Cho molds well to this approach by carefully sculpting the phrases, reserving his ardor for certain well-chosen moments, but which have their effect. The very beginning of the movement, dreamed rather than acted out, boded well for the future.
The rest of the concerto was to match, with a slow movement perhaps too lively at the start (the eighth notes of the solo cello – too timid moreover – did not have time to sing), but rather quickly “calmed down” by the Korean pianist’s otherworldly entrance.
With a little more rhythmic freedom and a widening of the sound palette, Seong-jin Cho will certainly be able to claim his place among the greatest. Especially with the Pavane for a deceased Infanta by Ravel that he gave as an encore in homage to Nicholas Angelich, a very great musical moment that left us all speechless.
After the break, the conductor and the orchestra gave us three shorter works having as common point the Paris of the beginning of the last century. the funeral song composed in 1908 by Stravinsky, rediscovered a few years ago and recorded by Nézet-Séguin in Philadelphia for Deutsche Grammophon, is certainly not among the masterpieces of its author, but already announces Fire Bird by its colors evoking as much Rimsky-Korsakov (to whom the work was dedicated) as the Group of Five.
Followed the delicate Of a spring morning by Lili Boulanger, which Rafael Payare also did at the OSM a few months ago. Lasting some five minutes, the work was, under the baton of Nézet-Séguin, a veritable little firework display.
It’s here Waltz by Ravel which closed the evening. As in Brahms, the conductor adopts a rather calm tempo, preferring to detail the thousand wonders of the score rather than opting for the “inside” approach of certain conductors. Disadvantage: one perceives perhaps less the overall architecture. A little more adrenaline surely wouldn’t have hurt. But it remains a detail in a highly satisfying evening.