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A Conductor’s Debut in Montreal

Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
10/23/2019 -  & October 24*, 2019
Joseph Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major, Hob. XVIII:11
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19
Johannes Brahms: Tragic Overture, Op. 81 [*] – Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a [*]

Sir András Schiff (Piano)
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Sir András Schiff, Thomas Le Duc-Moreau [*] (Conductors)

T. Le Duc-Moreau (© Antoine Saito)

Sir András Schiff was to have conducted two complete concerts in Montreal this week with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM). On the day before the first concert, however, the OSM announced, without explanation, that the orchestra’s new assistant conductor, Thomas Le Duc-Moreau, would replace Schiff for the second half of each concert. In addition, the planned performance of Bartók’s Dance Suite would be replaced with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn. Concertgoers were not disappointed, however, when—at 25, Le Duc-Moreau, the youngest assistant conductor in the OSM’s history—led dynamic and riveting performances of Brahms’ Tragic Overture and the Haydn Variations. Although he has yet to develop a distinctive style, Le Duc-Moreau held tight command of the orchestral forces. The Tragic Overture was infused with energy and pulsating rhythms and each section of the orchestra put its best foot forward. (The orchestra had just returned from a tour in South America and Mexico.) Le Duc-Moreau nimbly navigated the contrasting moods of the Haydn Variations, concluding with a lovingly-wrought Finale.

András Schiff conducted Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 from the piano—a Bösendorfer 280Vc Concert Grand on loan from Yamaha Artist Services in Toronto, an odd choice, one that he has long favoured, given the much smaller size and type of keyboard instruments on which these two composers would have played. As expected, Schiff impressed with his exemplary technique and the focus given to each note, but he raced through the Haydn concerto, rendering it dry and uninspired. One felicitous touch was his riff on the Andante from the composer’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major (The Surprise) for the first movement’s cadenza. The Beethoven concerto was more nuanced with the contrasting rhythms and dynamics of the outer movements and the serene elegance of the Adagio with its expressive cadenza. Schiff played two encores—the “Swineherd Dance” from Bartók’s For Children and Brahms’ Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2 in A Major.

Earl Arthur Love



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