OSM Delivers a Fine Concert
Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
Béla Bartók: Dance Suite for Orchestra, Sz.77, BB 86a
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Pierre Boulez: Livre pour cordes
Igor Stravinsky: Pétrouchka (1911 version)
Benedetto Lupo (Piano)
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Jean-Marie Zeitouni (Conductor)
B. Luppo (Courtesy of OSM)
The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) presented a virtually flawless concert on Sunday afternoon of four 20th century works.
It was Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand that most interested me, as, coincidentally, I had been reading Leon Fleisher’s autobiography during the weekend. One of the interesting tidbits he offered is that most one-handed concertos for piano were written for the left hand because the digit nearest the right end of the keyboard plays the melody and the lower four play the harmony; therefore, since it is easier for the thumb on the left hand than the pinkie on the right to carry the musical line, one rarely hears of concertos for the right hand.
Benedetto Lupo and the OSM gave a riveting performance of the concerto. Lupo played with clarity and sensitivity in the lyrical passages, and with authority in the lower register (although I would have preferred less murkiness from his use of the sustaining pedal in the bass line). Jean-Marie Zeitouni (another up-and-coming Montreal conductor who was recently appointed music director of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio and artistic director designate of I Musici de Montréal) conducted with assurance and attention to detail. He invoked to perfection the various rhythmic patterns of the piece and held a seamless line among the instruments as melodies were passed from one instrument to another. There was fine solo playing throughout. The brass were spot on.
The concert opened with Bartók’s Dance Suite for Orchestra, commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the unification of Buda, Obuda, and Pest to form the capital of Hungary in 1873. Zeitouni and the orchestra performed at a high standard, providing precision, sparkle and clarity to the jazz and dance rhythms throughout. The orchestral balance was impeccable. There was not a sour note.
After intermission we heard Boulez’ Livre pour cordes (book for chords), an ethereal, expressionistic work that provided a startling contrast to the other, more exhilarating works on the program. (The OSM has been highlighting the work of Boulez this season.) Zeitouni elicited a lush, celestial sound from the strings of this 10-minute work that evoked the poetic resonance of the French poet René Char, on whose work this and other pieces of Boulez’ oeuvre are based.
The concert concluded with Stravinsky’s Petrouchka (1911 version). The execution was almost immaculate. The solos, duets and trios were impeccably rendered. Principal flutist Timothy Hutchins’ many solos were clear in tone and nuance. Concertmaster Andrew Wan’s solos were played with expressivity and élan. Zeitouni again maintained balance and clarity throughout the work.
Overall, an immensely pleasing concert-going experience.
Earl Arthur Love