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Another welcome visit

Roy Thomson Hall
05/13/2015 -  
Samy Moussa: Nocturne
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43

Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
L'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Kent Nagano (conductor)

P. Anderszewski (© Robert Workman)

A visit by Montreal’s l’Orchestre Symphonique (while the TSO visits that city) has become an annual fixture in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s season. This year’s program followed the conventional “short piece then concerto then major symphony” pattern.

The opener was an OSM commission, Samy Moussa’s Nocturne, the most recent of five commissions Moussa has received from Kent Nagano. The tonal piece is moody with an underlying sense of threat that rises to the surface in a sort of strangled outburst. The 10-minute piece avoids the pitfall of over-busyness that so many short works succumb to. It turned out to be a good choice for an evening in which the final work also expresses a dark moodiness.

Samy Moussa turns 31 this year. Aside from being one of the most interesting Canadian composers active today he has a vital, focused conducting style.

The concerto was one of Mozart’s (numerous) masterpiece, his 25th. I was a bit surprised to see more than 60 players on stage for this - isn’t large-scale Mozart rather retro? I can’t claim the Nagano and the orchestra were at odds with soloist Piotr Anderszewski, but the overall sound of the orchestra simply lacked the acuity of the pianism. This showed up most in the finale which was four-square, lacking the lithe playfulness we love in Mozart. Anderszewski’s approach was crisp and lively, with lots of filigree where appropriate, but never fussiness. The first movement’s cadenza came as a set of rather startling surprises.

The orchestra expanded to full size for the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in which Kent Nagano led a luxuriously expansive performance that faultlessly maintained the musical pulsations throughout the oceanic ebb and flow of the much-loved work.

The OSM returns to Toronto in November with pianist Yulianna Avdeeva in a program by Bach/Mahler, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich.

Michael Johnson



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