Brahms Cycle with Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Part II)
Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
Johannes Brahms: Symphonies Nos 3 in F major (Op. 90) & 4 in E minor (Op. 98) – Concerto for Violin in D major (Op. 77)
Benjamin Beilman (Violin)
Orchestre métropolitain, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)
B. Beilman (© Christian Steiner)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre métropolitain concluded their Brahms cycle Sunday afternoon with captivating performances of Symphonies Nos 3 and 4 plus the Violin Concerto with Benjamin Beilman. (They performed the first two symphonies the evening before.)
The Third Symphony is the shortest but in many respects the most difficult of the four. Nézet-Séguin took an unusually slow tempo, resulting in inner movements with little shape. The outer movements were aglow with expressivity and pulsed with rhythmic excitement and precision. The overall balance, as well as attention to detail and dynamics, was superb. Nézet-Séguin took the repeat in the first movement, as he did in that of the First Symphony the previous evening.
The most anticipated part of the program was the return of 22-year-old top prize winner at the 2010 Montreal International Musical Competition, American Benjamin Beilman. His winning performance of Brahms’s Violin Concerto was light and airy. At times it was exhilarating. After a tentative opening, Beilman quickly found his stride. His technique was particularly impressive in the faster passages and with the double- and triple-stopping in the Joachim cadenza. Principal oboist Lise Beauchamp performed her solo at the opening of the slow movement with expressiveness and depth. The third movement featured a lightness of touch and energetic dance rhythms.
Nézet-Séguin gave equal weight to the lyricism and intensity of the glorious Fourth, which he declared, from the stage, the greatest of Brahms’s symphonies. His exacting, energetic podium performance recalled a whirling dervish, but it elicited from his musicians a gripping performance. Gasps of astonishment echoed from patrons seated near me over the mounting tension at the end of the first movement. The second movement impressed from the opening horn proclamation to the impassioned cello theme and beyond. In the jovial, intoxicating scherzo, we heard Brahms’s rare use of the triangle. Without pause, Nézet-Séguin plunged directly into the passacaglia movement based on an harmonic progression borrowed from Bach. Here the trombones were right on cue (numerous indiscretions were noted from the other brass sections). Principal flutist Marie-Andrée Benny delivered a haunting and nuanced solo, and Nézet-Séguin maintained his tightly-controlled and exhilarating conducting style. The thunderous ovation lasted a full five minutes.
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