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Youth Spirit 2.0

Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
04/25/2013 -  
Eric Champagne: Lux
Students at Pierre-Laporte High School (under the supervision of Nicolas Gilbert): Pour un coup de Triangle
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Franz Waxman: Carmen Fantasie
Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

Marika Bournaki (Piano), Kerson Leong (Violin)
The JFP (Joseph-François-Perrault Secondary School) Choir, Pascal Côté (Choir Master), Orchestre Métropolitain, Jean-Michaël Lavoie (Conductor)

J.-M. Lavoie (© Jean Rabel)

The Orchestre Métropolitain’s concert on Thursday evening, entitled “Youth Spirit 2.0,” featured local up-and-coming artists in a program mixing the familiar with the new. Conductor Jean-Michaël Lavoie, Co-Artistic Director of the Ensemble Multilatérale in Paris, opened with a new composition by the Orchestre Métropolitain’s composer-in-residence Eric Champagne (b. 1980), Lux, for Choir and Orchestra. This five-minute work is based on an original text by Christiane Duchesne, a writer of children’s literature. According to the program notes, the text is a “poetical evocation of sunrise, a metaphor for life’s awakening,” which Champagne transcribed as a movement from darkness to light. Lavoie, orchestra and the children’s choir of about 200 informed the work, in turn, with a sense of hollowed spirituality, force and wonder.

Twenty-six students from Montréal’s Pierre-Laporte High School, under the supervision of author-composer Nicolas Gilbert (born 1979), composed another five-minute premiere entitled Pour un coup de [for a strike of] Triangle, Symphonic Poem for Fifty-Four Hands. Based on Gilbert’s second novel, Le Joueur de triangle (The Triangle Player), it “relates the anguish of a young percussionist who has been hired by a symphony orchestra to play the sole note for triangle in a new work.” If I’m not mistaken, I heard at least two, if not three, notes struck on the triangle during the work for which the students seemed to take their inspiration from, inter alia, cowboy movie music (Copland?), Gershwin, jazz and Asian melodies. Lavoie and the orchestra gave a well-shaped performance with some fine mystical shimmerings from the strings and smooth playing from the brass. (I can only guess that the “fifty-four hands” refers to those of the students who partook in the exercise.) For more information (in French only) read here.

Twenty-one-year-old Marika Bournaki (who performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal when she was 9), then delivered a graceful, articulate rendition of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. Although she could have played with more authority and expressivity (she’s leaning dangerously close to the “Till Fellner School”), she showed elegant phrasing and a fine sense of musicality. The orchestra provided a seamless, well-paced accompaniment in the first movement, but the strings (the orchestra, not full sized to begin with, is down to four double basses) lacked depth and resonance in the third movement.

Fifteen-year-old Kerson Leong introduced the second half of the concert with an agile, expressive performance of Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie. Written for the film Humoresque from 1946, Leong proved adept at negotiating the moods and styles of the 10-minute work. Accompaniment from the orchestra, however, was uneven and low key, lacking drive and confidence. Aside from the soloist and orchestra’s failure to end the work together, the performance seemed under-rehearsed.

This was made up for in the concluding Dvorák Eighth Symphony. Lavoie and the orchestra gave a tight, invigorating reading that brought out the harmonic contrasts and myriad colors of the work. Again, the sound from the brass was polished and blended nicely with the well-balanced orchestra. Enjoyment was marred, however, by a gaggle of whispering, giggling, smooching high school students surrounding us in the balcony. At one point I had to stand up and read them the riot act; the ushers, who should have been maintaining discipline, were nowhere to be seen.

Earl Arthur Love



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