The Orchester Métropolitain – and its conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, back at the helm of the band after almost two months – gave its second program of the year on Saturday afternoon. A concert of great fervor offering fascinating works.
We know the Montreal conductor’s passion for the work of female composers. After Florence Price and Louise Farrenc, it was Amy Beach’s turn (Cheney being her birth name) to be in the spotlight at the Maison symphonique.
Born in New York in 1867, Beach was the first American composer to achieve notoriety. At the origin of more than 150 opuses, the musician has made herself known throughout the world, notably through European tours, which she was however unable to carry out during the lifetime of her husband, who only allowed her to give a concert per year!
Her Symphony in E minor, called “Gaelic”, op. 32, premiered in 1897, was performed dozens of times during his lifetime. It was after its creation that an eminent Boston colleague wrote to the composer that she was now one of the boys !
The work, performed on Saturday by OM, shows a very sure craft (even if Beach was essentially self-taught) and an inspiration which, if it obviously does not raise her to the same level as Brahms or even Dvořák, from whom she clearly inspires, gives us well-defined climates and themes of certain beauty.
The first movement, beginning with an almost Sibelian chromatic quiver in the strings, as well as the following, a delicate Sicilian in G major, are perfect examples, while the third, a largo, seemed to us to go more in circles.
Whatever the case, Yannick Nézet-Séguin gives us an interpretation that is as fiery as it is balanced. Let’s hope that he will soon expand (here or in Philadelphia) the discography of the work, which is currently rickety.
A memorable experience
Le Métropolitain had not finished with the great female composers, reserving for us the overwhelming Psalm 130: From the bottom of the deep, by Lili Boulanger, after the intermission. Died at the age of 24, the musician completed this psalm, dedicated “to (her) dear father”, just a few months before her death.
If the orchestra did not fail in the task, masterfully portraying the tension of the introduction (magnificent tuba solo, which sounded like a double bass!), the French of the mezzo-soprano soloist Karen Cargill left more to be desired , just like the choice of certain soloists in the choir. Hearing this dazzling work nevertheless remains a striking experience.
The afternoon ended with the Gloria by Poulenc, who this time featured the refreshing voice of American soprano Janai Brugger, rounded and superbly toned. The choir – in particular the pianos of the sopranos in the high register – however appeared more inconstant in terms of intonation.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, for his part, underlines the modernity of the score, bringing it in some way closer to Stravinsky through well-marked accents. If the Laudamus you and the Dominate Fili unigenite would have, in our opinion, benefited from being a little faster (Poulenc scores for both “very quickly and joyfully”), the Domine Deus, Agnus Dei (“very slow”) could have been more interior.