Nézet-Séguin Previews United States Tour
Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
11/17/2019 - & November 19 (Chicago), 20 (Ann Arbor), 22 (New York), 24 (Philadelphia), 2019
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: La clemenza di Tito (K. 621): Overture, “Parto, Parto, ma tu ben mio” and “Non più di fiori”
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 in E flat major, “Romantic”, WAB 104 (version 1878-80)
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo-soprano), Simon Aldrich (Clarinet)
Orchestre Métropolitain, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)
J. DiDonato (© Simon Pauly)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his hometown orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain, gave their Montreal audience on Sunday evening a preview of its upcoming U.S. tour which will take them to Chicago, Ann Arbor, New York and Philadelphia. American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is joining the Orchestra for the occasion, and on Sunday she thrilled concertgoers with ravishing renditions of two Mozart arias from La clemenza di Tito—“Parto, Parto, ma tu ben mio” and “Non più di fiori”. DiDonato exquisitely portrayed the pathos and passion of these arias with nuanced color; soaring, ethereal high notes (sometimes held for breathtaking periods) and dark, husky low notes. Her coloratura was effortless. As a solo instrument ranks prominently in the arias, the Orchestra’s Simon Aldrich joined DiDonato downstage for “Parto, Parto” with a basset clarinet—one having a wider range than the modern clarinet. For “Non più di fiori” he returned to the woodwind section but remained standing while playing the basset horn, a type of alto clarinet with a suave tone and even lower range than the basset clarinet. During the first aria Aldrich’s playing was often over-powered by DiDonato and the rest of the orchestra. He was heard clearly, however, in the second aria. For an encore, “Vio che sapete” from Le nozze di Figaro, DiDonato sang rather carelessly and wasn’t as attentive to detail as in the first two.
The performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony was not as thrilling as expected. Nézet-Séguin mostly maintained the pulse and the all-important unifying arch (apropos of that often-described Brucknerian “cathedral of sound”), but when all sections of the orchestra were playing together the sound was muddy and lacked polish. On their own, the strings excelled with a lush, burnished sound, but the horns, except for some elegant turns from principal Louis-Philippe Marsolais, rarely came together with one voice. The woodwinds performed admirably. The flow was broken early in the second movement when Nézet-Séguin stopped the music to ask the audience for silence after one audible (albeit unnecessarily loud) cough was heard from the back of the parterre. (Is Yannick becoming a prima donna?) The performance lasted just over 70 minutes.
The evening began with a crisp performance of the “Overture” from La clemenza di Tito. Nézet-Séguin maintained a tight pace and at times indulged in some scooped phrasing that felicitously imbued some elasticity to the pulsating beat.
Earl Arthur Love