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YNS Delivers a Glorious Sixth

Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
12/06/2012 -  & December 8*, 2012
Johann Sebastian Bach: Overture (Orchestral Suite) No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A Major, WAB 106

Orchestre métropolitain, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)

Y. Nézet-Séguin (© Marco Borggreve)

They did it! Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre métropolitain brought in a glorious Bruckner Sixth Saturday evening, after a disappointing Mahler Fourth on the previous evening. Maybe the reason was that they were recording it live for the ATMA Classique label.

From the first measures, Nézet-Séguin established a brisk, consistent rhythm with palpable tension. He maintained cohesion and unity throughout. Only halfway through the fourth movement did the tension lag. If it hadn’t, the overall performance would have been incandescent. The first movement not only flowed—it bloomed. The long, slow, second movement was grave and beautiful. It breathed life. It evoked, indeed, a “cathedral of sound” that could have gone on for hours without inducing boredom. The playful, jocular scherzo was capped by a blistering final climax. Nézet-Séguin maintained tightly-controlled crescendos and decrescendos and careful attention to dynamics throughout.

The only other drawback was the playing from the brass, particularly the trumpets and the trombones which should have played with more finesse, color and subtlety. The playing from the principal horn in the second movement, however, was radiant. The woodwinds were spot on. The strings positively glowed. The Orchestre métropolitain, normally comprised of 65 players, was augmented by about a half-dozen musicians.

At 55 minutes, the performance was on the quick side. My favourite, on disc, by Celibidache and the Munich Philharmonic, takes about 65 minutes, but is a weightier, more spiritual interpretation.

Just when we thought that the orchestra couldn’t get any smaller (it had been reduced to about 20 musicians for the previous evening’s performance of Bach’s Cantata No. 51), the program opened with an orchestra of 16 musicians to play Bach’s Overture (Orchestral Suite) No. 2 in B Minor. The brilliant and imposing opening “overture”, featuring the orchestra’s long-time principal flutist, Marie-Andrée Benny, set the tone for the six dance movements that followed. From the joyful, rhythmic rondeau to the jaunty sarabande through to the stately menuet and all-to-familiar badinerie, Nézet-Séguin drew deftly-controlled rhythms and lively articulations from the musicians. Ms Benny’s technical accomplishments were complemented by the well-balanced strings.

This evening’s concert proved that the Orchestre métropolitain, when properly prepared, which seems not to have been the case for the previous evening’s program, can provide a highly satisfying concert-going experience.

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Earl Arthur Love



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