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Fellner’s Beethoven and Nagano’s Bruckner Fail to Inspire

Maison symphonique de Montréal, Place des Arts
04/16/2013 -  & April 17*, 2013
Gioachino Rossini: William Tell: Overture
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A major

Till Fellner (Piano)
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Kent Nagano (Conductor)

T. Fellner (Courtesy of OSM)

It’s discouraging when the best part of a symphony concert is the overture. That was the case on Wednesday when Kent Nagano led his Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) in Rossini’s William Tell Overture. It opened with a lush, well-shaped sound from the five cellos and basses and a captivating performance from principal cellist Brian Manker, one of the OSM’s leading lights. The brass excelled against the frenzy of the violin tremolos in the “storm” section. The woodwinds played impeccably, and the trumpet fanfare leading into the march theme was tight and on pitch.

Till Fellner, a frequent guest of the OSM (he has recorded Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth piano concertos with the orchestra) then gave a tepid, boring, though technically immaculate account of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. As with the Second, which he performed with the orchestra in October, 2011, his playing lacked passion, energy, even warmth. Although he and Nagano scrupulously respected the score’s dynamic markings, the score rarely came to life.

Bruckner’s Sixth didn’t fare much better. There was energy and drive to spare, but generally it was played too fast. The trumpets, trombones and tuba consistently rode roughshod over the rest of the orchestra. Nagano coaxed some blooming sonorities from the strings in the opening and Adagio movements, with a few moments of introspection and reverence. But when the brass came in (except the horns which were exceptional throughout the work) the overall effect was noise, noise and more noise. The lady to my left covered her ears for most of the performance and I had a headache when it was over—and we were sitting in the last row of the first balcony. The awe and grandeur, let alone spirituality, of Bruckner’s “cathedrals of sound” were in scant supply.

Earl Arthur Love



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