photo by Gabriel Fournier
Tuesday evening’s opening of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s 2023-2024 season at the Maison symphonique, perhaps like the season as a whole, held some very interesting surprises in store for us. Of course, the monumental Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky was announced with great fanfare, but that didn’t stop the audience from discovering another form of musical ritual during the concert.
Leos Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass was a nice surprise, a surprising choice as the first work to be performed this season, but one that deserves to be congratulated. The blend of liturgical tradition and late Romanticism has shaped a work that can only be appreciated for its power and spirituality. A remarkable performance, though the masterly volume of the OSM Chorus, of incredible quality as always, was a little stifling to the soloists at times.
After a well-deserved intermission for the musicians, it was the turn of the headliner to take the stage, or rather the lecterns.
The Rite of Spring is a difficult work, which gave the musicians a hard time for over a month when it was first performed in 1913. Despite this, the OSM shone repeatedly throughout the work.The timbres were perfect, the sonorities clear and sustained, and the bassoons, flutes and brass section are to be commended for their excellent performance throughout.The rhythm section was more than solid. It carried the piece, for which rhythm is so important.
The choice of tempi is particularly noteworthy in the first half of The Rite of Spring. The heaviness of the “Rondes printanières” was a little square, but above all, the ease of the speed of the lively, fast parts. As has been their mantra for the past two years, the OSM and Rafael Payare excel in intensity. In more ways than one, their performance of the second half of Stravinsky’s work demonstrates this to perfection. The mastery of the growing tension leading to sacrifice and the power of the orchestra would warm the composer’s heart. A perfect finale to a superb opening concert and, we feel, a superb season to come!