OSM | Variations on a Theme With Louis Lortie et Eun Sun Kim

by Elena Mandolini

The OSM welcomed two distinguished guests on Thursday. Firstly, Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim was at the helm of the orchestra for this evening of themes and variations. Pianist Louis Lortie also took center stage for half of the program, which was accessible and very well conceived. All the elements were in place for a concert of the highest quality.

The first piece, Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, has its pitfalls, not least the tempo. If it’s too slow, the piece sounds weighed down, and if it’s too fast, the theme, a chorale, loses all meaning. But Eun Sun Kim has found the right balance for each movement. The piece also draws complexity from the balance required between the different sections of the orchestra. The melody shifts constantly, and the musicians move from rapid passages to long, held notes. Here again, it’s a success. The work unfolds with all the relief required. A fine example of synchronicity on the part of the orchestra.

Mozart’s Rondo in D major for piano and orchestra, the first piano piece of the evening, is also successfully performed. This piece is constructed as an exchange between piano and orchestra, alternating in the interpretation of the theme or its variations. In his role as a soloist, Louis Lortie shines, interpreting the work with lightness and ease, bringing out the humour characteristic of Mozart’s compositions.

After intermission, the piano takes center stage once again in Fauré’s Ballade for piano and orchestra. This work, originally conceived for solo piano, was later orchestrated to develop it further. Imbued with romanticism, the piece features numerous climbs in intensity, successfully carried by both orchestra and pianist. There are also many moments of delicacy and discreet dialogue between the various instruments. Lortie’s interpretation is once again noteworthy and admirable, bringing out the main melody with great clarity through streams of notes.

The concert closes with Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. If we felt that the OSM had shown restraint until now (sometimes out of necessity, as the score obliges…), this is no longer the case in this latest work. As soon as the theme is announced by the trumpet, quickly followed by a powerful brass choir, it becomes clear that the concert will end in grandeur and nobility. The OSM has mastered Pictures at an Exhibition, having performed them this summer at the opening of the Virée classique. The conductor’s precise, expressive gestures make a major contribution to this solid interpretation.

With this concert, the OSM has once again offered its audience a most enjoyable evening with some very talented guests.

This concert will be presented again on Saturday, February 17 at 2.30pm. INFO AND TICKETS HERE!

Photo credit: Gabriel Fournier

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