OSM’s South American Voyage| Breaking Down Barriers

by Alexis Ruel

The term “classical music” is a fascinating one. For many, classical music is the music of Beethoven, Mozart or European composers who lived in eras long past. Rafael Payare and the OSM certainly take pleasure in demonstrating that there are other composers of learned music from different lands who amply deserve their place in symphonic programming.

Wednesday evening’s concert was a signature concert for Payare. By showcasing different South American composers, it was a departure from the usual symphonic concert fare. The surprises and outbursts were many, and few in the audience remained indifferent. An energetic, charismatic, almost dancing conductor and an orchestra just as spirited and in control put on a memorable show.

The jewels in the crown were Alberto Ginastera’s dazzling Variaciones concertantes. Built around a theme in fourths, one is immediately moved by the sensitivity of the writing and the energy of the musical phrases. A sense of balance fills the work. Almost every section has its solo, and there’s no real sense of favouritism, except perhaps for the harp, which evokes the guitar. An excellent work, fresh and lively.

Spanish pianist Javier Perianes lends his playing to Jimmy López Bellido’s evocative Piano Concerto Ephemerae. Dedicated specifically to the soloist, we have the chance to see all the elegance and sensitivity of his playing through the different images and smells evoked by the score. We recognize several styles and almost borrowings from earlier composers, but always with a personal touch. The synesthetic objective of the score is a fundamentally mixed success, given the intrinsic subjectivity of the phenomenon. Perianes charmed the hall, offering Grieg’s Notturo, op. 54 no. 4 as an encore. He demonstrated great stage presence, combined with great talent and sensitivity.

Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas brasileras no. 8 seemed to pay homage to the common forms of the Baroque era, and to Bach in particular. We find a Toccata that doesn’t really seem to evoke Bach’s but reproduces his speed and energy. It elicits heartfelt applause from the audience. The Fugue finale is masterfully executed, and we admire the clarity of the writing and interpretation. The sudden, rapid ascent to the conclusion is interesting, beginning with a rumble and ending with a startling flourish, and is warmly applauded. The score remains less remarkable than the previous works, but the intoxicating intensity clearly appeals to the audience.

The merry-go-round of Latin and Hispanic influences ends with Ravel’s famous Bolero, brilliantly executed. Elaborating on this work would ultimately be redundant, as it is no longer presented, but we can still be amused by the fact that it is, in absolute terms, nothing more than a compositional exercise on the part of a composer who has long fought for music that is free and unrestrained by form, somewhat the opposite of what the Bolero is. A classic among classics, the piece is performed with a sensitivity that gradually morphs into a memorable intensity, just like the orchestra.

To learn more about the OSM’s program, visit the concerts page HERE.

Photo credit: Gabriel Fournier

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