The Next Generation of Musicians Shines Brightly at Salle Claude-Champagne

by Elena Mandolini

Satuday night in Salle Claude-Champagne, Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Music, was the 2024 edition of the Étoile Montante concert, featuring the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal (OUM). The event also featured student soloists (Fiona Wu, piano and Catherine Chabot, flute), conductors (Lori Antounian and Marie-France Mathieu) and composers (Edwin H. Ng and Luis Ernesto Peña Laguna). A colourful evening of breathtaking interpretations!

The first part of the concert featured the premiere of Of breath, movement and boxing by Edwin H. Ng, winner of the 2023 OUM Composition Competition. The piece is enigmatic, evocative and animated by an anxious energy. The textural interplay in this piece is particularly interesting: you could hear the wind, at times soft and melodic, at other times percussive, echoing, as it were, the freezing temperatures the audience had to brave to attend this concert.

And the audience was rewarded! The second piece on the program, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, performed by Fiona Wu, 3rd prizewinner in the OUM Concerto Competition, was breathtaking. The pianist interpreted the most virtuosic passages with lightness, ease and suppleness, while demonstrating remarkable strength and power in the passages requiring a stronger attack. The melodies, passing from one hand to the other, are always clearly audible. What’s more, the OUM’s ensemble playing and the dialogue between orchestra and soloist are impeccable, and the sound balance is excellent.

After intermission, the audience is treated to a second premiere, of the work SAR by Luis Ernesto Peña Laguna, also winner of the OUM Composition Competition. This work, which contrasts with the first premiere, is just as magnificent. More tonal, this work is filled with movement, which we guess is cyclical, since the work begins and ends in similar ways. High-pitched spun tones in the strings give way to beautiful melodic flights from the rest of the orchestra. The use of percussion is also noteworthy: sometimes subtle, it is always present, adding an interesting texture.

The evening closes with a solid and convincing performance of Conversations for flute and orchestra by Denis Gougeon, with Catherine Chabot as soloist. The work unfolds with precision. The soloist’s clear sound fills the hall effortlessly, and she attacks the fast passages with assurance and flexibility. For its part, the OUM plays its role perfectly as accompanist, but also as interlocutor (as the title of the work suggests). The orchestra shows great solidity and restraint in the slower first movement, and precision in attacks and cuts in the more percussive second movement.

The two student conductors also did an outstanding job, successfully leading these demanding works. On stage, it was clear that the enjoyment and love of music were in abundance. After an evening like this, there’s no need to worry: the next generation of musicians is in good hands.

For the complete program of the Université de Montréal Faculty of Music, click HERE!

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