Tchaikovsky and More Featured in Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal's Upcoming Season

Tchaikovsky and More Featured in Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal's Upcoming Season


Montreal, February 4, 2012 - Russia will enjoy pride of place in February at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, with six of the eight concerts during the month constructed around at least one work composed by a Russian composer. Programming will include scores by Tchaikovsky (among them his highly evocative Manfred Symphony), Rachmaninov (the formidable Third Piano Concerto in a performance by Denis Matsuev), Borodin (his magnificent Second String Quartet) and Glazunov (his ballet The Seasons). Also, two Russian conductors and pianists are included in the OSM's guests. Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky and his wife, Viktoria Postnikova, will be at the center of an all-Tchaikovsky program, while Mikhail Pletnev and Denis Matsuev will be the principals in a Glazunov and Rachmaninov concert.

OSM conductor in residence Nathan Brock will be conducting three concerts this month. Two programs will feature Dvo?ák's "New World" Symphony. The first will place the work in context by way of a narration and projections. In the second, the symphony will serve to anchor a program that includes two OSM premieres, a work by Canadian composer John Weinzweig, the centenary of whose birth is being celebrated, and Victor Herbert's Cello Concerto No. 2, performed by OSM principal cello Brian Manker. He will also be found with the Enchantment Theatre Company in a program for the entire family presenting a musical Journey to the land of fairy tales.


For a second season, the OSM is inviting audiences to experience Beyond the Score concerts, a series intended as much for fans of classical music as for those seeking to be introduced to it. Designed and developed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, these concerts offer an original and dynamic formula that lets concertgoers delve into the world of an important orchestral work. In the first part of the concert, a dramatic narration and visual projections position the symphony in its historical context, while in the second part the OSM, under the direction of its conductor in residence, Nathan Brock, presents a complete reading of the work.

Drawn to New York by Jeannette Thurber's invitation to conduct The National Conservatory of Music in New York for a salary twenty times higher than what he was getting at the Prague Conservatory, Dvo?ák forged a friendship with Henry Thacker Burleigh, an arranger and singer of Negro spirituals. Wrote Dvo?ák: "These are America's popular songs, and your composers should draw inspiration from them. In these Negro melodies, I find all that is necessary for a great and noble school of music." A number of analysts have found in the symphony's first movement an allusion to the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," but as Burleigh pointed out: "Dvo?ák saturated himself in the spirit of these old tunes - and then invented his own melodies."
Dvo?ák himself applied the name "New World Symphony" to his Ninth Symphony to underscore the fact that the impressions evoked were inspired directly by his stay on American soil. It enjoyed a triumphant premiere on December 16, 1893, in Carnegie Hall.


The program for this concert is centered around Dvo?ák's "New World" Symphony, to which OSM conductor in residence Nathan Brock has juxtaposed two works being presented as premieres at the OSM.

Edge of the World by Canadian composer John Weinzweig, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated in 2013, was premiered by the Toronto CBC Radio Orchestra in February 1946, and is the first orchestral work to have incorporated material deriving from Inuit folk music. Moving from an almost static calm to a primal fury before subsiding in a plaintive melody on the English horn, the work is intended as a tribute to the adventurers of the Far North.

Victor Herbert is cited in numerous program notes devoted to the Dvo?ák Cello Concerto, the premiere of his Second Concerto having made a strong impression on Dvo?ák. A certain kinship can be established between the two works, largely lyrical, with broad themes, and with the orchestra playing an essential role in the dialogue between soloist and the mass of sound. Here it will feature Brian Manker, principal cello with the OSM.


The suite that Maurice Ravel derived from Contes de ma mère l'Oye here becomes an invitation to plunge into the enchanted world of fairy tales. As Mother Goose prepares to narrate the well-known tales "Tom Thumb" and "Beauty and the Beast," she herself becomes the heroine in the wonderful stories she has made her own. This show, bringing together music, dance and mime, invites The Young and the not so young to forget the daily grind and give themselves over to dreaming.

Beyond Ravel's popular ballet (presented here in its entirety), the program, under the direction of Nathan Brock, also includes the famous Waltz from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, the "Marche des princesses" taken from the suite that Massenet derived from his opera Cendrillon (Cinderella), and the premiere of a short piece by Québec composer Nicolas Gilbert, an OSM commission that conveys the atmosphere of Little Red Riding Hood in a different way.

Based in Philadelphia, Enchantment Theatre Company has been producing shows for kids and families since 2000. The company works solely on the basis of classics of children's literature. Enchantment Theatre has been invited by over 60 orchestras, all over North America as well as in the Far East, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.


All music enhances emotions, but few composers seem to have touched listeners as much as Tchaikovsky. As Leopold Stokowski put it: "His musical utterance comes directly from the heart and is a spontaneous expression of his innermost feeling. It is as sincere as if it were written with his blood." Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who in his career has made more than 500 recordings, bears a faithful love for Tchaikovsky (having among other feats conducted The Nutcracker at the Bolshoi when just twenty years old), and presents a program featuring two works of the composer's: the renowned Piano Concerto, an ideal vehicle for virtuosity and lyricism here interpreted by his wife, Viktoria Postnikova, who was a prize-winner at the Tchaikovsky Competition while still a student.
Manfred, a symphonic work in four scenes after the poem of the same name by Lord Byron, occupied Tchaikovsky for the whole summer of 1885. "I've carried out your wish," he would write to composer Mily Balakirev, at whose bequest he composed the work. "I worked on the Manfred score without a break, over four months (from late May to today). It was a very difficult task, but also a very agreeable one, especially when, after straining to get through the beginning, I began to be absorbed by it. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether this symphony will please you or not, but believe me when I say, never at any point in my life have I exerted myself in such a fashion, not exhausted myself as much in my work." The composition, which premiered in Moscow in March 1886, was well received by the public.

Chamber music with OSM musicians / Music between the lines

If Pushkin and Tolstoy, each in his own way, redefined the contours of Russian literature, Tchaikovsky and Borodin did likewise in their musical works. Constantly divided between his professional duties (both as a doctor and a professor of chemistry, a researcher and a translator) and his many musical activities, Borodin remained a master of chamber music. His Second Quartet, with its famous "Notturno," was dedicated to his wife, an excellent pianist, on the occasion of their twentieth anniversary. Tchaikovsky, meanwhile, in his Quartet No. 1 - the first quartet written by a Russian composer, incidentally - comes as close as possible to pure music and achieves a remarkable structural balance.

Texts by great Russian authors take on another dimension here, when juxtaposed with two essential scores from the Russian chamber-music repertoire.


Russian conductor Mikhail Pletnev, a prize-winner as a pianist at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978 and artistic director and founder of the Russian National Orchestra, presents a program showcasing two essential scores from his country's repertoire.

A series of tableaux rather than a danced story, The Seasons by Alexander Glazunov derives nonetheless from the tradition of the great ballets of Tchaikovsky, with its sumptuous orchestration and the evocative power of its descriptions. The ballet, which premiered in 1900, opens with "Winter," and we hear an introduction followed by a series of four variations representing hoarfrost, ice, hail and snow, respectively. Québec music lovers and television viewers will have no trouble recognizing "Autumn," which for a long time served as the theme music for the popular soap opera Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut.

The second part of the concert will be devoted to Rachmaninov's mythical Piano Concerto No. 3, a work of enormous technical difficulty, one that demands both virtuosity and poetry from the soloist. It will be performed by Denis Matsuev, grand-prize winner at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998, who "literally possesses the sort of technique which begins where others end," according to Gramophone magazine, and who bowled over critics and audience alike when he gave this concerto with the Mariinsky Orchestra in Montreal in March 2010. Matsuev works in close collaboration with the Sergei Rachmaninov Foundation and its president, Alexander Rachmaninov, grandson of the composer. He was chosen by the Foundation to perform and record unpublished pieces by Rachmaninov on the composer's piano and in his home, Villa Senar in Switzerland.

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