Evidently Yannick Nézet-Séguin is not the only Montreal born and bred prodigy to reach the upper echelons of the classical music world. The youthful Samy Moussa is already drawing international acclaim as both composer and conductor. In this weekday morning concert by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the world premiere of Moussa’s Violin Concerto Adriano was a stand-out. Fellow Montreal native Andrew Wan, the OSM’s concert-master since 2008, was the soloist.

Kent Nagano © Antoine Saito
Kent Nagano
© Antoine Saito

Adriano is a small Sicilian coastal city where Moussa has spent considerable time and the vistas of this region served as the inspiration for his concerto. In the opening movement, the violin elegantly weaves patterns of harmonic consonance and dissonance into the fabric of the accompaniment. The contrabassoon’s low register enhanced the sense of mysticism that the composer was able to achieve here. The second movement was a rhapsodic cadenza played over an aleatoric accompaniment. In the frenetic third movement, Wan demonstrated virtuosity in his handling of rapid arpeggiated passages. The final movement reprised themes from the first. Both the composer and soloist received heart-felt ovations for this impressive music.

Next up was Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony “Romantic”, a work both lush and magisterial, and the OSM's rendition contained many laudable moments. The principal horn played the opening theme with a big, resonant sound. The single (sixteenth) notes placed within this lyrical melody should have been more clearly articulated. This clarity was achieved when the theme was passed on to different sections of the orchestra. In the subsequent, more powerful thematic material, the horn section’s triplets were uneven. The second theme achieved a cheery lightness, Maestro Kent Nagano’s tasteful use of rubato serving as an enticement to the expressive freedom he afforded his players. In the expansive chorale of the first movement, the OSM’s brass section created a beautiful effect by starting at a moderate volume and then gradually building. The horn section was a tour de force in the closing measures of the opening movement.

In the slow movement, both the cello and viola sections were stellar. At the start of the third movement, there seemed to be a disagreement as to what tempo should be taken. The much slower tempo taken by Nagano in the subsequent trio section served to emphasize the composer’s intentional contrast in character. Although not always together in the finale, the woodwind section played expressively, particularly in the dance-like second theme. Kudos to the OSM’s strings for meeting the physical challenge of performing a lengthy work in which they were required to play tremolos for much of the time.

The audience for this weekday morning concert was largely comprised of students and seniors. At the concert’s conclusion, both demographics demonstrated what seemed to be a genuine appreciation for the considerable musicianship that had been displayed by the OSM in Bruckner.

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