To say that the choice of a musical director is crucial for an orchestra is an understatement. It is about choosing someone who will give a particular direction to an ensemble, as much in terms of repertoire as of sound aesthetics and interpretation. A bad decision, and the expected fairy tale can quickly turn into a nightmare.
After 15 years of reign of Kent Nagano, who brought the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM) to new countries while instilling an artistic ethic made of rigor and surpassing, the selection committee set its sights on a pure product of the Venezuelan music education program El Sistema.
Where will Rafael Payare take the OSM over the next few years? Looking at his second gig with the ensemble since his recent appointment – the first aired on January 10 and offered on Medici until April – Kent Nagano’s legacy is in very safe hands.
In terms of the profession, the young forty-something has nothing more to learn from anyone. The following My mother the goose by Ravel, but even more the rare and splendid Tale poem by Sofia Goubaïdoulina, which judiciously echoes the premiere, require a great deal of know-how both in terms of setting up and sound balance. The possible skeptics will have been confused: Payare offers us at the beginning of the concert a Tale poem cut with a scalpel, with a real sense of architecture and chiaroscuro contrasts with an almost unreal sonic alchemy.
But there is more. The main thing, in fact: spontaneity. Beyond the simple execution (playing the right notes at the right times), all music is traversed by subtle movements of ebb and flow forming part of a well-understood hierarchy of musical time.
It is the salt of all interpretation. And it cannot be calculated. It lives. Hence, for the greatest musicians, interpretations which are never fixed, which change according to moods, partners on stage, the nature of the public, etc.
This is perhaps the biggest difference between Nagano and Payare. Where the first tended to premeditate – magnificently, it goes without saying – these subtle inflections of the musical text, the second feels them instantly. We can see it in the orchestral accompaniment of the Piano Concerto in C minor no 24 by Mozart. The tempos chosen in the three movements are rather conservative: a Allegro initial that is nothing too excited, a Larghetto well seated and a Allegretto rather posed final. It is the flexibility of the phrasing and the quality of the presence of the different inputs that makes the music so expressive.
The following My mother the goose de Ravel (in its short version) is another example of this magic at work. The conductor lets things flow, but it is he who controls the valves: the musical landscapes follow one after the other in a constellation of colors, which are the proof of an exceptional quality of listening on the part of the conductor as musicians.
This sense of complicity is at its zenith in Mozart’s concerto. The new musical director and pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin seem to evolve as a single organism. This does not prevent everyone from making their own voice heard. To the muscular orchestral interventions responds a piano all in lace (let us underline the interesting cadence composed by the interpreter for the first movement, traversed by pleasant harmonic surprises).
The fairy tale has only just begun. And we are sure to have some exciting encounters in store for us!