by Paul E. Robinson
Piano Sonata No. 8 in a minor K. 310
Sonata No. 21 in C major Op. 53 “Waldstein
Sonata No. 21 in B flat major D. 960
Trio in a minor for violin, cello and piano
Sonnets de Jean Cassou
L’Histoire du soldat Suite
Le Roux, baritone; Olivier Godin, piano;
Marianne Dugal, violin; Sylvain
Murray, cello; Olga Gross, piano; Members of the OSM
After more than 60 years of
service, the Orford Arts Centre in Eastern Quebec (l’Estrie) has become one of
the most venerable arts institutions in Canada. Founded by Gilles Lefebre in
1951, it is still going strong at the same location, tucked into one of the
mountain passes on Mont Orford. This area is a magnet for skiers in the winter, and for for hikers, golfers and music lovers from surrounding
cottages and the nearby town of Magog in the summer.
Three years ago, after a failed
experiment in Knowlton, Quebec, it appeared that Orford would become the summer
home of the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal. On the evidence of this year’s
programme, however, that dream also appears to have vanished.
Only ten members of the OSM
showed up at Orford this summer to take part in a chamber concert. OSM music
director Kent Nagano conducted his reduced orchestra in part of one concert and
also appeared the next morning leading the student orchestra in a rehearsal.
This was a far cry from what was billed three seasons back as “OSM Week at
Orford!” So the OSM is apparently doomed to continue its summer wanderings, and
Orford, at least to this music lover, appears somewhat diminished by its
I can’t help feeling, in spite
of the decent audiences for the two concerts I attended, that the Orford Arts
Centre is in the doldrums these days. The place is still a refuge for gifted
students, and major artists still put in an appearance from time to time to add
lustre to the proceedings, but there is no sense of growth or fresh imaginings
here; on the contrary, there is a sense of playing it safe and reducing risk.
True, these are admirable qualities in a time of global economic crisis, but
surely the programmers could come up with something more inspired than yet
another celebration of Debussy, French music and Jacques Hetu.
Although artistic director
Jean-François Rivest appears to have run out of both money and ideas, there is
nonetheless some fine music-making going on at Orford and it is well worth a
trip at least from somewhere close by in the Eastern Townships to hear it.
For example, Anton Kuerti (photo: right) has had
a long association with Orford going back to its earliest days and he returned
recently to teach and play the music he loves best. Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata displayed yet again Kuerti’s fondness for extreme dynamic
contrasts and he gave a virtual master class in realizing Beethoven’s pedaling
instructions. A great performance! Schubert’s magnificent B flat major Sonata
was also played with total mastery and a seemingly infinite variety of tonal
shadings. Kuerti also found in Schubert’s rhythms not the usual tiresome
repetition, but a wealth of nuance.
At the OSM chamber concert on
August 7th, we heard two genuine rarities: Poulenc’s La bal masque and Dutilleux’s Sonnets de Jean Cassou. Both
performances featured the extraordinary French baritone François Le Roux (photo: right). He
was in great form and Nagano and the OSM musicians were with him every step of
its surreal way in the Poulenc. This music dates from 1932 and shows yet
another facet of the composer’s resourcefulness with instrumental timbres. The
Dutilleux songs are dark and unsettling and Le Roux and pianist Olivier Godin
gave them powerful performances.
Stravinsky’s l’histoire du
soldat sounds somewhat incomplete without the text that was meant to be an
integral part of it but the OSM musicians again demonstrated their virtuosity
and attention to detail.
Ravel’s Trio received a
competent performance but the playing of violinist Marianne Dugal and cellist
Sylvain Murray seemed to lack passion and sensuality. Pianist Olga Gross
offered greater intensity in her playing.
The Salle Gilles Lefebre has
recently undergone some renovations and the results are impressive. The
544-seat hall has become much more attractive and the acoustics are superb.
Labels: 2012 Orford Festival, Anton Kuerti, classical music blog, Concert_Review, François Le Roux, Kent Nagano, Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, クラシック, 音楽संगीत