This week, the OSM welcomes the venerable Christoph Eschenbach, 83, and headlines his concert in association with the second part, the 7th Symphony by Beethoven. However, it is his soloist, Augustin Hadelich, who gives us the big thrill of the evening.
A few months ago, in the presentation of the musical seasons, we highlighted the very rare privilege of seeing the (probably) three greatest violinists of our time playing this season in concert from the Brahms environment: James Ehnes in Ottawa (now), Augustin Hadelich in Quebec (in March) and Frank Peter Zimmermann in Montreal at the end of April.
Fortunately, Montreal also welcomes Hadelich this week Concert in memory of an angel by Alban Berg. The image is a bit easy but it is a winged version that this violinist gives us with a sound of incredible finesse, whose texture never fades. The sentences are long, the thought continues, preventing a too sequential view of this concert. It is enough to note how Bach’s Chorale, entering the last quarter of the work, fits logically into the continuum.
Mystique of dreams
There are many ways to approach the interpretation of Concert in memory of an angel. Here, the duality of life (1st part) and death (before liberation) seems to take place as in a dream. Eschenbach follows this vision with an almost chamber accompaniment, very transparent. Even the irruption of fate is noticeable, but without the abrupt violence that is often heard. Overall, the mystical and dreamlike lyrical evocation is both thrilling and moving.
Echoing this important moment, Hadelich interpreted the Andante del 2nd Sonata for solo violin from Bach to very sad, whispering it in our ears; almost surreal moment in front of the noise of the world.
With these interpretations, theOpus 6 for Webern, a refined exploration of orchestral colors would have been much more appropriate than the very plush Opus 6 de Berg, a spectacular and complex orchestral exercise, very well mastered by the conductor who let the rich sound of the orchestra speak for itself, clearly clarifying the lines.
There 7th Symphony by Beethoven still works well with audiences, but we can’t say that, in relatively similar interpretive obedience, we came close, on Wednesday, to the internal logic, flesh and fever of the version given by Louis Langrée in February 2022 .
Like Langrée, Eschenbach does not seek frenzy, especially in the 1st movement. He prefers note weight and harmonic tension. That said, there is, with Eschenbach, a touch of stasis that ends up being a bit boring. In the adage “patience and length of time are better than strength and rage,” there is “length of time.” And when we finally think about it, something is missing.
There were many constructive details with Langrée that were missing from this week’s concert. For example, the Allegretto followed in the first part. There is also, with Eschenbach, a futile forward flight in the second part of the woodwind passage in the 3rd movement and a loss of rhythmic input in the end. Nothing great, but we already heard a lot better, despite the fluff of the direction, which Andrew Wan compensated with his presence, unnecessary gestures and the “show” part.
Now we look forward to hearing from 7th Symphony of Beethoven at the OSM in proper form, with violins I and II facing the stage. It is a ” must “. It wasn’t the case with Langrée and acoustically it wasn’t too annoying, because the direction compensated. It wasn’t the case with Eschenbach either and there, for once, we heard almost nothing about the complementarity of the two desks.
To see on video