The Montreal Gazette
Sunday, June 29, 2003
Hard to imagine a more auspicious upbeat to the Lanaudiere Festival season than its opening concert yesterday. Many thanks to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, its principal conductor, Jacques Lacombe, and to the five members of the Toronto percussion group Nexus for an outstanding evening.
The program at Joliette’s Amphitheatre began with John Adams’s boisterous Short Ride on a Fast Machine. Noisy and raucous, but mercifully brief, this made a peppery hors d’oeuvre. Then, in a turn from the ridiculous to the sublime, followed a second course of wonderfully subtle music.
Although mainly a percussion piece, in which the orchestra plays a minor role, Toru Takemitsu’s From me flows what you call Time, is quietly reflective. This extensive work, composed in 1991 specifically for Nexus, combines its striking aural attractions with some visual effects.
Separated spatially, the Nexus percussionists gave voice to weird and astounding sonorities with a battery of unusual, far-eastern instruments.
Superbly co-ordinated, these five virtuosos evoked in conjunction with the orchestra a superbly beautiful realm of extraordinary sonic images, all utterly spellbinding.
After intermission came the only familiar music on the menu: Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
Its performance demonstrated once again that Lacombe leads the MSO with great musicality. He and the musicians made Mahler’s music take wing. Most impressive were the careful pacing and sensitive colouring of the opening movement, and the aptly vivid moves between mournful and ironic in the slow one.
Full of high drama (hysterics included), the finale’s staggering climax brought the audience to its feet and a splendid concert to a rousing conclusion.
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