Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
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Conductor Yanick Nézet-Séguin, pianist Nicholas Angelich and Orchestre métropolitain
​Photo credit: www.orchestremé

Sibelius’s luscious Symphony 1 in E Minor features distinctive orchestral combinations and effects and needs an orchestra and concert hall like this to succeed as a work. The soulful clarinet solo at the start of the piece, the muted strings at the start of the second movement, and the rapid contrapuntal lines, as well as the harp, all stood out to great effect. The scope of the work is large, and the rapidly executed string passages and big brass sections all came out clearly and effectively.

What will the next decade hold in store for Koerner Hall? More fine performances like those of this past week will ensure the vitality of Toronto’s musical life. There can never be enough fireworks. Click here for upcoming concerts at Koerner Hall.

Conductor Yanick Nézet-Séguin, pianist Nicholas Angelich and Orchestre métropolitain
​©Jean-Baptiste Millot

And the acoustics of the hall played no small part. Koerner Hall is engineered with many specific shapes and baffles to break up the sound so that reflection off large flat surfaces is avoided. It suffices to look at the shapes on the ceiling to see the care that went into the characteristics of the sound environment. All evening, with this full orchestra, every instrument was crystal clear, every nuance, and the sound was rich and full.

The well-rehearsed and synchronized orchestra and excellent hall made ideal conditions for the evening’s repertoire, especially for the ingenious symphonic poem Avril (April) commissioned from composer Nicolas Gilbert this year. The new work, with its carefully sculpted chords in the brass, meticulous modern counterpoint between upper and lower strings, and ending with varied instruments standing out in the same live loop, was heard to great advantage in this performance. A work of this kind, part in the line of Ligeti, part Reich, mostly new, needs to be played accurately (pitches, rhythms, and dynamics) to be heard and appreciated, and this performance was very successful.

​​Review by  Paul Merkley F.R.S.C. and David Richards
Toronto ON October 6th 2018

Every festival should end in fireworks. This week, The Royal Conservatory has been celebrating the beginning of the tenth season of Koerner Hall with a festival. It began with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Gábor Takács-Nagy, and has continued all week with the Kathleen Battle Gala, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble, and the Jerry Cans and New North Collective. Last night provided the climax to this special week with the superstar conductor Yanick Nézet-Séguin and his Orchestre Métropolitain. What a week! What a celebration! And what a milestone worthy of celebrating. Koerner Hall has changed the landscape of music in Toronto. With its eclectic programming, it has become the go-to destination for all things musical. Nézet-Séguin tonight provided the fireworks for the week-long festival.

​The Orchestre métropolitain performed beautifully. The precision of playing, rhythmically right together, even in fast or difficult contrapuntal passages, exactly in tune, and with the dynamics accurately and minutely shaped, made for a memorable evening. The excellence of the orchestra is attributable in no small measure to conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious. I overheard one member of the orchestra say that he is always on, two hundred percent, and I believe it. I think that he may have decided to conduct without a baton because he is afraid that, in his excitement, he might let it go flying into the orchestra.

Conductor Yanick Nézet-Séguin and Orchestre métropolitain
​Photo credit: www.orchestremé

Timbres, Textures, Tuning, and Razor-Sharp Rhythms: Orchestre métropolitain sparks fireworks at Koerner Hall

The second work on the program, the rarely heard Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40 by Sergei Rachmaninov, gave more evidence of the sonorous beauty that this orchestra can create. Nicholas Angelich, a 48-year-old American pianist, demonstrated his vast expressive range from the quietest delicate moments to the most powerful playing. His technique for Rachmaninoff’s demanding and seldom heard music was spot-on and he was at one with both conductor and orchestra. Angelich showed a tender touch in his encore, Von fremden Ländern und Menschen from Kinderszenin Op. 15 by Schumann.

Conductor Yanick Nézet-Séguin and Orchestre métropolitain
​Photo credit: www.orchestremé