Saturday, February 5, 2022

Maison symphonique de Montréal, 1600 rue Saint-Urbain, Montréal, Québec

Prompted by this,, I watched the Montreal/Mehta concert (available until March 8; $20 per viewing ticket; link below), honoring the late Pierre Béique, and have no doubt, had an audience been present (not possible due to Covid restrictions), that the music-making would have had greater electricity than it sometimes does in this empty (if splendid) hall save for cameras and microphones. That said, there’s a scrupulousness and purposefulness to proceedings that kept me listening and then wanting to return. Zubin Mehta’s no-tricks conducting and considered interpretations, in tandem with a warm/characterful response from the OSM (woodwinds notably), delights the ear in many ways (and not least the use of antiphonal violins, with basses left-positioned).

Of the Wagner selections, the Overture to Rienzi, once past a beautifully judged prayerful opening, is somewhat restrained (especially during the final measures), and unconvincing rallentandoes towards the end further hold things up; and if the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Tristan lacks the last degree of overwhelming passion, then I found it sucking me into an interior world of (familiar story) clandestine love, swapped potions, and deaths, inexorably charted to meaningful climaxes, played sensitively leading to and coming away from them.

Finally, Brahms’s Fourth Symphony is given an expansive, expressive and wholesome reading, lyricism and eloquence to the fore, especially in the slow movement, during which pizzicatos are especially telling in their crisp unanimity. Following an unrushed Scherzo (Klemperer-like if without his luftpause), the passacaglia Finale proceeds lucidly to a coda that mirrors Mehta’s own words: “a great victory at the end, a victory of the spirit.” A moreish performance, then, Mehta savouring the music without distorting symphonic heft. There being no applause, Mehta nevertheless signals the musicians to stand and says: “thank you very very much.”

“Once purchased, you will be emailed a viewing link giving you access to the webcast, which will be available continuously starting on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. to Tuesday, March 8, 2022, 11:59 p.m.”

Previous Mehta:

Berliner Philharmoniker – Zubin Mehta conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony, with Okka von der Damerau [live Digital Concert Hall webcast]