Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Sudbin, Rachmaninov, Van Alphen: bright feast for the senses
BY XAVIER PROULX ON JANUARY 11, 2018 MUSIC / OPERA
Montreal music lovers can boast of having witnessed one of the most brilliant feats of their symphony orchestra, which delivered a performance of rare elegance on Tuesday night.
The program, which honors the great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov for the entire concert, saw Yevgeny Sudbin, one of the most eminent pianists of his generation, and artist-in- residence of the OSM in this beginning of the year. It was also an opportunity to see Montreal pianist Philip Chiu whose radiant performance was highly applauded. Let us not forget the charismatic presence of conductor Conrad Van Alphen, who breathed an impressive breath of fresh air into this truly symphonic marathon dedicated to the greatest masterpieces of the Russian repertoire.
” Magic ”
…. What struck, too, was the prodigious crystalline sonorities that the guest conductor Conrad Van Alphen managed to eradicate from his orchestra. The second theme, romantic, was pure happiness, while the section of clarinets and flutes, perfectly limpid, resonated in the utmost perfection.
As for the Symphony No. 2 in E minor Op.27, the work is colossal …
However, despite the very long duration of this concert, the friendly conductor Van Alphen took the precaution of always allowing the orchestra to express its personality and creativity, giving the sound of these works a kind of fluid and flowing timelessness of virtuosity.
The lucky ones who would like to attend this magnificent moment will be able to hear again on January 13th. It’s a safe bet that the triumph will be at the rendezvous!
Rachmaninov, Elegiac Trio No. 1 for Piano, Violin and Cello
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18 Rachmaninov, Symphony No. 2 in E minor, op.
Mendelssohn Symphony no.3
Conrad van Alphen has the knack to surprise with fresh interpretations of the standard repertoire and making those works speak with a voice reaching their core with both a spiritual and physical dimension. In works by Mendelssohn and Schumann there was spontaneous leadership, often exceptional sensitivity as well as insight in abundance.
The JPO, an orchestra who in recent years had to work through a traumatic past, is securely on a healing path when nurtured by a conductor of this stature.
In the Mendellsohns Symphony No.3 in A minor, Opus 56 – Scottish the orchestra thrived in a naturally paced performance that was never pressed too hard. This work, arguably Mendelssohn’s greatest symphony, does only come off well when a conductor sticks to the basic tempos as indicated in the score.
This Van Alphen did throughout his reading of it. In the introduction the mood was at once positive and purposeful, and the music moved forward with a strong cumulative feeling. In the Allegro proper, the un poco agitato was faithfully observed. Throughout the performance there was precise attack as well as quite marked, but natural sounding fluctuations of tempo.
After the firmly characterised middle movements, with an Adagio which was adorned by a most tender, lovingly shaped phrasing, it was especially in the handling of the coda, marked Allegro maestoso assai, where not a trace of Victorian pompousness could be found, but rather a glorious, jubilant exultation.
Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2
An evocative tone Poem. I give conductor Van Alphen full credit for a fluent reading which captured Vaughan Williams’ orchestrational palette in very satisfying fashion. The highpoint of this reading was the reflective Lento, a movement described as depicting “Bloomsbury Square on a November afternoon”
“Pretoria-born Conrad van Alphen developed into a conductor whom musicians adore and with whom they feel artistically safe. He is someone who combines a relaxed approach with intrinsic discipline, but also reflects an ingrained, stylistically justified expressiveness that has become the core of his music-making”
Bochumer Symphoniker & Alban Gerhardt
…. Nicht weniger begeistert als die Zuhörer waren die Mitglieder der Bochumer Symphoniker, die ihren Solisten mit Hingabe (Soloflöte in den Rokoko-Variationen) begleiteten. Sie wurden an diesem Abend von Conrad van Alphen geleitet, der unaufgeregt und überlegen mit sparsamer Zeichengebung führte…..
…Krönender sinfonischer Abschluss des Abends war die “große” Sinfonie Nr. 40 g-Moll KV 550, die zusammen mit der Es-Dur-Sinfonie (KV 543) und der “Jupiter”-Sinfonie (KV 551) den Höhepunkt des sinfonischen Schaffens von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart bildet. In diesem singulären Werk stehen Affekte von Unruhe, Klage und Verzweiflung neben “schönen” Passagen, wie man sie von Mozart gewohnt ist. Die “Bochumer” und ihr kundiger Dirigent wussten alle diese Aspekte gültig und fesselnd zu vermitteln – besonders eindrücklich die Seufzermotive im zweiten Satz, die wenig später in die “Bildnisarie” (Zauberflöte) einfließen sollten. Das Auditorium war begeistert und applaudierte ausdauernd.
Heide Oehmen – Rheinische Post
Dvorak Symphony no.7
Van Alphen’s alert energy and awareness were in-suppressible, achieving a masterful blend of syncopation between parts. Van Alphen demonstrated the answer to a fundamental question – What really is conducting? What’s it for? Everything is written in the music, accelerandi, diminuendi, fortissimo, piano, why a conductor? With only minimal tempo indication, his movements for the most part convey his interpretation of nuance, flavour, texture, subtle changes of crispness or sweetness that could never be included in a score. Although the composer has long left this world, I found this performance fresh and original, and very much alive.
Andy Wilding (#ClassicalReview)
The Barshai arrangement has been used but Van Alphen’s interpretation is nothing if not personal. He secures aggression without loss of articulation in the Allegro, dispatching the Allegretto with a kee irony, the keeping the Largo in motion so its explosive outbursts and lamenting allusions are set in relief by a finale that brings the whole work fatalistically full circle.
Shostakovich Symphony no. 9
Brandenburger Symphoniker brillieren im Theater!
Er führt stringent, kraftvoll und gleichzeitig einfühlsam. Gastdirigent Conrad van Alphen widmet sich seiner Aufgabe mit Leib und Seele. Mit sichtlicher Spielfreude und äußerst präzise folgten die Brandenburger Symphoniker seinem Dirigat und bescherten dem Publikum am Wochenende im voll besetzten großen Saal des Brandenburger Theaters ein aufregendes Konzerterlebnis.
Mit lang anhaltendem, begeisterten Applaus bedankte sich das Brandenburger Publikum für ein herausragendes Konzert.
Ann Brünink – Markische Allgemeine