Rotterdam Philharmonic in Ottawa

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

MESSIAEN Les offrandes oubliées
RAVEL Concerto for the Left Hand
R. STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben

The Rotterdam Philharmonic made its NAC debut on Tuesday night as part of its first North American tour. It was a highly-anticipated concert, with the national media making a lot of noise about Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the young Montrealer who now wears the mantle of Canada’s greatest conductor.

Having listened to a more modest-sized orchestra for most of the past 12 years, I welcomed the opportunity to hear a program of larger repertoire that seldom gets performed in these parts. It was a terrific concert, full of big moments that remind you of the incredible power a 103-member orchestra can wield. You know it’s going to be good when the back desks of strings have large foam baffles shielding them from the brass.

The whole program went by in a flash. I usually complain that many pieces overstay their welcome and could use some judicious editing, but the Ravel could easily have been twice as long. There was a lot to love about Heldenleben – terrific horn playing, devilishly difficult violin solos, and moments of orchestral grandiosity. If you’re a composer looking to entertain an audience, you really can’t go wrong with offstage trumpets (look, those three guys just walked off stage!), tuba mutes, and two snare drum parts.

Alas, the concert was marred by an annoying high-pitched drone that lasted throughout the performance. It was loud enough that the musicians on stage were grimacing, and the lobby was buzzing with complaints at the intermission. It did make it impossible to enjoy the delicate piano cadenzas in the Ravel and the concertmaster solos during Heldenleben. The likely culprit was a hearing aid that wasn’t working properly, which is an issue that almost all classical music presenters have had to deal with at one time or another.

If you missed Yannick this week, you have another chance to see him on the podium when he leads performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Ottawa and Montreal in June. Details on the concerts can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Rotterdam Philharmonic in Ottawa

  1. And understandably, Friar. The rubber triangle is far superior – none of that bright flashy tinkling to carry itself over the orchestra.

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