Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Kent Nagano

Kent Nagano

Kent Nagano and the OSM are now offering their fourth recording of Ludwig van Beethoven symphonies, under the ANALEKTA label. Departure and Utopia brilliantly and faithfully presents two symphonies that are landmarks in the composer’s career: Symphony No. 1 in C major, composed in 1800, and Symphony No. 7 in A major, completed in 1812.


“Every artistic encounter with Beethoven’s music is unique. His symphonies are known, played and loved worldwide. The different performance traditions associated with them have shaped the very image of today’s international symphonic orchestral culture.

This doesn’t make performing Beethoven’s symphonies any easier. It is, and always will be, a major challenge. But that is precisely why Beethoven concerts and recordings are so exciting for us as musicians. For we aren’t merely playing one more version for our audience. Instead we face the crucial challenge of authentic interpretation: to create a sound, a physical presence that embodies Beethoven’s music in all its incomparable significance – the unique expressive power we feel with undiminished strength through the composer’s projection of a living narrative in musical form.

Behind that narrative is an idea that our interpretation should help listeners experience: the aspirations of a liberated humanity, a profound motive which imbues and impels Beethoven’s works, and endows his symphonies with their almost irresistible attractive force. This idea is strikingly apparent in the First and the Seventh symphonies, both of which, despite stylistic differences, reveal an unwavering attitude of will and desire, hope and joy, with their sights turned firmly toward the future.” said Kent Nagano, Musical Director of the OSM.

The DEPARTURE – It is with maturity, while in his early thirties, that the composer delivered his Symphony No. 1. Though it stays true to the classical style of writing, this work is marked with freshness and novelty. Although it is greatly inspired by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), the uncontested master of the Classical period, and Beethoven‘s teacher and hero, this piece slightly bends the rules: a departure in the “wrong” key, numerous modulations, a very fast third movement with a Menuetto that is essentially a Scherzo… It is mostly through the energy that he breathes into this work that Beethoven differentiates himself from the purely classical aesthetics of the 18th century. In fact, by creating a succession of progressions and moments marked by tensions, Beethoven captivates his listener, and leads him precisely in the direction he wants as a composer.

While Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 gained popularity amongst the contemporaries, the composer embarked on a long journey that would lead him, some ten to twelve years later, to express his creative genius in a world that is constantly changing, at a time when Europe was enduring the stranglehold of Napoleon.

The UTOPIA – In 1812, the forces that brought these changes had already been well underway for several decades. It is in these circumstances that his Seventh Symphony came to light – an enormous work of art, larger than life, and perhaps one of the most popular pieces in the famous composer’s repertoire. A new image was sweeping over the European continent; a grand and romantic image of the “man of the future”, free from oppression, free to celebrate life through all forms of expression. “This symphony is the Apotheosis of Dance itself (…)”, wrote Richard Wagner in The Art-Work of the Future – (1849). In fact, elemental rhythmic motifs alluding to dance characterize each of the four movements of the work. In reality, these motifs embody the strength and the vitality of the budding contemporary man, with all his passions and contradictions.

This chapter, which is particularly memorable in the history of music and humankind, and that presents a subtle passage from the classical era until the start of the romantic era, is delivered here with the clarity, sensitivity and intelligence that characterize Maestro Nagano’s performances.

At the helm of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal since 2006, with a contract extended until 2020, Kent Nagano is renowned for his innovative programming in tune with the public’s preferences, taking every opportunity to promote the OSM around the world, either through world tours or acclaimed recordings. In September 2013, he became Principal Guest Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, he will take up the position of General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra.

His status as guest conductor with the world’s finest orchestras (the Vienna, Berlin and New York Philharmonic Orchestras, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra) has played an important part in the OSM’s popularity. To this day, it is known as one of the best orchestras on the “music” planet. With performances that are as sensitive as they are innovative, Kent Nagano always shows us some unexplored angle of the repertoire, and it is with this intensity that he delivers the greatest works of music. Here are two more to discover, under his baton.

The OSM has recorded nine albums under Kent Nagano, including Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) with tenor Klaus Florian Vogt and baritone Christian Gerhaher (Sony), Mahler Orchesterlieder (Orchestral Songs) also with Christian Gerhaher (Analekta), works by composer Unsuk Chin featuring violinist Viviane Hagner (Analekta), Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 with Till Fellner (EMC/Universal), Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Scriabin’s Prometheus with Alain Lefèvre (Analekta), and the complete Beethoven Symphonies, of which Nos. 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 have previously been recorded (Sony/Analekta). Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was recorded during the inaugural concerts of the Maison Symphonique de Montréal in September of 2011.

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal would like to thank the City of Montreal for their generous support.

The OSM is presented by Hydro-Québec.

Other articles from mtltimes.ca – totimes.ca – otttimes.ca

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