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2005-03-09 02:31:35 (UTC)

Conductor main event at French program

Mar. 7, 2005. 01:00 AM

Conductor main event at French program


JOHN LEHR
SPECIAL TO THE STAR

Light Classics. Isn't that a substitute for the real
thing? Classics Lite: nice tunes, no calories? If so, the
Toronto Symphony misled us in the best possible way by
including Saturday's concert of French masterpieces on its
Light Classics series.

In this case, the "light" had to refer to the dazzle of
greatness. And the TSO's performance under the young
maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with soloists David Jalbert
and Yegor Dyachkov lived up to the brilliance of the music.

The program began with Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's
Apprentice. Many of us might have thought that Mickey
Mouse's antics in the Disney film Fantasia gave life to
this musical score. Nézet-Séguin, however, showed us that
the magic came mostly from the music.

The renovation of Roy Thomson Hall has allowed the
orchestra to feel comfortable playing quietly, and Nézet-
Séguin took full advantage of that throughout the evening.
But it was particularly effective with the shimmer of
strings that open Dukas' work. The bubbling of bassoons
that broke the quietness and the eventual triumph of brass
and full orchestra were all the more potent because of it.

Besides, the feeling of quiet tension and mystery at the
beginning of the concert aroused expectations of
extravagant things to come.

Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in D Major for the left
hand echoed Dukas in its quiet opening with double bass
and bassoons, but took a different direction into solemn
lyricism and eventually into jazzy gestures propelling the
music on to grander statements.

Pianist David Jalbert gave an authoritative and engaging
performance of the piano part. And he did not cheat. His
left hand alone captured both the silken embroidery of the
two extensive solo sections of the work as well as the
explosive power of the jazzier parts.

Camille Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor
featured Yegor Dyachkov in the solo role. This concerto is
more elegant than Ravel's, its formal innovations more
firmly anchored in classical conventions. But its sleek
structure contains a powerful engine.

Dyachkov and the orchestra connected with this power and
rode smoothly and compellingly through the piece. They
delighted us most in the exquisite minuet through which
the cello wove a dark ribbon of extended melody.

In both concertos, soloist and orchestra maintained a
sensitive balance and the music came through as an
integrated whole. Obviously, all the performers
contributed to this, but perhaps Nézet-Séguin deserves the
lion's share of credit. He's a conductor who attends to
the details of the music as they relate to the players.
There is nothing abstracted about his leadership. He makes
himself the centre of a collective effort.

The last work on the program, Ravel's Boléro, demonstrated
the virtue of that approach beautifully. It reveals the
parts of the ensemble and their relation to the whole in a
great marching crescendo. The players were featured, but
Nézet-Séguin's direction was powerfully felt in the
balance, pacing and consistent shaping of the repeated
melody.

The light from works and performances like these would be
welcome anytime.


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