Cancellations mount from music organizations


It was the day the music stopped – in future tense. On April 7 the City of Montreal decreed that no festivals, sporting events or public gatherings would be allowed on its “territory” through July 2 owing to the COVID-19 crisis.

While it was not clear whether this announcement had any direct bearing on indoor performances, and Mayor Plante was heard telling CJAD that its decision was only for outdoor events which required a city permit, music presenters including the MSO promptly scrapped the balance of the 2019-20 season. The Orchestre Métropolitain, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival and Les Violons du Roy all issued announcements.

Les Violons have also cancelled a seven-concert tour of the United States, April 21 to May 3, under their music director Jonathan Cohen. The affected Orchestre Métropolitan concerts include a May program led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin that was to be the basis of a recording of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 3.

A few organizations, including the Opéra de Montréal, called off their remaining 2019-20 presentations last month when the Quebec government ordered a crackdown on non-essential services and commercial activities (later extended to May 4). Some kept concerts in late May on the books.

One was the MSO, which planned to bid a regular-season farewell to its outgoing music director Kent Nagano with concerts on June 2, 3 and 4 featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”). All three were listed as sellouts on the OSM website.

These are postponed to dates to be determined. “In the current situation, it is impossible to establish new dates for postponed events,” the orchestra said in a statement. “These will be announced as soon as the public health situation allows. The OSM will make all necessary efforts to find the most opportune moments to reschedule these events with Kent Nagano.”

The Bal d’une nuit d’été and Bal éclaté benefit events are also postponed.

Three Nagano-led concerts on May 26, 27 and 28, comprising Fauré’s Requiem and works by Messiaen, are cancelled outright. The 2020 Classical Spree, including the free outdoor Olympic Park presentation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Nagano, will go ahead from Aug. 6 to 9 “as long as public authorities permit.”

The Montreal Chamber Music Festival attributed the cancellation of its 2020 edition, which had been scheduled to run from June 12 to 21, to both health concerns and the federal ban on international travel to Canada.

“We are in the process of forging ahead with planning our 2021 season with an anchoring event featuring Pinchas Zuckerman,” festival president Julia Turner Brennan said in a statement. “Where feasible, we are re-engaging our artists [for 2021].”

The Orchestre classique de Montréal will not go ahead with its remaining 2019-20 concerts, including a June 7 performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Boris Brott. OCM executive director Taras Kulish said the cancellations would be made official shortly.

The much-awaited recital of Lang Lang on May 29 has been postponed to a date in 2021 to be determined, according to the website of the Montreal Bach Festival. The Chinese superstar was scheduled to perform Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the Maison symphonique.

The OSM explicitly connected its decision on the May and June concerts with the City of Montreal announcement. “The OSM shares the objectives of our government in prioritizing the protection of the general population,” the statement says.

Laurie-Anne Riendeau, public relations manager of the OM, said the release of the orchestra’s communiqué on the same afternoon as the city announcement was coincidental. “The decision is from the OM, but it is clear now that our vision aligns with the vision of [Mayor] Valérie Plante’s office.”

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About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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