Orchestre Métropolitain puts women in the spotlight

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Half the 12 subscription concerts offered in the Maison symphonique by the Orchestre Métropolitain in 2021-22 will feature artistic director and principal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Five of the remaining six are led by women.

“They join a long tradition at the OM, following in the footsteps of Agnes Grossmann, its first female permanent conductor,” according to a statement by the orchestra.

Women performers and composers also loom large. The acclaimed French pianist Hélène Grimaud joins Nézet-Séguin in Ravel’s Concerto in G Major for the Sept. 30 opener.

This program includes Eko-Bmijwang, an evocation of a river by the Anishinaabekwe composer Barbara Assiginaak, and the Symphony No. 1 of Florence Price (1887-1953), an African-American whose music is now subject to continent-wide revaluation.

The second concert, on Oct. 29, likewise led by YNS, features the Third Symphony of Louise Farrenc (1804-1875), a French composer who has attracted renewed attention. The Montreal maestro has been programming Price and Farrenc also with the Philadelphia Orchestra, of which he is also music director.

Other female composers on offer are the Frenchwoman Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), the Austrian-American Alma Mahler (1879-1964), the American Jessie Montgomery, Montreal’s Isabelle Panneton and the American Paola Prestini. Visiting conductors hail from far and wide: the American JoAnn Falletta, the Englishwoman Jane Glover, the Italian Speranza Scappucci, the Frenchwoman Nathalie Stutzmann and the German Erina Yashima.

Stutzmann, the principal guest conductor in Philadelphia, leads Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, comes with a program including Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and a work for guitar and orchestra by the British composer Joby Talbot. Soloist is Miloš, who, like YNS, is a Deutsche Grammophon recording artist. Another visitor on the DG roster is Sweden’s Daniel Lozakovich, who is heard, with Stutzmann, in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

Glover, a Mozart authority, leads this composer’s Symphony No. 31 (“Paris”) and the Symphony No. 1 of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (1745-99), a composer (and renowned swordsman) who was born in Guadeloupe. Scappucci, who in 2016 became the fourth woman to conduct at the Vienna State Opera, leads Debussy’s La Mer in April – the same month Rafael Payare gives his rendition of this masterpiece with the OSM.

The only male conductor other than Nézet-Séguin is Nicolas Ellis, who leads a program focused on OM players: Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Nielsen’s Violin Concerto, the latter with OM concertmaster Yukari Cousineau.

Yannick continues his Sibelius cycle for the ATMA Classique label with that composer’s shadowy Fourth Symphony. The major choral event with the Chœur Métropolitain is Brahms’s A German Requiem. The concluding programs of June 18 and 19 – substantially similar – feature the Paris-based American Nicholas Angelich, styled soloist-in-residence, in the first two Piano Concertos of Rachmaninoff.

While 2021-22 scans much as a pre-COVID season might, one casualty of the pandemic is the city-wide touring program supported by the Conseil des arts de Montréal. As of this writing, the maximum number of listeners allowed in the Maison symphonique is 958. Plans as they stand call for no intermissions.

Five concerts, including the opener on Sept. 30, will be offered as webcasts. Subscriptions comprising a minimum of four concerts are already for sale. Single tickets for the first three concerts are available from Sept. 8.

Nézet-Séguin gives no indication of having been discouraged by the difficulties of last season. “After 40 years, our orchestra is more united than ever,” the conductor said in a statement. “We know each other by heart.”

orchestremetropolitain.com

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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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