Concert Review | María Dueñas, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and OM Illuminate with Symphonic Brilliance


The renowned Orchestre Métropolitain, under the masterful baton of Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, graced the stage of Montreal’s Maison Symphonique last Saturday evening. The ensemble presented a spellbinding performance featuring Shostakovich’s evocative “Leningrad” Symphony No. 7, paired with Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen’s violin concerto, a rediscovered gem.

María Dueñas

María Dueñas (Photo by Denis Germain – Orchestre Métropolitain)

This rarely-performed work was integrated into the symphonic repertoire through its coupling with a very lengthy and demanding symphony. The fourth program of OM’s season played to packed audiences both on Friday night at Salle Marguerite-Bourgeoys du Collège Regina-Assumpta, and on Saturday evening at Place des Arts.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Orchestra’s Musical Director and Conductor, animatedly shared the remarkable backstory of Johan Halvorsen’s Violin Concerto, Op. 28. Inspired by prodigious Alberta violinist Kathleen Parlow, Halvorsen composed the concerto in 1908, which subsequently premiered in the Netherlands the following year. Despite initial acclaim, the concerto was seemingly consigned to oblivion and lost in a fire, only to be rescued from obscurity in 2015, thanks to Parlow’s archival foresight.

María Dueñas

María Dueñas (Photo by Denis Germain – Orchestre Métropolitain)

Making her mark on Montreal’s stage once again (after a brief appearance at the 2019 CMIM competition), María Dueñas, the rising Deutsche Grammophon star, breathed life into this 22-minute masterpiece. Drawing parallels with Grieg’s style, the concerto demanded virtuosity and showcased Dueñas’ impeccable ease, precision, and luminosity. She captivated the audience from the initial cadence to the expressive folkloric finale. Her encore, the poignant “Veslemøy’s Song [The Young Girl Sings]” transcribed by Halvorsen for Parlow, added an appropriately elegant touch to the first half of the concert.

After the intermission, the mood shifted dramatically with Shostakovich’s “Leningrad Symphony No. 7, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Composed during World War II, the work resonated as a symbol of hope and solidarity. Séguin’s previous experience leading this masterpiece at the Lanaudière Festival five years ago infused the performance with a nuanced understanding.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Photo by Denis Germain – Orchestre Métropolitain)

The first movement’s “Invasion” theme exuded immense power in both dynamics and expression. Each subsequent movement unfolded with moments of glory, culminating in a Finale where woodwinds and violins collaborated seamlessly at the dramatic climax.

The audience, swept away by the emotional journey, responded with resounding enthusiasm and a standing ovation—a fitting tribute to an extraordinary performance, and its a triumphant conclusion.

For those eager to explore more recitals and activities presented by the Orchestre Métropolitain, please visit their official website.


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