Montreal - Place des arts

Schubert Festival – OSM

It was a week of Schubert presented by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM). We attended the concert on January 16, 2020, Kent Nagano conducting, Angela Hewitt/Paul Lewis the featured pianists.

It was a week of Schubert presented by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM). We attended the concert on January 16, 2020, Kent Nagano conducting, Angela Hewitt/Paul Lewis the featured pianists.

The tickets were hard to come by: we purchased the last ones at $52 each, seats at the last row at the very top, what we affectionately call the “nosebleed” section.

From the very top row of the Maison Symphonique, Montreal, the “nosebleed” section

The orchestra interpreted the Schubert second and fourth symphonies with a Mozart 2-piano concerto (N. 10 in E-flat Major, K.365) sandwiched between. The program notes were written by Dieter Rexroth, D. Mus, PhD, and emphasized the influence of Mozart and Haydn on Schubert’s symphonies.

Music lover that I am, I confess ignorance of Schubert’s early symphonies and was looking forward to getting educated. I suppose that unfortunately for Schubert, his early works were received relative to the grandeur of Beethoven. As per the program notes, because of this “Beethoven effect.” Schubert’s early symphonies were largely devalued as “preparatory” efforts leading to the more mature Schubert.

Whether I should or shouldn’t have read the program notes before listening to the music, I do admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed with the music. While the music was going on, my mind did wander to Beethoven’s symphonies, even hearing a bit of the rhythms of his 6th in some of Schubert’s 4th. In fact, the notes coloured my thinking even before the music began. Perhaps I should give it more effort and listen more attentively to Schubert’s early symphonies.

The concert hall was full to capacity; I suspect that Angela Hewitt, a Canadian, was a major factor in the evening’s popularity. Both she and Paul Lewis executed the Mozart flawlessly. I didn’t know about Paul Lewis: after listening to his performance, I will definitely seek out his recordings. Distracting to me was that the two Steinways were not of the same timbre: Lewis’s had a brighter tone, Hewitt’s more “European.”

Lastly, I do have to say that I will never again go to the nosebleed section even if those were the last tickets on earth. I suspected that all that hot air from everyone’s breathing and funnelling upwards in a not so subtle updraft probably wafted quite a variety of respiratory viruses. I got sick the next day. Please managers, find a solution to increase the airflow without adding wind noise.

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