Young and Old Flock to Montréal for the Concours Musical International

CanadaCanada Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Hawkins, R. Strauss, Shostakovich, Bartók: Zoltán Fejérvári (piano), Serhiy Salov (piano), Measha Brueggergosman (soprano), Benjamin Beilman (violin), Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal / Claus-Peter Flor (conductor), Symphony Hall, Place des Arts, Montréal, 12.5.2017. (LV)

Brahms – Piano Concerto No.2 Movement 1
Saint-Saëns – Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
R. Walter Hawkins – Goin’ Up Yonder
R. Strauss – Four Last Songs: ‘Im Abendrot’
Shostakovich – Festive Overture
Bartók– Piano Concerto No.3

For 15 years the Concours Musical International de Montréal has been a great place to hang out if you like classical music’s most glorious, cruelest event, the competition.

This year, it was the week of May 8 when six finalists each played a full concerto with the Orchestre Symphonie de Montréal (OSM) conducted by Claus-Peter Flor. The six performances were split over consecutive nights and revealed a range of talents.

On May 9, Albert Cano Smit broke hearts with his poetry but fell under the weight of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1. Zoltan Fejérvári completely reversed the situation, playing Bartok’s Third with serene command and dazzling chops. Giuseppe Guarrera took full possession of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 from his opening, thundering chords, and rarely relinquished the spotlight again; it was always breath-taking, never boring.

On May 10, Yejin Noh astonished the audience with her own version of an extravagant Tchaikovsky First with something that was more passionate as if she were the one being possessed, like the woman floating away from the piano in this year’s Concours logo image. She was followed by Jinhyung Park in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, who was poetical, precise, blended well with the orchestra, and charged brilliantly into the ending.

When Stefano Andreatta concluded the night by playing Liszt’s Second Concerto, it was like a return to a far-off, previous century when elegant phrasing and seamless virtuosity blended to create an authentically exasted feel from the composer’s tawdry fabric.

The three winners were excellent choices: Fejérvári took first prize and $30,000, plus $50,000 as recipient of the Joseph Rouleau Career Development Grant. Guarrera took second and $15,000, Andreatta third and $10,000. Except for the Best Canadian Artist Award, given to Teo Gheorghiu, all the other special prizes, including the People’s Choice Award, were awarded to Guarrera.

No matter how gala the Gala, you always leave wishing you could have heard at least the top three prize winners again. But who could complain when the entertainment was supplied by past winners Measha Brueggergosman singing a spiritual and “Im Abendrot” from Strauss’s Four Last Songs, Serhiy Salov in the first movement of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto, and violinist Benjamin Beilman playing Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

After intermission came some serious sounds, with the OSM finally playing like a world-class orchestra in Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and then Fejérvári reprised the Bartok with more wide-ranging command, and a more brilliant personality – deeply beautiful and profound.

The gala concert was sold out, filled with talent scouts from the world’s major record labels, competitions, and orchestras checking out the young virtuosos – including 70 attendees from the 61st General Assembly of the World Federation of International Music Competitions, and 200 from the International Federation of Musicians’ triennial conference. Not to mention that the city of Montréal is celebrating its 375th birthday, all year long.

But that’s what makes classical music in Montréal so irresistible – young and old at the same time.

Laurence Vittes

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