Maison symphonique de Montréal
Ticket Prices
$42* to $200*
Concert dates
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 8:00 PM Done
Saturday, April 9, 2016 - 8:00 PM Done
Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 2:30 PM Done
Kent Nagano, conductorchef d’orchestre
Gil Shaham, violin (artist-in-residence)violon (artiste en résidence)

Presentation of the concert

Schoenberg, Transfigured Night, op. 4 (approx. 26 min.)

Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 (approx. 26 min.)

Schoenberg, Pelleas und Melisande, op. 5 (approx. 41 min.)


These two inspiring, youthful works by Schoenberg will no doubt delight you, along with Concerto for Violin by Mendelssohn, interpreted by Grammy award winner Gil Shaham. As an OSM Artist-in-Residence, he shares his gift with rapt audiences for the second time this season, under the direction of Kent Nagano.


Preconcert talk

Wednesday, April 6 - 7:00 p.m.
Foyer Allegro of the Maison symphonique de Montréal
Host: Kelly Rice
Guests: Gil Shaham, violin; Kent Nagano, conductor; Jonathan Goldman, musicologist

Our cheeses, privileged partner of talks and organ preconcerts

Saturday, April 9 - 7:00 p.m.
Foyer Allegro of the Maison symphonique de Montréal
Host: Kelly Rice
Guests: Gil Shaham, violin; André Moisan, Bass Clarinet and Saxophone at the OSM; Kent Nagano, conductor;

Air Canada, proud partner of the OSM Saturday Evening Pre-Concert Talks, will be giving away a pair of OSM concert tickets during the event. Don’t miss it!

Sunday, April 10 - 1:30 p.m.
Foyer Allegro of the Maison symphonique de Montréal
Host: Kelly Rice
Guests: Gil Shaham, violin; Kent Nagano, conductor; Jonathan Goldman, musicologist

Our cheeses, privileged partner of talks and organ preconcerts


Two early works with consecutive opus numbers by Arnold Schoenberg open and close tonight’s concert. Both are extended poems in sound, both are derived from literary sources, and both tell tales of strange love affairs. In between comes Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Violin Concerto, music of patrician elegance in sharp contrast to the world of hyperemotional romantic expressivity found in the Schoenberg works.


Born in Vienna, September 13, 1874 – Died in Los Angeles, July 13, 1951
Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), op. 4

Transfigured Night is, after more than a century, still Schoenberg’s most popular work. It is the direct descendent of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, both in its musical language and its subject matter. This was Schoenberg’s first major score and his first mature music. He originally wrote it as a sextet for two violins, two violas and two cellos. The first performance was given by the Rosé Quartet and two additional musicians in Vienna on March 18, 1902. In 1917, Schoenberg expanded the scoring for string orchestra, in which form he himself conducted the first performance in Vienna two years later. Then, in 1943, he revised the string orchestra version into the form we usually hear it today by moderating some of the performance directions and pruning some of the more densely scored passages. Most listeners agree that the fuller sonorities of a string orchestra heighten the emotional intensity of the music.

Transfigured Night is one of the very few examples of chamber music to incorporate programmatic elements. It is a musical depiction of the poem “Zwei Menschen” (Two People) by Richard Dehmel (1863-1920), a leading German poet and playwright of his day. The story line involves a pair of lovers walking through the woods in the cold moonlight. The woman has a terrible confession to make: she is with child, but not by him. She had earlier sought emotional fulfillment in sensuality and in childbearing. But this former lover was a stranger, and deceived her. The man she now walks with in the moonlit woods assures her the child will be no burden; his true and deep love for the woman will make the child as his own. A strange radiance fills the night air while the warmth of the couple’s love transforms the child from “hers” into “theirs.” The two mortals continue walking in the exalted brightness of the transfigured night.


Born in Hamburg, February 3, 1809 – Died in Leipzig, November 4, 1847
Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64

The facility, polish and effortless grace found in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto totally belie the creator’s struggle to compose it. This enormously popular concerto, Mendelssohn’s last major composition, occupied him for over five years (1838-1844), during which he carried on a lively exchange of ideas about the structural and technical details with the concerto’s dedicatee, violinist Ferdinand David (1810-1873). When Mendelssohn became conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, he instated David as his concertmaster. At the concerto’s premiere on March 13, 1845, David was of course the soloist.

Mendelssohn, trained in the classical tradition, nevertheless possessed a romantic streak which manifested itself in the poetic fantasy that infuses his music, and in the liberties he took with regard to formal construction. For example, there is no opening orchestral introduction. The soloist enters with the main theme almost immediately. All three movements are joined, with no formal pauses to break the flow. A cadenza, which normally would appear near the end of a concerto’s first movement, in this work is placed before, not after, the recapitulation. The term “well-bred” is often invoked to describe this concerto, and it is nowhere more appropriate than in describing the quiet rapture and poetic beauty of the second movement’s principal theme. A moment of sweet melancholy in A minor intrudes briefly, with trumpets and timpani adding a touch of agitation. The principal theme then returns in varied repetition, and a gently yearning passage, again in A minor, leads to the finale. As in the two previous movements, the soloist announces the principal theme, one of elfin lightness and gaiety.


Pelleas und Melisande, op. 5

Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas et Mélisande was first seen in Paris in 1893. Fauré (incidental music), Debussy (opera), Sibelius (incidental music), Cyril Scott (overture), and William Wallace (suite), all within just a dozen years, wrote music based on Maeterlinck’s work. “What attracted composers to Maeterlinck’s play,” writes Harry Neville, “was the remarkable atmosphere established by its unworldly setting and elusive subject.” Richard Strauss encouraged Schoenberg to write an opera on the subject, but Schoenberg decided on a symphonic poem instead. He began work in July of 1902 and completed it the following February. The premiere was given in Vienna on January 26, 1905 with the composer conducting an orchestra assembled under the banner of the Vienna Society of Creative Musicians. The plot concerns a classic love triangle, and is a variant of the Tristan and Isolde story. Young Melisande is discovered lost in the forest by Golaud, an older man. He escorts her back to his castle and they marry soon afterwards. But Golaud proves to be an unsatisfactory husband, and when Melisande meets the youthful Pelleas, they fall in love. Golaud suspects their affair and plots to catch them in a compromising situation. This he does, and kills his adversary. Melisande dies soon afterwards in childbirth, leaving Golaud torn with uncertainty as to the identity of the infant’s father.

As Pelleas und Melisande is one of Schoenberg’s earliest works, it is still rooted in tonality, though its tortuous chromaticism, dense polyphony and heightened chromaticism – all strongly influenced by Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde – indicate the direction Schoenberg’s music was eventually to take. Further resemblance to Tristan can be seen in its themes of fate and of love fulfilled only in death. The extensive use of Leitmotifs is also Wagnerian. These are developed in multifarious ways, surrounded with countersubjects and enmeshed in dense webs of plush sound. Pelleas und Melisande is, like all symphonic poems, laid out in one continuous movement, though in this case it can be subdivided into four parts. Part I opens with dark murmurings, surely representing the gloomy forest in which Melisande is wandering. In close succession we hear the motifs of fate (twice in the bass clarinet alone in the opening bars), Melisande (a plaintive, descending idea in the oboe) and Golaud (at first softly in the horns, then more prominently with cellos and horns combined). Pelleas’ motif is delayed until sometime later, played first by the solo trumpet and described by Schoenberg as “youthful and knightly.” Part II begins with a scherzo. Melisande, now living at Golaud’s castle, is outdoors by the fountain, casually tossing her wedding ring up and down. Later, in a passage of exquisite beauty, Melisande stands in the castle tower playing with her magnificent long hair (flutes, clarinets and harps intertwined). Finally, Golaud takes Pelleas to visit the dark, dank vaults below the castle, a dismal scene in which, for the first time in the history of orchestration, trombones are asked to produce glissandos (slides). Part III is one long love scene dominated by one of the warmest, most romantic, most sensuously beautiful themes in any composer’s catalogue. Part IV serves mostly as a recapitulation of previous events, Melisande’s consciousness slowly fades as the fate motif sets the seal of finality on this sad story.


© Robert Markow


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