23.Steve Hill’s Electrifying Return to the OSM
Maison symphonique de Montréal
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Steve Hill, electric guitar
Messiaen, Les offrandes oubliées (11 min.)
John Anthony Lennon, The Electric Candlelight Concerto (25 min.)
Video excerpt from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Myung-Whun Chung
What composer could better accompany Steve Hill and his Electric Candlelight Concerto than Olivier Messiaen? Messiaen sought out new musical resources throughout his remarkable career, and even began to integrate the electronic ondes Martenot into his symphonic works in the 1940s. Les offrandes oubliées was composed in 1930, shortly after Messiaen graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris, and stems from the composer’s devout Catholic faith. Subtitled méditation symphonique, the work unfolds in three parts corresponding to three religious meditations. The first section, slow and sad, depicts Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The second part – marked vivid, ferocious, desperate, panting – represents the breathless, frenzied descent of humankind into sin. But the final section of the triptych, which opens with a motif from the first, reflects on the hope of salvation through Christ, and is to be played with great pity and great love.
© Ariadne Lih, 2018
At some point during a 2016 OSM concert of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Debussy’s Jeux, led by Kent Nagano, composer John Anthony Lennon began to imagine the contours of a new work for electric guitar and symphony orchestra. It was the acoustic properties of the Maison symphonique de Montréal that sparked the inspiration for a five-movement concerto that would bridge the worlds of electric rock and classical concert music. The Electric Candlelight Concerto, written in 2017, combines elements of the ancient and the electric, beginning with its title, which makes metaphorical reference to the radiating sound of an electric guitar and the glowing light of a candle. Stylistically, the composer describes the musical sounds as belonging to the “Fourth World” of music, a term coined in the 1980s to describe the enhancement of ancient and world musics with advanced electronic techniques. In Lennon’s own words, “The instrument has a power that creates new colours and energy when it is combined with traditional orchestral instruments, sounding at times like a single instrument.” Rather than cleaving to the traditional form of a multi-movement classical concerto, each of the five movements is conceived in the manner of a rock song belonging to a larger set, complete with breaks for tuning and instrument changes, further blurring generic lines and gently subverting the expected concert format.
© Marc Wieser, 2018
Kent Nagano has established an international reputation as one of the most insightful and visionary interpreters of both the operatic and symphonic repertoire. He is Music Director of the OSM since 2006. Maestro Nagano was General Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich from 2006 to 2013. He became Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 2013. Since 2015, he has been General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra. Born in California, Kent Nagano spent his early professional years in Boston, working in the opera house and as Assistant Conductor to Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was Music Director of the Opéra national de Lyon (1988-1998), Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra (1991-2000), Associate Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1990-1998) and Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (2000-2006) and remains their Honorary Conductor. Kent Nagano was also the first Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera (2003-2006). As a much sought-after guest conductor, Maestro Nagano has worked with the Berlin, New York and Vienna Philharmonics, Chicago Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus, and at leading opera houses including the Opéra national de Paris, Berlin State Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Semperoper Dresden. He has won two Grammy awards for his recording of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and for Busoni’s Doktor Faust, recorded with the Opéra national de Lyon, among other awards. Maestro Nagano was named Commander of the Ordre de Montréal, Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, Companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec, and he was decorated with the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal.
Recent recordings with the OSM: A Quiet Place (Decca, 2018); Danse macabre (Decca, 2016); L’Aiglon (Decca, 2015); Saint-Saëns, Moussa, Saariaho: Symphony and New Works for Organ and Orchestra (Analekta, 2015); Complete Violin Concertos of Saint-Saëns (Analekta, 2015).
Recent tours with the OSM: Krakow and Salzburg (2018); United States (March 2016); China and Japan (October 2014); Europe (March 2014); and South America (April-May 2013).
Guitarist and singer extraordinaire Steve Hill is the truest definition of a one-man band. He has no limits: he performs standing, singing with a guitar, his feet playing the drum and a drumstick fused to the head of his trusty guitar to play any other percussion instruments within reach. An overnight sensation, 20 years in the making, Steve Hill is an ambitious, raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian and international blues-rock scene. “The one-man-band style has made him the top star in the Canadian blues scene right now.” (Bob Mersereau, CBC). His reputation as an exciting performer has provided him with the opportunity to display his talents at some of Canada’s biggest music festivals. Steve Hill is clearly in his element as a solo artist and one-man band, beckoning listeners into a world of musical madness in the form of blues and rock’n’ roll.
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