September 14, 2021

Rafael Payare and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (photo: Antoine Saito)

The only Canadian nominee for Gramophone’s 2021 Orchestra of the Year, and the first in that award’s history to date, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) looks forward to a banner 2021-22 season. This marks its eleventh season at home in the acoustically optimized Montreal Symphony House and its first under Music Director Designate Rafael Payare. Known for his innate musicianship, gift for communication, charismatic energy and irresistibly joyous spirit, the Venezuelan conductor leads no fewer than eight OSM programs this season, starting with tonight’s Opening Night Concert (Sep 14–18), which will be filmed for subsequent streaming at the orchestra’s website and on the Mezzo and Medici platforms. OSM also welcomes back Conductors Emeritus Kent Nagano and Zubin Mehta, as well as performing under the leadership of 16 guest conductors, Vasily Petrenko, Gemma New, Hervé Niquet and OSM Artist-in-Residence Michael Tilson Thomas among them. Guest soloists include Yefim Bronfman, Measha Brueggergosman, Christine Goerke, Hilary Hahn, Christian Tetzlaff and Daniil Trifonov, while the orchestra’s diverse lineup features the world premieres of four new commissions from Canadian composers, including OSM Composer-in-Residence Ana Sokolović. The orchestra also continues to serve families and young children – including those with autism spectrum disorder – through a range of thoughtfully curated educational programs. All told, the Montreal Symphony’s 88th season confirms its standing as “the best Gallic orchestra in the world” (Chicago Tribune).

Also known as the Maison symphonique de Montréal, Montreal Symphony House was custom designed for the orchestra by architects Ædifica and Diamond + Schmitt in collaboration with Artec Consultants and acclaimed acoustician Tateo Nakajima. The 2,100-seat hall offers an intimate and acoustically superb listening experience, allowing OSM to show its true colors: timbres previously heard at great venues around the world on the orchestra’s international tours, but not at home in Montreal until the hall’s opening ten years ago in September 2011.

MDD Rafael Payare leads eight programs
Hailed as “electrifying in front of an orchestra” (Los Angeles Times), Music Director Designate Rafael Payare “combines a rare gift of auditory perfection with a profound, delicate, intense, quivering sensitivity” (Le Monde, France). Also serving as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, he recently wowed the national press with a star-studded season-opening gala concert to inaugurate the Rady Shell, the California orchestra’s new open-air hall.

For its ninth Music Director, the conductor was the Montreal Symphony’s natural first choice; as Gramophone magazine reports, “Payare made his debut with the orchestra in 2018, and the rapport he’s developed with them made him the unanimous choice of the eleven-member selection committee.” Before launching his tenure in September 2022, Payare looks forward to leading eight programs with the Montreal Symphony this season, starting this month with three weeks of concerts. He explains:

“From the first time I conducted the OSM, the artistic bond was palpable – I could even feel the electricity in the air. This season, I will have the great pleasure of sharing works that mean a good deal to me personally, for example the music of Brahms, Shostakovich and Dvořák, and also of conducting OSM mainstays such as Ravel’s La valse and Debussy’s La mer. These programs will serve as an appetizer for the seasons to come, when the orchestra and I look forward to exploring a wide range of adventurous repertoire together.”

Click here to see Payare talk further about his relationship with the Montreal Symphony.

For their Opening Night Concert, Payare leads the orchestra in performances of Shostakovich’s searing Fifth Symphony, in which, with London’s BBC Symphony Orchestra, the conductor previously proved himself “unerring in pacing and balance, such that the music formed a single great arc, with successive entries building towards the xylophone-capped climax with compelling eloquence” (Bachtrack). The OSM’s program also includes Kaléidoscope, a symphonic fantasy commissioned by the orchestra in 1948 from Montreal-born composer Pierre Mercure, and Ravel’s beloved La valse (Sep 14, 16 & 18). The Opening Night is one of three Autumn programs that will be filmed for subsequent streaming; after premiering on October 5, the webcast will be available on demand until November 2, on Canada’s mezzo.tv and Europe’s medici.tv platforms.

Next, following their acclaimed traversal of Brahms’s first symphony this past January, Payare and the Montreal Symphony complete their season-opening concerts with accounts of the composer’s Second. They pair the symphony with Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, featuring three-time Grammy winner Hilary Hahn as soloist (Sep 22 & 23; streaming on demand: Nov 2–Dec 7), before combining it with works by Haydn and Louise Farrenc, one of the leading female musicians of 19th-century France (Sep 26). Then, to round out their Autumn lineup, Payare rejoins the OSM for Sibelius’s lyrical First Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with Inon Barnatan – “one of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times) – as soloist (Dec 8 & 11).

Payare and the orchestra ring in the New Year with Bruckner’s mighty Seventh Symphony, of which the conductor’s performance with the St. Louis Symphony last year was said to have “turned the concert hall into a cathedral” (STL Today) (Jan 12 & 13). After anchoring a concert showcasing the winner of OSM’s 2021 vocal competition (Jan 16), Payare and the Montreal Symphony reunite for a program of French tone poems and Russian piano concertos featuring Grammy winner Daniil Trifonov, “without question the most astounding pianist of our age” (The Times of London) (April 20 & 21).

To draw their first season together to a close, Payare helms the Montreal Symphony in a pairing of two German choral masterworks – Brahms’s Schicksalslied (“Song of Destiny”) and Beethoven’s incomparable Ninth Symphony – for which they will be joined by the OSM Chorus and a stellar quartet of vocalists: Karina Gauvin, “the Canadian soprano with almost a cult-like following” (American Record Guide); Montreal native Michèle Losier, “one of the most in-demand mezzo-sopranos in the world” (Opera Wire); Quebec-born tenor Frédéric Antoun, who “commands a full and lush sound capable of refined lyricism” (Montreal Theatre Hub); and Grammy-winning American bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, who is “a rising star in the opera world” (New York Times) (May 31; June 1 & 2).

Artistic residencies: Michael Tilson Thomas and Ana Sokolović
The Montreal Symphony’s 2021-22 season features creative collaborations with two resident artists. As this year’s Artist-in-Residence, eleven-time Grammy-winner Michael Tilson Thomas – Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra – takes the podium for programs showcasing Schubert’s Ninth Symphony (March 9, 10 & 13) and his own Poems of Emily Dickinson, with trailblazing soprano Measha Brueggergosman as soloist (March 16 & 17). Now in the second year of her tenure as Composer-in-Residence, two-time Juno Award-winning Serbian-Canadian composer Ana Sokolović presides over the world premiere performances of her accordion concerto, Balkanales. Presenting Serbian-Canadian accordionist Jelena Milojević as soloist, this new OSM commission forms the centerpiece of a Slavic-themed program led by Xian Zhang, Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of Australia’s Melbourne Symphony (Feb 16 & 17).

Conductors Emeritus: Kent Nagano and Zubin Mehta
The current season sees the Montreal Symphony welcome back two conductors who hold the title “Emeritus,” an honor conferred on those previous incumbents of the Music Directorship who have made the most outstanding contributions to the orchestra and most deeply impacted its history. After concluding his 14-season tenure last year, OSM Conductor Emeritus Kent Nagano joins famed Quebec storyteller Fred Pellerin and director René Richard Cyr for “La Poste du Paradis,” a family-friendly event that marks the orchestra’s fifth original symphonic Christmas tale (Dec 15, 16 & 18). Then, on the 60th anniversary of his leadership of the orchestra’s first international tour, OSM Conductor Emeritus Zubin Mehta returns to lead an all-Wagner program featuring Opera News Award-winner Christine Goerke, “arguably the finest Wagnerian soprano in the world” (Bachtrack) (Feb 5).

Guest conductors: Petrenko, Niquet, Bringuier, New, Zinman and more
No fewer than 15 additional guest-conducted programs round out the Montreal Symphony season. Vasily Petrenko, Music Director of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra, leads Sibelius’s stirring Fifth Symphony; the world premiere of Precipice, a new OSM commission from Canada’s Dorothy Chang; and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Grammy-winning powerhouse pianist Yefim Bronfman (Oct 13 & 14).

France’s Hervé Niquet, Director of Le Concert Spirituel, leads seasonal accounts of Berlioz’s Romantic oratorio L’enfance du Christ, with coloratura contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Mary, bass-baritone Robert Gleadow as Herod, and the OSM Chorus (Dec 22 & 23). Lionel Bringuier, former Music Director of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, joins Grammy-nominated German violinist Christian Tetzlaff for Brahms’s Violin Concerto (Oct 20 & 21). Also a former Music Director of the Tonhalle, David Zinman pairs Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony with Schumann’s sole Piano Concerto, featuring Montreal native Louis Lortie as soloist (Nov 17 & 18; streaming on demand: Dec 7–Jan 4). Gemma New, Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony, conducts a program of Ravel, Barber, Lili Boulanger and Copland, whose Symphony for Organ and Orchestra showcases Canadian International Organ Competition laureate Alcee Chriss III (Dec 2 & 3).

Other guest conducting highlights include Brahms’s Third Symphony with Juanjo Mena, former Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic (Jan 19 & 20); Beethoven’s Seventh with Louis Langrée, Music Director of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival and the Cincinnati Symphony, in his OSM debut (Feb 9 & 10); the world premiere of Gabriel Thibaudeau’s original music for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, another new OSM commission, conducted to a screening of the classic 1923 motion picture by the Canadian film composer himself (April 5); Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, led by Paul McCreesh, Founder and Artistic Director of the Gabrieli Consort & Players (April 13 & 14); and the world premiere of Weltengeist, a new OSM commission from Quebec composer Simon Bertrand, conducted by Jordan de Souza, one of the “new generation leading Berlin’s classical scene” (New York Times) (May 18 & 19).

Educational programs
Committed to serving local schools, families and young children, the Montreal Symphony maintains a strong educational presence this season. OSMose, a longterm project created by the orchestra in collaboration with music therapist Nathalie Leroux, philanthropist Michel Phaneuf and Montreal’s École Saint-Étienne, culminates with two concerts next April. Established in 2019, OSMose introduces music and the arts to children, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), through specially adapted workshops. Also in April 2022, Payare helms the “Children’s Ball,” the orchestra’s fourth large-scale youth event, and there will be multiple concerts in OSM’s popular Children’s Corner series over the course of the season.

Tickets, information, and health and safety
Full details of the Montreal Symphony’s current season are provided below; tickets and further information are available here or by calling the following numbers: (514) 842-9951 and (888) 842-9951. Evening concerts are presented without intermission and audience numbers will be capped in compliance with the latest health and safety regulations.

About the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Founded in 1934 by Wilfrid Pelletier, Antonia Nantel and Athanase David, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) is a distinguished leader of Canadian musical life and an essential cultural ambassador. Under the leadership of Venezuelan Music Director Designate Rafael Payare, the orchestra continues its commitment to far-reaching projects and international tours, as well as to its superb discography and long history of community engagement. Firmly anchored in today’s world, OSM’s innovative approach to artistic programming brings modern-day relevance to the symphonic repertoire, both live and on disc, while strengthening the orchestra’s place at the heart of its Quebec metropolis home. Over the years, the Montreal Symphony has toured throughout Canada and beyond, traveling to Quebec’s far north as well as to the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Totaling more than a hundred recordings on the Decca, Analekta, CBC Records, ECM, EMI, Philips and Sony labels, OSM’s discography has been recognized with more than 50 national and international awards.

High-resolution photos are available here.
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Montreal Symphony Orchestra: 2021-22 engagements

Sep 14, 16 & 18 (streaming on demand: Oct 5–Nov 2)
Opening Night
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
RAVEL: La valse
PIERRE MERCURE: Kaléidoscope
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5

Sep 22 & 23 (streaming on demand: Nov 2–Dec 7)
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
DVOŘÁK: Violin Concerto (with Hilary Hahn, violin)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2

Sep 26
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
LOUISE FARRENC: Overture No. 2
HAYDN: Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat (with Andrew Wan, violin; Brian Manker, cello; Theodore Baskin, oboe; Stéphane Lévesque, bassoon)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2

Oct 13 & 14
Vasily Petrenko, guest conductor
DOROTHY CHANG: Precipice (world premiere of OSM commission)
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5

Oct 20 & 21
Lionel Bringuier, guest conductor
LISZT: Mephisto Waltz No. 1, “Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke”
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto (with Christian Tetzlaff, violin)
KODÁLY: Dances of Galánta

Nov 17 & 18 (streaming on demand: Dec 7–Jan 4)
David Zinman, guest conductor
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor (with Louis Lortie, piano)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 15

Nov 25 & 26
With Bell Orchestre / André de Ridder, conductor
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird Suite
BELL ORCHESTRE, arr. O. PALLETT: House Music Album

Dec 2 & 3
Gemma New, guest conductor
RAVEL: Le tombeau de Couperin, version for orchestra
COPLAND: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (with Alcee Chriss III, organ)
L. BOULANGER: D’un soir triste
BARBER: Symphony No. 1

Dec 8 & 11
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Inon Barnatan, piano)
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 1

Dec 15, 16 & 18
Kent Nagano, OSM Conductor Emeritus
With Fred Pellerin, storyteller; René Richard Cyr, stage direction
“La Poste du Paradis”

Dec 22 & 23
Hervé Niquet, guest conductor
(with Marie-Nicole Lemieux, mezzo-soprano (Mary); Robert Gleadow, bass-baritone (Herod); OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorusmaster)
BERLIOZ: L’enfance du Christ

Jan 12 & 13, 2022
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7

Jan 16
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
MOZART: Symphony No. 29
Additional rep TBA (with winner of 2021 OSM Competition, voice category)

Jan 19 & 20
Juanjo Mena, guest conductor
MAHLER: Kindertotenlieder (with Karen Cargill, mezzo-soprano)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3

Feb 5
Zubin Mehta, OSM Conductor Emeritus
WAGNER: Rienzi Overture
WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde, Prelude and “Liebestod” (with Christine Goerke, soprano)
WAGNER: Götterdämmerung, excerpts (with Christine Goerke, soprano)

Feb 9 & 10
Louis Langrée, guest conductor
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 1 (with Simone Lamsma, violin)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7

Feb 16 & 17
Xian Zhang, guest conductor
DVOŘÁK: V přírodě Overture
ANA SOKOLOVIĆ (OSM Composer-in-Residence): Balkanales, Accordion Concerto (world premiere of OSM commission; with Jelena Milojević, accordion)
SMETANA: Má Vlast

March 2 & 3
Mélanie Léonard, guest conductor
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Hiawatha Overture
HANNAH KENDALL: The Spark Catchers
DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

March 9, 10 & 13
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (OSM Artist-in-Residence)
GRIEG: Two Elegiac Melodies, No. 2: “Våren”
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Alexander Malofeev, piano)
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9

March 16 & 17
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (OSM Artist-in-Residence)
VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas brasileiras No. 9
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: Poems of Emily Dickinson (with Measha Brueggergosman, soprano)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian”

March 29 & 30
Dina Gilbert, guest conductor
(With hip-hop artists Koriass, Alaclair Ensemble, FouKi, QuietMike and Dead Obies)
“OSM to the Hip-Hop Beat”

April 5
Gabriel Thibaudeau, guest conductor
(with Jean-Willy Kunz, OSM organist-in-residence; Andréanne Brisson Paquin, soprano)
GABRIEL THIBAUDEAU: original music for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (world premiere of OSM commission)

April 13 & 14
Paul McCreesh, guest conductor
(with Marie-Sophie Pollack, soprano; TBA, alto; Julian Prégardien, tenor; Werner Güra, tenor; Tareq Nazmi, bass; OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorusmaster; Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal; Andrew Gray, choral director; TBA, stage director)
BACH: St. Matthew Passion

April 20 & 21
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
DUKAS: La Péri
SCHNITTKE: Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (with Daniil Trifonov, piano)
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Daniil Trifonov, piano)
DEBUSSY: La mer

May 2–5
Dina Gilbert, guest conductor
(with IAM)
IAM: L’école du micro d’argent (selections)

May 18 & 19
Jordan de Souza, guest conductor
MOZART: Symphony No. 31, “Paris”
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G (with Francesco Piemontesi, piano)
SIMON BERTRAND: Weltengeist (world premiere of OSM commission)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 9

May 25 & 26
Juraj Valčuha, guest conductor
SIBELIUS: The Oceanides
BRAHMS: Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor (with Liza Ferschtman, violin; TBA, cello)
NIELSEN: Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable”

May 31; June 1 & 2
Rafael Payare, OSM Music Director Designate
(With Karina Gauvin, soprano; Michèle Losier, mezzo-soprano; Frédéric Antoun, tenor; Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone; OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorusmaster)
BRAHMS: Schicksalslied
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9

Contributions from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s public partners are essential to its operations. OSM wishes to acknowledge its main public partner, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, as well as Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Quebec, and the Conseil des arts de Montréal. OSM is proud of its support from loyal sponsors, and gratefully acknowledges its Presenting Sponsor, Hydro-Québec; its Season Presenter, BMO; and its Major Series Sponsor, Power Corporation of Canada. It also wishes to express its gratitude to the OSM Foundation, Volvo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, Sélection Retraite, Yimby, Fondation J.A. DeSève, Le Groupe Maurice, Canada Life, National Bank, BBA, Cogeco, Fondation Groupe Forget, Charton-Hobbs, DoubleTree by Hilton Montreal, ESKA, IRIS, Ritz-Carlton Montreal, Solotech and Clarins. OSM is likewise grateful to its other donors and partners, as well as to its subscribers and audiences, who in many different ways provide essential support to its activities. The Artists-in-Residence program is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Rossy Foundation and the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique has been generously gifted to OSM by Madame Jacqueline Desmarais.

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© 21C Media Group, September 2021