Elim Chan at OM: quite a spectacle!

The Orchester Métropolitain featured this week the conductor from Hong Kong Elim Chan, 36 years old, and we were treated, Friday evening at the Maison symphonique, to a whole musical spectacle, shared with her partner, the percussionist Dominique Vleeshouwers.

This report was almost entitled “The sumptuous frozen dish of Elim Chan”, because at a time when there is, unfortunately, much talk of revenge, the concordance of this exceptional concert with the disappearance of a musician who held in a sort of dinosaur place of his profession, Yuri Temirkanov, falls to us somehow from the sky.

Woman on the podium

Explanation. First of all, let’s not talk about revenge but about revenge, but let’s not forget. Now that tribute has been paid to the chef who died on Thursday, let us recall in more detail this “delicious” interview given by Temirkanov 11 years ago to Nezavissimaïa Gazeta. Not content with claiming that seeing a woman conduct an orchestra was something “unnatural”, the arguments supporting the point were that “the essence of the profession of conductor is strength; the essence of a woman is weakness” and that “the important thing being that a woman is beautiful, lovable, and attractive, the musicians will look at her and be distracted from the music! “.

Temirkanov, as Finnish conducting guru Jorma Panula (in 2014) said, many thought so. If we needed an incarnation of the stupidity of these postures, she was on the stage of the Maison symphonique on Friday evening.

We don’t talk with Elim Chan, the determined one, about a chef who “does the job”, who sets the mood or makes an evening have a respectable evening. We are here, in our opinion, well above Nathalie Stutzmann whose incredible reputation seemed to us, despite a decent performance, to be quite overrated when she appeared at the head of this orchestra. Only Han-Na Chang approached this level, the level, by the way, that conductors invited to lead the orchestra of the world-famous Yannick Nézet-Séguin should have had for quite a few years, who, given the positions that he occupies, could attract absolutely anyone he wants here cheaply. We could have a parade of big names at OM and on average we have almost post-apprentices: we would like to understand…

Change, therefore, of class this week with this bomb which made us known in a thunderous way a fascinating work of our century by Anna Clyne, a sort of Night on Bald Mountain of the 21st century which she presented to us with perfect eloquence before the concert. This Midnight Hour is very easy to listen to and follow: from nightmare to more serene awakening.

Having fun with music

The big surprise was the Concerto for percussion by Peter Eötvös. Absolute antidote to the pretentious experimental ritual of Nicole Lizée offered at the OSM a few weeks ago, with her percussionist wandering here and there with his iPod and the Orchestra emitting various noises, Etvös’ score is relaxed and very funny . The soloist speaks to his instruments (in Hungarian). The sounds correspond to onomatopoeia. Sometimes we have the impression of witnessing a “ cartoon » with a real character. Dominique Vleeshouwers walks around, like Colin Currie in Lizée, but he has memorized everything, has fun with the instruments and sounds.

In the best of Lizée’s work the interaction with the orchestra was more “useful” and more refined, whereas the orchestra seems a little flat here, the soloist’s performance almost sufficient in itself. But Eötvös manages to copy even the rites of the concerto with a fabulous cadence (our photo) which involves percussionists from the orchestra. This great spectacle provoked laughter and a standing ovation.

Elim Chan was also admirable in Scheherazade and we understand why the orchestra applauded her. Conducting the score without a baton, Chan was careful to respect the nuances in the 1st movement, whose crescendos were patient. In the 2nd movement, addressed attack, we admired the beauty of the oboe, but also in general, the conductor’s very natural way of letting the music flow, for example by avoiding pressing the last note of musical phrases. This class was found in the grazioso of the 3rd movement, never syrupy or overplayed (episodes dolce). Too bad for the oboe shell this time, before the violin story. THE Finalwith the episode of the shipwreck, had all the desired anger and Yukari Cousineau played her solo part with accuracy and poetry.

Throughout the concert we were able to appreciate the efficiency of Elim Chan’s direction, who found the right tone with the right gestures. So here is a welcome “diversity” which was there to bring us an artistic bonus and not to check a box, to act as an activist or to give a good conscience by thinking of “compensating” for the stupidity of backward thoughts which were well established there. Not so long ago.

A thousand and one drums

Anna Clyne: This Midnight Hour. Peter Eötvös: Speaking Drums. Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade. DOMNIQ (percussion), Orchester Métropolitain, Elim Chan. Maison symphonique, Friday November 3, 2023.

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