The festivities begin outdoors at 7:30 p.m. as Nagano conducts pianist Alain Lefvre and a student orchestra in George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on the esplanade at the Place des Arts in downtown Montreal. Then the maestro goes inside for the main concert at 8 p.m. in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Two lavish orchestral tome poems by Richard Strauss anchor the program: Also sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. In between, Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings three arias by Mozart.
This evening's performance will be broadcast live beginning at 7:30 p.m. (U.S. and Canadian Eastern time) on Espace musique, the CBC's francophone classical music network. Live streaming audio is available online at
www.radio-canada.ca/radio2. The main program will be repeated tomorrow night.
Among the highlights of the OSM's upcoming season will be a concert performance of Wagner's Tannh‹user featuring Stephen Gould in the title role, Jennifer Wilson as Eva and Yvonne Naef as Venus. Another program (a particularly eclectic one of the sort for which Nagano became famous when he was chief conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), called "Bach and the Art of Counterpoint," will juxtapose instrumental selections from Giovanni Gabrieli's Symphoniae sacrae of 1597, excerpts from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (played by pianist Angela Hewitt), and Bruckner's Symphony No. 5.
Nagano is continuing his Beethoven project, wherein each of the symphonies and piano concertos is paired with a much later work in order to underscore certain qualities in each. For instance, the Fifth Symphony will share a program with Arnold Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony; on another program, the Piano Concerto No. 3 — played by Alfred Brendel — appears alongside Schumann's Second Symphony and Le Sexe des anges, a bass clarinet concerto by Canadian composer Denys Bouliane.
Pianist Louis Lortie will complete his three-year cycle of the Mozart concertos with three concerts in Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica. Legendary Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky will lead an all-Tchaikovsky program. For the Montreal Symphony's annual gala benefit, Zubin Mehta, who was the orchestra's music director from 1961 to 1967, returns to conduct Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Among the contemporary music on the OSM menu this season is a concert of music by the first and second prize winners of the Montreal Symphony's first international composition competition. Unsuk Chin, whose new opera Alice in Wonderland Nagano conducted this summer in Munich, will have two works performed: her Violin Concerto, which won her the 2004 Grawemeyer Award, and a brand-new work. And February 20 sees an entire program, including a world premiere, inspired by one of hockey's legendary teams, the Montreal Canadiens.
More information on the Montreal Symphony's 2007-08 season is available at www.osm.ca.