Nagano came, he saw, he was seenmain
As Nagano steps down at the Montreal Symphony after 14 years, Arthur Kapitainis has a pretty positive assessment of his overall contribution.
It would be easy to assemble a long list of public-spirited projects either agreed to or invented by this media-savvy maestro since his ascent to the music directorship in 2006: Mahler’s First Symphony at midnight in a riverfront Molson warehouse; Concerto for Radio Host and Orchestra, featuring Radio-Canada broadcaster René Homier-Roy as spoken-voice soloist; the Concert à l’aveugle, featuring the Electric Candlelight Concerto of John Anthony Lennon. Sixties clothing was recommended for that party.
Sometimes the music was bundled with social awareness. In Nagano’s first season, we heard The General, an oratorio interweaving theatrical music by Beethoven with words based on the Rwanda memoirs of Roméo Dallaire. Later came post-tragedy outreach concerts in Montreal North and Lac-Mégantic….
Ten years later, to open what would be his last full season, Nagano chose Chaakapesh, the Trickster’s Quest, an opera on a First Nations subject by Tomson Highway (words) and Matthew Ricketts (music). This also went to the Far North. With, of course, a camera crew.
Not that media trimmings are needed to produce a worthwhile experience. All the hype would be worthless in the absence of something musical to say….