The Orchestre symphonique de Québec broadcast its first concert of the year on Thursday evening, recorded a day earlier at the Grand Théâtre, a concert marking the debut in the capital of the Anglo-Canadian conductor Tania Miller, director emeritus of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 was the core of the program, preceded by a few “hors d’oeuvres” featuring violinist Mark Fewer. It’s hard to understand why we – as far as we are concerned – had never heard of Tania Miller. She is a true artist with a remarkable intelligence of the text and a beautiful sensitivity. She succeeds in giving coherence to Sibelius’s score, which is not given in advance given its often fragmented and profuse character.
The beginning of the first movement begins with a very subtle solo by clarinetist Stéphane Fontaine, whose almost impalpable pianissimos admirably set the table for what was to follow. The conductor adopts generally quite wide tempos, which suits this work very well in the immediate wake of Tchaikovsky. This does not prevent her from sparring an exhilarating più stretto (a kind of accelerando) a little further in the movement. A special mention also for Andante, in which the conductor demonstrates an innate sense of song.
The evening had previously started with Aaron Copland’;s famous Fanfare for the Common Man, post-Pearl Harbor patriotic rallying music, and then with the equally famous “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, chained almost directly.
The three Episodes for violin and strings by Quebecer Serge Arcuri were a nice surprise. It is a dark work, without concession, with pleasantly raw dissonances. Conductor and soloist delivered a convincing interpretation, but it seemed to us that the soloist could have varied the climates more by putting more aggressiveness, more hardness in the rapid movements.
In Zigeunerweisen, by Pablo Sarasate, Mark Fewer has, as it should be, displayed panache, even going with a few ornaments of his own. If the sixteenth notes in the treble are not always clear in the final part, the musician nonetheless demonstrates a great bond with the conductor and the orchestra.