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Nothing is more depressing than a disillusioned orchestral musician: he’s a little loose in his chair, he delivers the expected professional level, but without compromise and, above all, without really looking at his conductor. Does that surprise you? In fact, a fraction of a second out of the corner of his eye is enough for him to be mechanically anchored to the rest of the orchestra.

Posted at 8:15 am

We have seen orchestras cope with frayed and wounded relationships with their conductor.

On December 8 I had the privilege of witnessing exactly the opposite: a love story, still young and full of promise, between an orchestra and its conductor.

” Good morning ! Let’s make some music first. »

The musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM) welcome Rafael Payare, for this first rehearsal under their direction in weeks, with a smile and rubbing their feet on the floor, a nice way to show their joy, when you have an instrument in hand. hands.

The music for that day is the first symphony by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, from which they will begin by playing the entire first movement.

“Impressive and vast”: this is what I say to myself at the end of the movement. Musicians of great caliber, well prepared, attentive to their conductor, can already interpret the score convincingly.

The director begins by congratulating the clarinettist on the solo that opens the work: a very simple gesture of recognition, a hand placed on the chest and then extended towards the musician.

Rafael Payare is a trumpeter, a delicate instrument to master, often loaded with dangerous solos: he was an orchestral musician and he knows how ungrateful that can be.

Then he has the clarinettist pick up from the beginning, asking him to very slightly tighten a motif here, to barely modulate the tempo there.

With Payare, the principle is simple: first we recognize what the musician offers, varying the languages: Beautiful sound! Wunderbar! Fantastic ! Sometimes with a kiss, sent from afar.

This recognition is always followed by a “now”, and this is where the real work begins.

In a passage, you can choose to isolate three or four groups of instruments to clarify their interrelationship, specifying how one line should punctuate the other on a speed-up, for example.

The effect is simple and immediate: the musicians involved suddenly hear clearly what they need to consider, and the rest of the orchestra listens to colleagues. Everyone will be more attentive when the time comes to resume the game together.

This is how, little by little, what was “impressive and vast” becomes a statement, a story. Think of a director shooting a crowd scene. The ground is packed, but it should have us following the story: picking up the tension in a couple, brushing past a group of teenagers talking happily as they walk, stopping at an old man who seems lost… then back at the couple walking away.

The director must do the same with his score; he cuts out the landscape, layer by layer, directing our attention to the elements that will allow us to follow the thread of the work.


PHOTO ANTOINE SAITO, SUPPLIED BY RADIO-CANADA

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra

After the break, Rafael (he prefers his first name to the pompous teacher) jumps to his podium and very clearly says “third movement”, showing… two fingers. Several musicians opt for the figure heard, others for the figure shown. He gives us a chaotic beginning, followed by a fit of laughter: the director makes fun of himself, does a brief diction exercise with the word “second” –a challenge for Spanish speakers–, then tenderly resumes the movement.

From the beginning, he will take care of the tapestry of horns, double basses and harp: a serious and calm chord that will sustain the melody.

Then he draws the phrase entrusted to the violins, then asks for a more active listening between them and the cellos: “You are far away, you have to connect. Little by little, the landscape takes shape, more and more in movement.

Marvelous ! This will be the last comment for this morning. They all smile.

In three hours, two movements of a symphony took shape, because dozens of musicians offered their attention and talent to a charismatic and pleasant conductor.

Radio-Canada television will present a program called The OSM and Rafael Payare: the extraordinary meeting, Saturday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto, performed by Inon Barnatan, and the classical symphony Prokofiev’s are on the program, as well as an interview in French that I had the pleasure of conducting with Rafael Payare last December, immediately after this essay.

The show a whole music will broadcast the concert on April 26, at 8:00 p.m., on Ici Musique.

Thanks to OSM, Radio-Canada and Chief Technician François Goupil for the sound clips.

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