This Wednesday, August 5th in Montreal marks the kickoff of the 4th annual Festival Virée Classique - the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's Classical Spree. The festival itself is a series of short concerts, 30 to 45 minutes long, laid out in a near-marathon over the weekend of August 7th and 8th.
Maestro Kent Nagano, Music Director of the OSM, prefers the French "virée classique" to the English "classical spree". Virée is a term generally used in French for negotiating a sharp turn in an automobile. "I love that expression because we take several sharp turns through all kinds of different, contrasting areas of repertoire, and the turns are short and fast and exciting like a roller coaster. Going through these turns you collide with or confront a whole slew of musical styles, musical types of performances, different sorts of contexts in which music might be experienced."
The Festival is also an opportunity to explore some more adventurous programming, the combination of beloved classics with newer works. When asked about the unconventional pieces on the program, the Maestro responded, "Passion is defined by the fact that it's short lived. When we faced a need to renew our audiences about 12 years ago, we decided we should focus on that which is not tied to time - that is to say, quality. Great music...flies above time. The 5th Symphony of Beethoven, which we are performing, is not tied to the early 1800's when it was written, it's above time. It's relevant in the 21st century, just as it was relevant in the 20th century, just as it was relevant in the 19th century. The themes contained within of freedom, individual rights, equality, these themes couldn't be more in harmony with the issues that we're facing in the various world conflicts in our time."