Montreal usually cultivates a good musical neighborhood with the Canadian capital. Friday night’s Orchester Métropolitain (OM) concert was no exception, with an Ottawa conductor and soloist living up to their reputation.

Britain’s Alexander Shelley has been Music Director of the National Arts Center Orchestra (NAC) in Ottawa for almost ten years. One of Canada’s finest violinists at the age of 26, Kerson Leong hails from the Ontario town. Their meeting on the same stage could only bode well.

Leong has accustomed us to a sensitive playing, a velvet sonority and a disarming facility in the most virtuoso lines. His Concerto in D major, opus 35, by Tchaikovsky, presented in the first part, once again showed us these great qualities.

That said, the rather lyrical, fairly slack approach that Leong takes may not appeal to everyone. It is, say, more on the side of David Oïstrakh than that of Jascha Heifetz, two of the historical interpreters of the work, the first playing it in some six minutes longer than the second (which is really not nothing for a work of about thirty minutes!).

Without saying that the guest of OM extends, he nevertheless tends to really allow time for each sentence, not to say each note, to sound. With such a beautiful sound, hard to complain.

But the first movement is still an allegro, even if the composer adds the indication “moderato”. So we have a taste for something a little more lively, less detailed. Ditto in the finale, called “vivacissimo” (very lively). Shelley’s fitting accompaniment therefore sometimes seemed clumsy.

The slow movement (not so slow, it’s still an andante) was nevertheless very satisfying. Perhaps not as much, however, as the encore offered by the violinist, Sonata No. 3 in D minor, known as “Ballade”, by Eugène Ysaÿe, which Leong recently recorded at Alpha. A big moment.

Alexander Shelley had explained from the start of the concert, only in French, the ins and outs of the second part, consisting of My Name is Amande Todd by Jocelyn Morlock and the Suite du Chevalier à la rose, by Richard Strauss.

A magnificent elegy with areas of shadow and light. To follow it with the fairly carefree music of the Rosenkavalier creates a certain hiatus…

The conductor of the NAC Orchestra, who conducted the Strauss from memory, gave us a lively, passionate interpretation, with many contrasts between the different sections. The Metropolitan, exceptionally led by the excellent concertmaster Oleg Larshin, was quite up to the task.