A treasure trove of musical Canadiana awaits the steadfast listener who seeks a (Western) classical contemporary canon from true north shores. Despite the few generations of composers who could claim such affiliations, an impressive array of works exist from the last 50 years, especially those written in Quebec. Among French Canada’s most distinguished 20th-century composers, the late Jacques Hétu is revered for his prowess as orchestral colourist. Formidably, he penned no less than 15 concertos for a variety of instruments. Hétu once remarked: “My taste for the concerto is directly linked to the genre of drama; the soloist is a singer, and the concerto his or her stage.”
A recent all-Hétu recording spotlights the indomitable dream team of pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre and trombonist/conductor, Alain Trudel. Trudel brings his irrepressible artistry to the collaboration, setting the stage for a creative synergy. He wields a keen, razor-sharp sense of pacing, as he ferries the Orchestre symphonique de Laval from one striking Hétu work to another, brimful with devotion and panache. (The tone poem, Sur les rives du Saint-Maurice, Op.78, is also included, again proving Hétu’s mastery of orchestration, arguably his finest gift.)
The stalwart Sylvestre rollicks in a commanding realization of the second piano concerto. The keyboard writing that inspired Hétu seems a near-blood relation to music by Prokofiev. For the final work, Trudel conjoins baton and trombone, dazzling our ears with a golden, luscious reading of Hétu’s concerto for that instrument.