Victoria Symphony’s Tania Miller
& guitarist Sharon Isbin
& guitarist Sharon Isbin
The widely-recorded American classical guitarist Sharon Isbin has performed just about everywhere, including at the White House and at Ground Zero, and now she will finally perform with the MCO!
Isbin’s acclaim is legendary. One small resumé item: in 1989, she founded the Juilliard School guitar department! Anne Manson: “This is a chance to hear at last this venerated guitarist, who has had a celebrated international career for years, in a huge range of repertoire.”
Victoria Symphony’s Tania Miller has also been on our wish list for some time. The charismatic conductor has transformed that orchestra into a “technically superior instrument” since taking the reins there 11 seasons ago. She’ll love the MCO!
The repertoire for this concert is wildly varied — everything from guitar transcriptions of baroque works to contemporary pieces, even Billy’s Theme from The Departed — all of which will be no problem for Tania Miller.
Miller has a deep belief in expanding the repertoire, and has commissioned works from DJs, rap artists, Japanese percussionists and First Nations singers to perform with the Victoria Symphony.
“Her impresario’s approach draws freely from the world around her.” — Ottawa Citizen
The concert begins at 7:30 pm on May 19th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors and $10 for students, including GST, at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave) or MCO’s Ticketline (204.783.7377).
Check out the ‘Extras’ tab below for Haley Rempel’s ‘Two-minute Talks, ‘On Antonio Vivaldi’ and ‘The Year 1685’. Haley’s videos are available on most concert pages.
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
19 May 2015
Tania Miller, guest conductor
Sharon Isbin, guitar
Concerto grosso No. 12, in D Minor
— ‘La Follia’
Concerto for Lute in D Major (RV 93)
— arranged for guitar
Trio Sonata in C Major (RV 82)
— transposed into A Major and arranged for guitar
Billy’s Theme, from The Departed,
for guitar, strings and rhythm guitar
Aaron Jay Kernis
La Jalousie Taciturne
Concert sponsor / Gail Asper Family Foundation
Guest artist sponsor / Quadrant Asset Management
Print media sponsor / Winnipeg Free Press
Radio media sponsors / CBC Radio 2 98.3, CBC Radio One 990,
Espace musique 89,9, Classic 107.1 FM and Golden West Radio
In 2013/14, Tania Miller celebrated her eleventh season as Music Director of the Victoria Symphony, a position she has occupied with great distinction and growing acclaim. As the first Canadian woman to be Music Director of a major symphony orchestra, Tania Miller is used to blazing new paths in classical music. She continues to pursue innovation and quality for the Victoria Symphony as the orchestra looks toward celebration of its 75th anniversary in the 2015/16 season. At the same time, she pursues an active guest-conducting schedule with orchestras in North America and abroad, with upcoming debuts in Seattle, Tucson and Wroclaw, Poland. Prior to going to Victoria, Ms Miller spent four seasons as Associate and Assistant Conductor with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Bramwell Tovey. She worked with Bruno Weil as Assistant Conductor of the Carmel (CA) Bach Festival for four seasons and led the contemporary chamber orchestra ERGO for several seasons with concerts in Toronto, New York and Munich. Her first passion was opera; she conducted numerous productions for Michigan Opera Works in Ann Arbor (where she served as Artistic Director) and Opera McGill in Montréal.
Ms Miller is committed to expanding the repertoire through commissions and premieres, and collaborates closely with composers at every stage of the creative process. During her first decade with the Victoria Symphony, the orchestra presented over fifty world or Canadian premieres, of which 37 were commissioned by the VS.
Tania Miller is an engaging communicator — about music and through music. She has a reputation as a convincing interpreter of repertoire of all types. She combines a focus on detail with a grasp of the big picture, and colourful, confident musicality. Over the past eleven years, Ms Miller has built an extraordinary collaborative relationship with the members of the Victoria Symphony.
As William Littler put it in the Toronto Star in 2013, “For the past decade, Tania Miller has presided quietly over the transformation of a modest community orchestra on Canada’s West Coast into an ensemble of some distinction.”
Acclaimed for her extraordinary lyricism, technique and versatility, multiple GRAMMY Award winner Sharon Isbin has been hailed as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time.” She is also the winner of Guitar Player magazine’s Best Classical Guitarist award, and the Toronto and Madrid Queen Sofia competitions, and was the first guitarist to win the Munich Competition. She has appeared as soloist with over 170 orchestras and has given sold-out performances in the world’s finest halls, including New York’s Carnegie and Avery Fisher Halls, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, London’s Barbican and Wigmore Halls, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Paris’ Châtelet, Vienna’s Musikverein, Munich’s Herkulessaal, Madrid’s Teatro Real, and many others. She has served as Artistic Director/Soloist of festivals she created for Carnegie Hall and the Ordway Music Theatre (St. Paul), her own series at New York’s 92nd Street Y, and the acclaimed national radio series Guitarjam. She is a frequent guest on national radio programs including All Things Considered and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. She has been profiled on television throughout the world, including CBS Sunday Morning and A&E. She was a featured guest on Showtime Television’s hit series The L Word, and was the only classical artist to perform on the 2010 GRAMMY Awards. She performed as featured soloist on the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning film, The Departed.
Among other career highlights, Sharon performed at Ground Zero on September 11, 2002, for the internationally televised memorial, and in concert at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama in November 2009. She has been profiled in periodicals from People to Elle, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, as well as on the cover of over 45 magazines. A one-hour documentary on her, titled Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, produced by Susan Dangel, premieres in 2014.
Ms Isbin’s catalogue of over 25 recordings — from baroque, Spanish/Latin and 20th-century to crossover and jazz-fusion — reflects remarkable versatility. Her latest recording, Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions (Sony) became a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and includes guest rock/jazz guitarist Steve Vai and others.
Sharon Isbin has expanded the guitar repertoire with some of the finest new works of this century and last, commissioning and premiering more concerti than any other guitarist, as well as numerous solo and chamber works. Her American Landscapes (EMI) is the first-ever recording of American guitar concerti and features works written for her by John Corigliano, Joseph Schwantner and Lukas Foss. In November 1995, it was launched in the space shuttle Atlantis and presented to Russian cosmonauts during a rendezvous with Mir. Upcoming premieres in 2015 include a work for guitar and orchestra by Chris Brubeck.
Born in Minneapolis, Sharon Isbin received B.A. and Master of Music degrees from Yale. She is Director of the guitar departments at the Aspen Music Festival and The Juilliard School (which she created in 1989). In her spare time, Ms Isbin enjoys trekking in the jungles of Latin America, cross-country skiing, snorkeling and mountain hiking.
One of Canada’s most frequently performed and broadcast composers, John Estacio has served as Composer-in-Residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Calgary Opera. These residencies yielded several works, many of which can be found on the CD entitled Frenergy, the Music of John Estacio. This CD earned Estacio two JUNO nominations and a Western Canadian Music Award. His frequent performances and broadcasts have earned him several SOCAN Concert Music Awards.
Estacio is the recent recipient of the National Arts Centre Award for Composers, which will result in three commissioned works for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. His most recent opera, Lillian Alling, premiered in Vancouver in 2010. His first opera, Filumena, has been remounted five times, and was filmed for television.
In the 2010/11 season, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra gave the Carnegie Hall premiere of Frenergy. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet featured several of Estacio’s orchestral works in a new ballet, Wonderland, with choreography by Shawn Hounsell.
Estacio recently completed a cantata for chorus and orchestra, and a Sinfonietta for the Victoria Symphony. He has also written for the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. His works have been performed by the Houston Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Manila Symphony, and his choral work Eulogies has entered the repertoire of several choirs. His arrangements of seven songs by Jean Sibelius were performed by Ben Heppner and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in London and Paris.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation commissioned Such Sweet Sorrow for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The premiere performance was given 7 February 2001 by conductor Roy Goodman and the MCO.
Howard Shore is among today’s most respected, honoured, and active composers and music conductors. His work with Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings trilogy stands as his most towering achievement to date, earning him three Academy Awards. He has also been honoured with four Grammy and three Golden Globe awards. Shore was one of the original creators of Saturday Night Live, and served as the show’s music director from 1975 to 1980. At the same time, he began collaborating with David Cronenberg and has scored 14 of the director’s films, including Cosmopolis, The Fly, Crash, and Naked Lunch. His original scores to A Dangerous Method, Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers were each honoured with a Genie Award. Shore continues to distinguish himself with a wide range of projects, from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, The Departed, The Aviator and Gangs of New York to Ed Wood, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Doubtfire.
Shore’s music has been performed throughout the world. In 2003, Shore conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Wellington. Since then, the Symphony and The Lord of the Rings — Live to Projection concerts have had over 285 performances by the world’s most important orchestras.
In 2008, Howard Shore’s opera The Fly premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Los Angeles Opera. Among recent works are the piano concerto Ruin and Memory for Lang Lang, premiered with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in 2010 and Fanfare for the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. He has most recently worked on a second opera and a film of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Aaron Jay Kernis
When, in 1983, the New York Philharmonic premiered Dream of the Morning Sky from the pen of 23-year-old composer Aaron Jay Kernis, it resulted in national acclaim. Thirty years later, Kernis is among the most fêted of living composers, having passed from youthful phenomenon to potent and original artist, possessed of a lyrical yet sophisticated voice. “With each new work and new recording,” says the San Francisco Chronicle, “Kernis solidifies his position as the most important traditional-minded composer of his generation. Others may be exploring the musical frontiers more restlessly, but no one else is writing music quite this vivid or powerfully direct.”
One of the youngest composers ever to receive a Pulitzer Prize (1998) for his String Quartet No. 2 (Musica instrumentalis), and the youngest awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition (2002) for his work Colored Field and the Nemmers Prize (2012), Kernis has also won honours from ASCAP, BMI, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Stoeger Prize, and the American Academy in Rome. Forbes Magazine has written: “In the 20th Century there were giants in the land: Ives, Ellington, Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein. But who is filling those shoes now? Heading many lists is Aaron Jay Kernis … who has written distinctive, vivid music in virtually every genre.”
Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Kernis, largely self taught on violin, piano, and composition, attended the San Francisco Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music, and Yale University, working along the way with a diverse array of teachers including John Adams, Charles Wuorinen, Morton Subotnick, Bernard Rands, and Jacob Druckman.
“The world now has something rare: a new genuinely comic opera and maybe the most inventive Oscar Wilde opera since Richard Strauss’ Salome more than a century ago.” — Los Angeles Times on The Importance of Being Earnest.
Gerald Barry was born in Ireland in 1952, and after attending University College Dublin went to Amsterdam and later Cologne to continue his studies. His time in Germany, where he studied with Stockhausen and Kagel, proved to be a liberating experience, and he soon came to public attention in 1979 with his radical ensemble works, ‘________’ and ‘Ø.’
The Importance of Being Earnest was jointly commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican in London, and received its world premiere staging at Opera national de Lorraine-Nancy in 2013. Two further productions were staged the same year at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre, and on tour with the Northern Ireland Opera. Earnest received a 2013 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Large-Scale Composition, and a recording will be released on NMC in 2014.
Among his numerous other works, including many commissions from the BBC, is Barry’s opera The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, written for the UK’s Channel 4 Television. It opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival and had subsequent performances in London and the Berliner Festwochen conducted by Thomas Ades; a new staging took place in 2013 at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe.
Barry’s Piano Concerto, written for Nicolas Hodges and co-commissioned by Musica Viva (Munich) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was premiered in Munich in 2013. Three performances are planned for 2014 with Hodges, including the UK premiere with the CBSO and the Finnish premiere with Avanti Chamber Orchestra.
Such Sweet Sorrow
The CBC commissioned Such Sweet Sorrow for the MCO. The premiere performance was given on 7 February 2001 with conductor Roy Goodman. The composer has supplied the following note:
In many ways, I consider Such Sweet Sorrow to be a companion piece to another work I wrote for Winnipeg audiences, Saudades (1993). Both pieces were written while my life was in a state of flux, complete with a change of living location, a change in my personal life, a change of jobs, and a change in the people with whom I socially interacted. In retrospect, I can only assume that I have composed both works to serve as security blankets as I plowed through into a new life. This piece is a personal and melancholic requiem for the life I left behind.
This commission gave me the opportunity to compose my own lyrical Adagio for Strings, a rare treat as I have scored most of my work for full orchestra. The piece follows two thematic ideas; the first is introduced in the very opening measures of the work, a simple melody that expands over the ensuing 29 measures. The lower strings play the second melody, while a solo violin elaborates rhapsodically. With the two themes introduced, the piece undergoes a development of these melodic ideas, at times with serenity and calm, at other times with impassioned restlessness.
The middle of the piece features solos for the cello, viola and violin, solos that draw the piece to its climatic statement, a fiery juxtaposition of both the thematic ideas. Gradually, the intensity abates into a brief passage that has some of the players performing out of sync with each other. The piece eventually concludes with the solo violin and cello performing the opening theme in unison.
Concerto grosso in D Minor, ‘La Follia’
Geminiani earned acclaim on several fronts: he was one of the greatest violinists of his era, a composer of original and expressive music, and a teacher whose influence passed to countless others through his widely circulated and highly esteemed book, The Art of Playing the Violin (1751). He published several sets of concerti grossi, which he scored for two groups of strings, the smaller concertino and the larger ripieno. His being an exceptional violinist meant that he regularly gave the first violin of the concertino group the lion’s share of the major thematic material, and the most frequent opportunities for solo display.
Some of the concertos are transcriptions of sonatas for violin and continuo by his teacher, Arcangelo Corelli. The original Corelli sonata that Geminiani used as the basis for this concerto (Op. 5 No. 12) is a set of variations on a traditional and widely familiar melody, possibly of Spanish origin, known as La Follia. Geminiani’s arrangement takes Corelli’s ingenuity and virtuosity a step further, creating a dazzling showcase for the full ensemble.
Guitar Concerto in D Major, RV 93
and Trio Sonata in C Major, RV 82
Vivaldi played a major role in several significant musical developments, the rise of the concerto above all. His 500-plus concertos feature a wide variety of soloists, singly or in combination. The guitar as it is known today didn’t exist in his time. It was a humble, five-stringed folk instrument not deemed worthy of a serious composer’s attention. That status would change in the decades following his death. He composed for the guitar’s aristocratic predecessor, the lute, and his lute music sounds totally at home on a modern concert guitar. He frequently wrote for other string instruments, such as the mandolin and theorbo, whose sound is produced exclusively by plucking.
He composed this Concerto in D Major (originally for lute and small string orchestra) on commission from Count Wrtby, a wealthy patron who lived in Prague, Bohemia. Wrtby had chosen an excellent man to carry out his commissions. Vivaldi wrote for solo lute at many times during his life, and the very fact that he would elevate the lute from continuo to solo instrument speaks to both his confidence in, and his mastery of, its resources. In this concerto, two swift, sunny outer movements frame a slow section tinged with lyrical melancholy.
Count Wrtby also commissioned two trio sonatas for lute, violin, and continuo from Vivaldi, who composed more than 20 works of this intimate type. The two that Wrtby commissioned are the only ones not to include woodwinds. The commission has led some authorities to conclude that Vivaldi composed these sonatas during the early 1730s, because he was probably present at Czech revivals of his operas during that period, and Wrtby died in 1734. This Trio in C Major follows the same formal and emotional pattern as the Concerto, but on a smaller, more transparent scale. Compared with the second movement of the concerto, the corresponding portion of the sonata bears a more profound depth of sadness.
Billy’s Theme from The Departed
The Departed (2006) won four Academy Awards: best picture, best director (Martin Scorsese), best adapted screenplay and best film editing. This crime drama follows Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), an undercover federal police agent who has infiltrated a vicious Irish gang but comes to have conflicted feelings about his involvement with them. Howard Shore’s sweet and lyrical theme for the character stands in stark contrast to the film’s violence and powerful drama. Tonight’s soloist, Sharon Isbin, performed it on the original soundtrack of the film.
Aaron Jay Kernis
Musica Celestis (Celestial Music) is the composer’s transcription for string orchestra of the slow movement from String Quartet No. 1 (1990). He wrote that “it is inspired by the medieval conception of that phrase which refers to the singing of the angels in heaven in praise of God without end. (“The office of singing pleases God if it is performed with an attentive mind, when in this way we imitate the choirs of angels who are said to sing the Lord’s praises without ceasing.” — Aurelian of Réöme, translated by Barbara Newman). I don’t particularly believe in angels, but found this to be a potent image that has been reinforced by listening to a good deal of medieval music, especially the soaring work of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). This movement follows a simple, spacious melody and harmonic pattern through a number of variations (like a passacaglia) and modulations, and is framed by an introduction and codas.”
La Jalousie Taciturne
Barry composed La Jalousie Taciturne for string orchestra in 1996. It was commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra. The title is taken from a harpsichord suite (or ordre) by the French baroque composer François Couperin (1668-1733). It is one of the folies françoises that describe costumes worn by guests at a masked ball — in this case “taciturn jealousy in a dove-grey costume.” Barry has also written that his composition “refers to the sullen jealousy of material collected for the writing of music. It guards its secrets and gives them up reluctantly.”
The music shifts frequently, and often abruptly, between passages of demonic frenzy and uneasy whimsy. At times, its aggressive chagrin is barely held in check, as angry energy wages war against moderation. In the concluding section the level of activity and passion rises to new heights for a blistering, virtuosic close.
Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, trailer for documentary
— produced by Susan Dangel
Haley Rempel, two-minute talk
Number 17: ‘On Antonio Vivaldi’
Haley Rempel, two-minute talk
Number 12: ‘The Year 1685’
Praised for her warm tone and expressive playing, Canadian flutist Haley Rempel is gaining reputation for her sophisticated interpretations as well as her unique ability to capture audiences. Haley facilitates the MCO’s Pizza Club events.