Chooi brothers, MCO



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There’s something sport-like about classical music’s soloist arena, with its emphasis on young prize-winners performing super-human feats of speed and dexterity. In the brilliant Chooi brothers (Timothy & Nikki) we have Canada’s musical equivalent of the NFL’s Manning brothers; decorated virtuosos who will go down as being among the most talented Canadian siblings in the classical music arena.

Perhaps you saw them when they brought the house down at our September 2019 concert, or maybe you caught Timothy playing under the baton of Itzhak Perlman in Juilliard’s virtual group performance of Elgar. In any case, we hope you won’t miss this incredible duo at our March 22 and 23 concerts, where they perform on a program that runs the gamut from Baroque to contemporary. One of those works is Michael Oesterle’s Snow White. Michael has arranged the piece, written originally for our Guest Artist-in-Residence, Aisslinn Nosky, for two violins. We premiere the new arrangement at this concert.

On the baroque menu is Geminiani’s La Folia and Vivaldi’s double violin concerto in A minor from his L’estro armonico collection. About this monumental works for strings, The Guardian writes that the collection disproves “the accusation that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto hundreds of times.” The A minor double violin concerto is, in any case, a piece that deserves to be heard at least a hundred times. Another baroque piece we’ve had on repeat is Corelli’s fiery La Folia, which Evelyn Glennie performs on marimba on the MCO’s acclaimed Mirage? album. At this concert we present the concerto grosso in its most familiar form, as a heated dialogue between string soloists and baroque orchestra.

An evening of rousing music and soaring talent from some of Canada’s top musicians.

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster Church in Wolseley
Tuesday & Wednesday, 22 & 23 March 2022
Online presentation April 6th thru April 20th

Luc Beauséjour, harpsichord and leader
Nikki Chooi, violin
Timothy Chooi, violin

Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto for 2 Violins in A minor, RV 522

Johann Sebastian Bach
Harpsichord concerto No. 5, in F minor BWV 1056

Michael Oesterle
Snow White
World premiere performance of this arrangement, commissioned by the MCO with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts

Francesco Geminiani
Concerto Grosso in d minor, H. 143 ‘La Folia’

JS Bach
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048

Season sponsor / CN
March 22nd concert sponsor / Wawanesa Insurance
March 22nd Concertmaster sponsor / Don Streuber
Volunteer sponsor / MB Liquor Mart
Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press

Luc Beauséjour

Never short of ideas when it comes to offering concert programs imbued with authenticity and refinement, Luc Beauséjour is an exceptional harpsichordist and organist. “The naturalness of his harpsichord playing, the remarkable attention he gives to proportions and to a singing quality have made him a one-of-a-kind artist” (Le Devoir).

He is a highly sought-after musician not only for his virtuosity and subtlety of playing, but also for his outgoing personality and the ease with which he communicates with audiences. Luc Beauséjour leads a very active performing career. He has appeared as a soloist in North and South America as well as in Europe. He was named ‘Performer of the Year’ by the Conseil québécois de la musique and has won Félix awards for two different recordings at the Gala de l’ADISQ in Québec. His love of Bach’s music has led him to perform ‘The Cantor’s’ works for harpsichord and for organ almost in their entirety. As a soloist or musical director, Beauséjour has over 40 recording projects to his name, and he has worked with many internationally acclaimed artists, including Julie Boulianne, Karina Gauvin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, James Ehnes, Hélène Guilmette, Philippe Sly, and Hervé Niquet. Since 1994, he has been the artistic director of the ensemble Clavecin en concert, whose mission is to promote music written for the harpsichord both as a solo instrument and as part of an orchestra. Teaching is also an important part of Beauséjour’s musical activities. He is a music professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and at the University of Montreal.

Nikki Chooi

Praised for his passionate and poetic performances, Canadian-American violinist Nikki Chooi has established himself as an artist of rare versatility. Described as “expressive, enchanting, and transcendent,” he is currently Concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and has previously served as Concertmaster of the Met Opera Orchestra.

Nikki received critical acclaim in recent engagements at the Harris Theatre in Chicago, Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall and Kauffman Center in New York, Koerner Hall in Toronto, Place des Arts in Montreal, as well as appearing as soloist with every major orchestra in Canada and internationally with the St. Petersburg State Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Wallonie, National Orchestra of Belgium, Auckland Philharmonia, Malaysian Philharmonic, and Hong Kong Philharmonic.

Nikki has been featured at many international festivals with performances at the Marlboro Festival, Ravinia Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Vancouver Recital Series, Moritzburg Festival, Kammermusik Utrecht, Dresden Music Festival, Olympus Festival in Russia, Chamber Music New Zealand, and Fundación Beethoven in Chile. Previously a member of the multi-genre ensemble, Time for Three, the group collaborated with From the Top and Universal Music releasing an arrangement of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off to record-breaking views on YouTube.

A passionate educator, Nikki has presented masterclasses at the San Francisco Conservatory, Morningside Music Program at the New England Conservatory, Orchestra of the Americas Academy, Sphinx Academy at the Curtis Institute of Music, Hong Kong Cultural Center, and the University of Auckland. A recipient of prizes at the Queen Elisabeth and Tchaikovsky Competitions, Nikki was the first Prize Winner of the Montreal Symphony’s ManuLife Competition, the Klein International Strings Competition, and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

He released his debut album of works by Prokofiev, Ravel, and Gershwin on the Atoll Label.

Timothy Chooi

Powerful and finely nuanced interpretations, sumptuous sonorities, and a compelling stage presence are just a few hallmarks of internationally acclaimed violinist Timothy Chooi. A popular soloist and recitalist, he is sought after as much for his passionate performances as for his wide-ranging repertoire. Recent honours include prizes from Belgium’s world-renowned Queen Elisabeth Competition, Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition in Germany; and the 2018 Schadt Violin Competition in the USA. In 2018, Chooi also won the ‘Prix Yves Paternot’ of Switzerland’s Verbier Festival, earning Chooi his future debut as a solo artist in the 2022 Verbier Festival.

Future engagements include returns to the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, National Arts Centre, and the Belgian National Orchestras, as well as debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra and Mikhail Pletnev, DSO Berlin, Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt, Saarländisches Staatsorchester, and the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming recitals see Chooi performing in cities worldwide, including a European tour with Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Recent performances include engagements with The Belgian National Orchestra, Luxembourg Chamber Orchestra, and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal; a live recital on New York City’s WQXR classical radio station; and recital tours of Belgium and the United States. In addition to having performed with every major orchestra in his home country of Canada, Timothy Chooi has played with the Brussels Philharmonic under Stéphane Denève, with Santa Barbara Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Liége, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also made an extensive recital tour with Jeunesses Musicales du Canada, appeared at the Ravinia Festival, and made his Carnegie Hall debut.

In addition to his 2019 and 2018 awards, Timothy Chooi’s numerous honors include prizes at the Michael Hill Violin Competition in New Zealand and the Montreal Symphony Manulife Competition. He won the EMCY Prize at the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition and the Vadim Repin Scholarship Award in New York.

Timothy is a founding member of The VISION Collective, an ensemble of musicians and composers that uses music to highlight refugee and immigrant voices and stories, raising awareness for the global refugee crisis, and bringing together people from all walks of life to create diverse and meaningful art. He received the 2020 Harold W. McGraw Family Foundation’s The Robert Sherman Award for Music Education and Community Outreach.

Chooi studied at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Catherine Cho. His mentors include Ida Kavafian, Pamela Frank, Pinchas Zukerman, Pamela Frank, and Patinka Kopec. He is currently enrolled in Juilliard’s prestigious Artist Diploma program studying with Catherine Cho and is a Professional Studies candidate at the Kronberg Academy with Christian Tetzlaff.

Timothy Chooi is a Professor of Violin at the University of Ottawa. He performs on the 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius on generous loan from the Canada Council for the Arts and is a recipient of the Nippon Music Foundation Rare Instrument Project from the Government of Japan.

Michael Oesterle

Michael Oesterle, born in 1968, is a Canadian composer living in Deux-Montagnes Quebec. He has composed a variety of projects for Continuum Contemporary Music, Soundstreams, and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. He is closely associated with Quatuor Bozzini, with whom he has collaborated for the past 25 years. A significant period in his musical life was his role as co-founder/director of Ensemble Kore, a Montreal based new music ensemble which produced innovative concerts between 1996 and 2008.

Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor, RV 522
Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi’s busy and productive career as composer, violinist and teacher drew its due share of acclaim. One measure of his renown is the fact that his brilliant contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach, did him the honour of transcribing several of his concertos, including RV 522.

Vivaldi played a major role in several significant musical developments, the rise of the concerto above all. His 500-plus concertos—he holds the record for the highest number, by a wide margin—feature a large variety of soloists. As you would expect, the lion’s share, more than 200, focus on the instrument he played himself, the violin.

His catalogue includes some 40 concertos for more than one featured soloist, all the way up to the Concerto grosso in C Major, K 555, which calls for no fewer than 17 of them! The original version of the bustling and wistful concerto you will hear at this concert featured a solo violin and a solo cello. Today you will hear the solo roles taken by two violins. The concerto first appeared as the eighth piece in the set of 12 concertos for strings to which Vivaldi gave the overall title L’estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration). It was first published in Amsterdam in 1711 as his Opus 3.

Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056
Johann Sebastian Bach

In 1729, Bach added to his numerous responsibilities at the St. Thomas School in Leipzig by launching what proved to be a decade-long term as the supervisor of the Collegium Musicum (Musical Fraternity). The ranks of this volunteer ensemble were made up of talented university students and amateur performers, augmented on occasion with professional musicians. His good and greatly esteemed friend, Georg Philipp Telemann, had founded it in 1702.

When Bach took over, it was giving public evening concerts during the winter months at a coffee-house owned by Gottfried Zimmerman, and on summer afternoons in a garden. It blossomed under Bach’s expert direction, a development that gave him enormous satisfaction during a period when his primary duties were causing him a great deal of grief. He most likely created his keyboard concertos to be performed at these events, where they are known to have been performed.

The concerts presented highly diverse programs, from solo and chamber music to cantatas and other vocal works, orchestral pieces and concertos. Composers from all across Europe were represented, and when eminent musicians such as Johann Adolph Hasse, Franz Benda, Johann Gottlieb Graun and Jan Dismas Zelenka visited the city, they brought additional prestige to the concerts by performing their own music at them.

Bach created 13 concertos for one or more keyboards, plus strings and continuo. They are among the earliest surviving pieces of their kind. The soloists at the Collegium performances were often his talented sons, his finest pupils—and himself.

He appears to have conceived only one of them, the Concerto for Two Keyboards, BWV 1061, specifically for that instrumental combination. It’s likely that he based all but one of the others on his own previously existing concertos for a variety of instruments. The odd piece out in the latter group is the Concerto for Four Keyboards, BWV 1065. He transcribed it, as a gesture of respect, from his revered contemporary Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins, RV 580.

Despite being the shortest of the keyboard concertos, the Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056, is a sturdy and substantial work. The outer movements appear to have originated in a long-lost oboe concerto. The jewel is the slow second movement, which Bach also used in Cantata No. 156. One of his most beautiful and most familiar creations, it is often referred to simply as Arioso (in singing style). The strings play pizzicato throughout most of this movement, delicately supporting the soloist’s lyrical song. The finale rekindles the robust style of the first movement.

Snow White (arranged for two solo violins)
Michael Oesterle

The composer has provided the following note:

Many of my works are about my fascination with the lives of scientists. In these compositions I don’t attempt to give a precise outline or demonstration of any specific scientific theorem, they are simply the result of having been inspired by the force of concentration and creativity of scientists, their method of work and the frequency with which they meet society’s opposition. This piece is about the British mathematician Alan Turing.

Alan Turing never learned to play the violin well, (his brother referred to his playing as “excruciating”) but he loved to play and played for those he loved. He played his favourite melodies for his lover and later, for the officers who arrested him. He played as a declaration of faith in civilisation and the need to strive towards greatness of both heart and mind. He frequently chanted the morbid couplet of Snow White’s evil queen:

Dip the apple in the brew
Let the sleeping Death seep through
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney, 1937)

Snow White shocked the graphically naive audiences of the 1930s. A queen, alchemy, numeracy, friendships forged under duress, an apple, injustice, and transformation—this fairytale struck at the hearts of those heading into their own great battle between good and evil. For those who chose knowledge above all else, as Turing did, the apple held a special ambiguity.

The violin is at the heart of my love of music. All my violin pieces focus on the open strings, the essential sound of the instrument which, in this piece, stand as an invocation of the open hearted candour with which Turing approached life.

Concerto grosso in D Minor, H 143, ‘La Folia’
Francesco Geminiani

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. An exceptional violinist, 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 is a set of variations on a traditional and widely familiar melody, possibly of Spanish origin, known as La Folia (Madness). Geminiani’s arrangement takes Corelli’s ingenuity and virtuosity a step further, creating a dazzling showcase for the full ensemble.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach arrived in the German town of Anhalt-Cöthen in 1717, to take up the position of Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold. This enlightened young monarch loved instrumental music more than any other kind, and Bach was only too happy to provide him with many outstanding examples, including his first major outpouring of concertos.

In 1719, the Prince sent Bach to Berlin, to bring back a harpsichord he had purchased there. During Bach’s visit, he made the acquaintance of Christian Ludwig, Margrave (or ruler) of Brandenburg, a town in Prussia. That gentleman asked Bach to send him some examples of his music.

He replied to this request by assembling a set of pieces that he called Six Concertos for Several Instruments. Their origins have yet to be established conclusively. After revising and polishing them, Bach sent them off to Brandenburg, a lavish dedication attached. That inscription has earned them the nickname Brandenburg Concertos.

The Margrave showed little interest in them, and they passed, probably unplayed, into a library in Berlin following his death. They were published for the first time in 1850, in an edition marking the centenary of Bach’s birth. It took the recording industry to make them popular, beginning in the 1930s with performances by huge modern symphony orchestras. More recent discs and concert performances have given audiences the chance to hear them in something like the bright, transparent form that Bach envisioned for them.

Each concerto has a different set of star performers. Bach scored No. 3 for an orchestra of strings, divided into nine parts. The vigorous, richly textured opening movement and the sprightly, dance-like finale are separated by two chords. Bach probably intended them as a guideline for a brief improvisation to introduce the finale.