CELLIST CRIS DERKSEN AND VIOLINIST AISSLINN NOSKY
PLEASE NOTE VENUE CHANGE!
IN A WORLD WHERE ALMOST EVERYTHING — people, music, cultures — get labelled and slotted into simple categories, Cris Derksen represents a challenge.
• 1-hour in-person matinee 1.00pm Apr 12th (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
• Buy 7.30pm Apr 12th in-person ticket (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
• Buy Jun 29th concert online-only ticket (available to view Jun 29th) | $25 Household ticket
Originally from Northern Alberta, the cellist and composer comes from a line of chiefs from North Tallcree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen, who’s worked with Rae Spoon and Tanya Tagaq, braids the traditional and contemporary; weaving her classical background and Indigenous ancestry with new-school electronics to create genre-defying music. She is, simply put, one of the most exciting artists working in the Canadian new music scene, and it will be a thrill to premiere a new concerto written and performed by her.
Adding to this concert’s eclecticism, this concert also features three composers of the 18th century under the baton of Aisslinn Nosky: the self-taught Telemann, the bright and bouncing Boccherini, and Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint Georges, also known as the Black Mozart. A life with as many twists and turns as Saint Georges’ helps to explain why he picked up so many names. The son of a wealthy Frenchman and an enslaved African woman, de Saint Georges moved as a child from Guadeloupe to France. There he became an honourary knight (chevalier) and one of France’s best swordsmen AND violinists while still a young man. Later he took up composition and conducting, befriended Queen Marie Antoinette, and then – turning against the monarchy – commanded a legion of revolutionary soldiers when the French Revolution broke out. At this concert, we perform this outstanding figure’s stormy, thrilling fourth symphony.
This concert wouldn’t be a true Nosky appearance if she didn’t also blow us away with some blistering playing. True to form, she’ll play-conduct this concert — meaning juggle both soloing and conducting at the same time. The task, demanding she lead the piece both from “inside” and “outside” the orchestra, is an exercise of supreme control that she performs with the utmost expressivity.
Join us at this concert, and enjoy two brilliant, polymathic musicians for the price of one.
The concerts begin at 1.00pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 12th, in Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. There will be no intermission for this concert. Casual tickets will be available 10 August 2022 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
1.00pm & 7.30pm, Wednesday, 12 April 2023
Aisslinn Nosky, violin / leader
Cris Derksen, cello
Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint Georges
Symphony in G Major Op. 11, No. 1
Georg Philipp Telemann
Ouverture, ‘La Bizarre,’ TWG55: G2
Overture to the SpiderBeing
Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts; world premiere performance.
Symphony, Op. 12, No. 4 in D Minor, ‘La casa del diavolo’
Season sponsor / CN
Volunteer sponsor / MB Liquor Mart
Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press
NEW! View our entire house program online!
Violinist Aisslinn Nosky captivates audiences around the world with her innovative interpretations and impeccable technique. Her fierce passion for early music and skill as a soloist, director, and conductor has generated robust appreciation by press and audiences alike. Hailed as “superb” by the New York Times and “a fearsomely powerful musician” by the Toronto Star, widespread demand for Aisslinn continues to grow.
In 2011, Aisslinn was appointed Concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. She’s also Concertmaster of Bach Akademie Charlotte and has been Guest Artist-in-Residence with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra since 2018. Aisslinn has also collaborated with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Holland Baroque, and the Charlotte Symphony. She was a dedicated member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra from 2005 to 2016 and served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony from 2016 to 2019. With the Eybler Quartet, of which she is a founding member, Aisslinn serves on the faculty of EQ: Evolution of the String Quartet at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Born in Canada, Aisslinn began playing violin at age three and made her solo debut with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra at age eight.
JUNO-nominated Cris Derksen is an internationally respected Indigenous cellist and composer. In a world where almost everything—people, music, cultures—get labelled and slotted into simple categories, Cris Derksen represents a challenge. Originally from Northern Alberta she comes from a line of chiefs from North Tallcree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical background and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre-defying music.
As a composer, Derksen has a foot in many worlds. 2020 Compositions include: Napi and the Rocks, a symphonic story commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Same Wave, an 8-part choral piece commissioned by Dead of Winter; and The Triumph of the Euro-Christ, an 8-part choral piece commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario. 2019 compositions include: Maada’ookii Songlines, a mass choral piece for 250 singers commissioned by Luminato Festival; Rebellion, a short symphonic piece commissioned by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; and Iron Peggy, a theatre piece commissioned by the Vancouver Children’s Festival; and Ikumagiialit, a new performance art piece commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Canada.
As a performer Derksen performs nationally and internationally both solo and with some of Canada’s finest cultural figures including Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte Marie, Naomi Klein, and Leanne Simpson to name a few. Recent destinations include Hong Kong, Australia, Mongolia, Sweden, and a whole lot of Canada, the place Derksen refers to as home.
Symphony in G Major, Op. 11, No. 1
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Saint-Georges was born on Basse Terre, one of two mid-Atlantic islands that make up Guadeloupe. They had been colonized by France. His father, George Bologne, was a wealthy plantation owner, and his mother was George’s African slave, Nanon. The Chevalier’s friend Henry Angelo described her as “Africa’s most beautiful gift to France.”
At that time, the normal fate of a biracial child would have been slavery, but baby Joseph escaped it. Since the discriminatory laws of the day didn’t allow him to adopt his father’s last name, he was called Saint-Georges, after a handsome ship that was anchored off the coast of Guadeloupe.
In 1753 the family moved to France, where Joseph received an education worthy of an aristocrat, at the Royal Academy of Arms. Years before his great musical gifts made themselves apparent, he found recognition through sports. Fencing headed the list, but he also fared brilliantly with riding, skating, swimming, running, target shooting—and dancing. He would continue fencing at an international level for the rest of his life. When he graduated at age 19, he was dubbed Chevalier and seemed destined for a military career.
His early musical training is unclear, but after he arrived in France he probably studied composition with François-Joseph Gossec, one of the leading French composers of the day, and violin with either the illustrious Jean-Marie Leclair or Antonio Lolli. Surely wielding a violin bow and a rapier call for much the same skills! Due to his elegant manners, physical prowess, appearance (including his six-foot-plus height) and dazzling musicianship, he became a much sought-after figure in the aristocratic salons of Paris. Henry Angelos wrote that “Saint-Georges combined in his person his mother’s grace and good looks and his father’s vigour and assurance.”
In 1769 Saint-Georges joined Gossec’s orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs, and was quickly promoted to concertmaster. Three years later he made his debut as a violin soloist, performing one of his own concertos. According to the newspaper Mercure, it received “the most rapturous applause, both for its excellent execution and for the composition itself.”
In the wake of his father’s death two years later, the generous annuity he had been paying his son ceased, and Saint-Georges was required to earn his own living for the first time. He made a good income from his musical activities but still found himself in shaky financial territory on several occasions.
In 1775 his friend, Queen Marie-Antoinette, proposed that he become co-music director of the prestigious Paris Opéra, but a petition sent by three female members of that company led to his nomination being withdrawn. It stated that “their honour and the delicate nature of their conscience made it impossible for them to be subjected to the orders of a mulatto.”
In 1781 he founded a new orchestra, the Concert de la Loge Olympique. It came to be considered one of the finest ensembles in Europe. It was also the largest, sporting 40 violins, 10 double basses and matching ranks of virtuoso wind players—totalling more members than many full modern orchestras! The musicians decked themselves out with chic attire to match their reputation. They performed wearing dashing sky-blue dress coats, swords swinging from their waist-bands.
Saint-Georges showed exceptional taste in commissioning new music for this orchestra. He played a major role (together with the Comte d’Ogny) in securing six symphonies from Joseph Haydn. The result was the superlative ‘Paris’ Symphonies, No. 82 to 87. They were premiered during the orchestra’s 1787 season, under the direction of Saint-Georges.
He spent the final decade of his colourful life travelling between France and England, and participating in politics more than music. He became embroiled in various revolutionary plots and counter-plots. During the revolution of 1789 he joined the National Guard, and was later named the colonel of a thousand-strong troop of Black soldiers. A victim of the reign of terror that followed the revolution, he spent 18 months in a military prison. In his final years, he founded and directed another Parisian orchestra, the Cercle de l’harmonie.
He composed more than 200 works. The published pieces included violin concertos, examples of the popular hybrid form, the symphonie concertante, operas and chamber works. His only two symphonies were published in 1799 as Opus 11. The number is decreased to one since No. 1 appears to be spurious. Whoever the composer, it is a charming and attractive work, fully the equal of many other compositions that came into being during that period.
Ouverture, ‘La Bizarre,’ TWV55 G2
Georg Philipp Telemann
Even in an era known for its composers’ productivity, Telemann stood out. A rough estimate of his output numbers as many as four thousand pieces. His music is stirring, colourful and richly inventive. During his lifetime, it earned him a reputation as the finest German composer of the day, superior even to Johann Sebastian Bach, and his popularity rivaled that of George Frideric Handel.
His catalogue includes more than 600 overtures for orchestra (or suites, a virtually interchangeable name at that time). Some consist solely of dances. Others reflect, by incorporating descriptive or ‘character’ pieces, such widely varied programmatic inspirations as the famous story of Don Quixote (Burlesque de Quichotte), the gods of classical mythology (Alster Overture) and the centenary of Hamburg’s Admiralty (Water Music).
According to German musicologist Peter Huth, ‘La Bizarre,’ the subtitle of this work refers primarily to the first movement due to “certain contrapuntal voices that swim against the tide of the ordinary overture pattern; in the fugue, the resulting harmonic and melodic contradictions … make for an unusually lively sonic structure.” The overture is followed by six compact, appealingly varied dance forms that were popular in that day. The third of these, Branle, floats on a particularly attractive, lilting rhythm. A charming bird imitation (rossignol or nightingale) concludes the suite.
The composer has provided the following note:
The Story of the Spiderbeing is a Cree creation story. In it, two human living in the world above wish to come to the beautiful land below— the place we call home. The Great Spider offers to help them, but only if they do what the Spider requests. Obviously, as humans, they do not obey, getting themselves into typically human trouble—and are stranded on this side of the two worlds. The single strand of webbing is an umbilical cord to other worlds, and this is how we humans all get here for our short visit.
Symphony, Op. 12 No. 4 in D Minor,“La casa del diavolo”
Equally celebrated as composer and cellist, Boccherini spent most of his life outside his native country of Italy. In 1766, he embarked on a concert tour that took him first to Paris, where he earned considerable acclaim, then on to Madrid in 1769. He won additional accolades at the Spanish court, where he received the patronage of Infante Don Luis, brother of King Carlos III. He spent 1787-1797 in Berlin as court composer to King Frederick William II of Prussia, himself a good amateur cellist. After the king’s death, Boccherini returned to Spain and spent the rest of his life there.
His music has much in common with Haydn’s. Musicologists of the day noticed the resemblance, but having formed the opinion that the Italian’s compositions lacked the depth and fire of the Austrian’s, they dismissed Boccherini as “the wife of Haydn.” In a letter that Boccherini wrote in 1798 to Ignaz Pleyel, his Paris publisher, he offered the following more temperate self-appraisal: “Everyone who knows me does me the honour of regarding me as a man of probity, honourable, sensitive, good-natured and affectionate as my musical compositions show me to be.”
His numerous chamber music compositions are widely counted as his finest creations. Especially valued are the attractive quartets (102 of them) and quintets (125) for strings. In an act of innovation, the latter pieces feature a second cello rather than the more common second viola. The result is music of exceptional tonal warmth and richness. Franz Schubert would use the identical instrumentation in the glorious quintet he composed in 1828.
In addition to hundreds of chamber works, Boccherini composed about 30 symphonies. The six pieces that make up Opus 12 date from 1771. No. 4 in D Minor is the best known of his symphonies, mainly due to its dramatic and descriptive nature—the finale in particular. In the first published edition, that movement bears the subtitle ‘Chaconne representing Hell, in imitation of M. Gluck’s chaconne from Le Festin de pierre.’ This is not entirely accurate. Rather than imitating the theme from Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1761 ballet Don Juan that accompanied the Don’s climactic descent to Hell, Boccherini borrowed it, note-for-note. Such practices were quite common at the time, and they were considered gestures of respect rather than theft. The connection between the finale of Boccherini’s Symphony and the fate of Gluck’s Don Juan led to the Symphony’s acquiring the subtitle La casa del diavolo, The House of the Devil.
The first movement’s foreboding introduction in slow tempo gives way to an athletic Allegro. The second movement flows smoothly and attractively, suggesting a romantic serenade. The introduction to the first movement returns to open the finale. Given the source of its musical material, the ensuing Allegro is appropriately bold and fiery.