James Ehnes stops by on National recital tour!

EVENING CONCERT SOLD OUT! / Due to popular demand, Ehnes and Armstrong will now perform twice on May 18th: an hour-long matinee at 1:00 pm, and an evening concert at 7:30 pm. The matinee will feature selected pieces from the evening concert repertoire listed below.

There is exciting news afoot for Canadian music lovers: James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong will embark on a nationwide recital tour in 2016. Naturally, the best gig will be this one in James’s home province with his MCO audience friends!

GRAMMY Award-winning violin virtuoso Ehnes and dazzling pianist Armstrong make a powerhouse duo. They perform and record together often, and last appeared on the MCO stage in 2010 (with cellist Robert deMaine). It is still early days for the tour, but some of the repertoire has been worked out, which is listed below. James has also said that “various virtuoso works will be announced from the stage.”

Bramwell Tovey, a lifelong friend of James, has also promised to contribute something special to celebrate the recital tour in the form of a brand new composition [“I’m excited!” — James].

Now it’s unanimous. We’re all excited!

Andrew Armstrong

Praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique, pianist Andrew Armstrong has delighted audiences around the world. Armstrong is devoted to outreach and education programs, and in addition to his many concerts, his performances are heard regularly on National Public Radio and WQXR, NYC.

“His artistic sense is impeccable. But details of his technic are there in full view … Fascinating, and quite unlike anyone else’s so far as I can tell” — Chamber Music Today.

EVENING CONCERT SOLD OUT! Hour-long matinee concert at 1pm. Both concerts are on May 18th at Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets for the matinee concert are $32 adults, $30 seniors and $10 students (incl. GST), available at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave), or MCO’s Ticketline (204) 783-7377.

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
18 May 2016

James Ehnes, violin
Andrew Armstrong, piano

Bramwell Tovey
Stream of Limelight

George Frideric Handel
Sonata in D major (HWV 371)

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata No. 5, in F Major, Op. 24 — ‘Spring’

Concert sponsor / The Johnston Group
Guest artist sponsor / Quadrant Asset Management
Music Director sponsor / Judith Hall, in memory of dear Phil
Piano sponsors / St. John’s Music and Yamaha Canada
Matinee concert sponsor / The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation
Matinee guest artist sponsor / Stella’s Café & Bakery
Matinee Concertmaster sponsor / Edmond Financial Group Inc.
Print media sponsor / Winnipeg Free Press
Radio media sponsors / ICI musique 89.9, Classic 107 and Golden West Radio.

James Ehnes

Known for his virtuosity and probing musicianship, violinist James Ehnes has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, appearing regularly in the world’s great concert halls and with many of the most celebrated orchestras and conductors. In the 2015-2016 season James performs concerts with the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, Royal Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, and the Danish National, Melbourne, Sydney, San Diego, and Washington DC’s National symphony orchestras. He returns to Wigmore Hall for two recitals, embarks on an extensive national recital tour of Canada, and appears with the Ehnes Quartet on tour in Europe, Korea, and across North America. He also leads the winter and summer festivals of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, of which he is the Artistic Director.

James Ehnes has an extensive discography of over 40 recordings featuring music ranging from J.S. Bach to John Adams. Recent projects include a CD of Franck and Strauss Sonatas, a recording of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Two Movements (with Bells) written for James, discs of works by Berlioz and Janáček, Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto paired with Shostakovich’s String Quartets Nos. 7 and 8, an American Chamber Music disc, a double CD of the complete violin works by Prokofiev, a disc featuring concertos by Britten and Shostakovich, four CDs of the music of Béla Bartók as well as a recording of Tchaikovsky’s complete oeuvre for violin. Upcoming releases will include works by Debussy, Respighi, Elgar, Leclair, Vivaldi, and Tartini. His recordings have been honoured with many international awards and prizes, including a Grammy, a Gramophone, and ten Juno awards.

James Ehnes was born in 1976 in Brandon. He began violin studies at the age of four, and at age nine became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music and from 1993 to 1997 at The Juilliard School, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music upon his graduation. Mr. Ehnes first gained national recognition in 1987 as winner of the Grand Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Competition. The following year he won the First Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Festival, the youngest musician ever to do so. At age 13, he made his major orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

He has won numerous awards and prizes, including the first-ever Ivan Galamian Memorial Award, the Canada Council for the Arts Virginia Parker Prize, and a 2005 Avery Fisher Career Grant. James has been honoured by Brandon University with a Doctor of Music degree (honoris causa) and in 2007 he became the youngest person ever elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 the Governor General of Canada appointed James a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2013 he was named an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, limited to a select group of 300 living distinguished musicians. James Ehnes plays the ‘Marsick’ Stradivarius of 1715. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida with his family.

Andrew Armstrong

Praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique, pianist Andrew Armstrong has delighted audiences around the world. He has appeared in solo recitals and with orchestras in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and in chamber music with violinist James Ehnes, cellist Robert deMaine, and the Elias, Alexander, American and Manhattan String Quartets. He has also played as a member of the Caramoor Virtuosi and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players and since 2010 has been a member of the Amelia Piano Trio.

In addition to chamber concerts, this season will see Mr. Armstrong performing Saint-Saëns’s distinctive 5th Piano Concerto (the ‘Egyptian’), Mozart’s 23rd in A Major, K488, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto (the ‘Emperor’). Having performed over 50 concertos, Armstrong has impressed international audiences with a large repertoire ranging from Bach to Babbit and beyond. His recordings feature works by Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, and the world premiere recording of Bielawa’s Wait for piano & drone (Cordelia Records).

Andrew Armstrong is devoted to outreach programs and playing for children. In addition to many concerts, his performances are heard regularly on National Public Radio and WQXR, New York City’s premier classical music station.

Bramwell Tovey

Bramwell Tovey is the Grammy and Juno award-winning Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. As a guest conductor he works internationally with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. During 2014/15 his guest appearances included the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and the Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Montréal, Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies.

Bramwell is also an award winning composer. His Requiem for a Charred Skull won the 2003 Juno Award for Best Classical Composition. His opera The Inventor, written with playwright John Murrell, was commissioned by Calgary Opera and recorded by the original cast with the Vancouver Symphony and UBC Opera for CD release in 2013. His trumpet concerto Songs of the Paradise Saloon was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony for principal trumpet Andrew McCandless and premiered in December 2010. The US premiere took place at the Sun Valley Festival in August 2011. Alison Balsom played the concerto under the composer’s direction at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in November 2013 and again under the composer’s direction with the Philadelphia Orchestra in December 2014.

In 2008, with violinist James Ehnes, Bramwell and the VSO won Grammy and Juno awards for their recording of Barber, Korngold and Walton concertos. In the fall of 2009 the VSO toured to Korea and China, including two concerts at the Beijing International Festival. In the Spring of 2010 the VSO performed in Toronto, Montréal, Québec and Ottawa. In 2011 the VSO and Naxos records announced the launch of the Naxos Canadian Classics label with a disc of music by VSO Composer Laureate, Fugitive Voices – the Music of Jeffrey Ryan which was nominated for a Juno Award. In January 2013 Bramwell and the VSO toured the western United States.

In Vancouver Bramwell has led complete symphonic cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler, many Canadian premieres of international works, including Thomas Ades’s Asyla and John Adams’s Dr Atomic Symphony, and works from across the choral, classical and Canadian repertoire.

Sonata in D Major, HWV 371
George Frideric Handel

Handel divided his early years between Germany and Italy. During the second decade of the eighteenth century, he settled in England, there to remain for the rest of his life. He began his English years by concentrating on that era’s most popular genre of music: Italian style opera. The public’s taste changed, however, embracing the less ornate and more easily understood English language oratorio. Handel, to his distress, twigged to this trend only slowly. Once he did see the light, he had little trouble regaining pre-eminence with his listeners.

He regularly composed instrumental works in addition to vocal ones. They included a variety of sonatas for one or two melody instruments and basso continuo, plus numerous solo concertos and two superb sets of concerti grossi. Many of these pieces include re-workings of his previous themes. In turn, he occasionally reused materials from these pieces in later compositions.

In further accord with the flexible musical practices of the day, Handel and his publishers permitted, even encouraged, performance of solo sonatas on instruments other than those specified by the printed scores — flute, recorder, oboe, viola da gamba or violin, for example. That increased not only the size of their audience but the contents of their bank accounts.

Solos for a German Flute a Hoboy (oboe) or Violin with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord or Bass Violin Compos’d by Mr. Handel (to give the collection its full, original title) was published as Handel’s Op. 1 by John Walsh in London in 1732. It contains a set of twelve sonatas, for various solo instruments and continuo. The 1732 edition (which displays at the bottom of the title page, ‘This is more Corect [sic] than the former Edition’) was mostly reprinted from the plates of an earlier 1730 publication, titled Sonates pour un Traversiere un Violon ou Hautbois con Basso continuo Composées par G.F. Handel — purportedly in Amsterdam by Jeanne Roger, but now shown to have been a forgery by Walsh (dated well after Jeanne Roger’s death in 1722). Some scholars have cast doubt on the authenticity of several of the sonatas.

They are entirely conventional in form, following the alternating pattern of brief slow and fast movements that Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli had established earlier in the century for this type of piece. The sonata you will hear this evening probably dates from about 1750, and is widely considered to be Handel’s final piece of chamber music. He incorporated quotations from several of his previous compositions, dating back anywhere from two to 40 years. It was not published during his lifetime.

The first movement is slow in tempo and noble in character. The fugal second movement has vivacious energy to spare. After a third movement that displays a touching sense of pathos, Handel concludes the sonata with a joyous, dance-like finale.

“What, then, is the original value of Handel’s sonatas?” writes musicologist Tomislav Volek. “The answer is, ‘nothing more’ than his power of invention, the expressiveness of his subjects and his uniquely masterful composing for only two parts. With his modest tools, Handel masters the entire range of expression. His slow movements can be simple, tuneful and touching, or festive and full of pomp, or richly embellished, while the fast ones dance, gambol and entertain, or impress with their solid and skillful counterpoint. It was in this way that the ideal prototype of chamber music compositions was born in the early eighteenth century.”

Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24 ‘Spring’
Ludwig van Beethoven

Since Beethoven played both piano and violin at a fully professional level, composing music for the two instruments together came quite naturally to him. His ten sonatas for violin and piano are cornerstones of the repertoire. Earlier, such as in many of Mozart’s sonatas for this pair of instruments, the piano dominated the violin. Beethoven fully established the instruments as equal partners in this type of piece.

The creation of the violin sonatas spanned his middle and late periods, from 1798 to 1812. He composed sonatas Nos. 4 and 5 in 1801. That year also witnessed the inception of Piano Sonatas Nos. 9 and 12 to 15, and the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus.

Sonatas Nos. 4 and 5 are quite different in character. No. 4 in A Minor is dark and dramatic, while No. 5 is relaxed, bright and sunny—the source of its anonymous but entirely appropriate nickname, ‘Spring.’ It forecasted the warm, genial personalities of such other Beethoven works to come as the Pastoral Symphony (No. 6), Violin Concerto, and Piano Concerto No. 4.

It is the first of the violin sonatas to have four movements rather than three, although the third movement, a whimsical scherzo and trio, is so brief that it’s over almost before it begins. The first movement is founded on a pair of gracefully flowing themes, yet Beethoven still finds room within it for displays of power and thrust. The piano introduces the aristocratic theme of the second movement, which is a relaxed, murmuring reverie. The concluding rondo maintains the sonata’s genial personality, steering clear of virtuosic display in favour of lyrical, Mozartean entertainment. A few short, ingeniously placed passages of violin pizzicati add a delectable touch.