“Can do absolutely anything he likes with a keyboard”
 — Chicago Tribune

Since his debut at age 16 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andrew von Oeyen has established himself as one of the most captivating pianists of his generation.

This is von Oeyen’s first time performing in Winnipeg, though his reputation surely precedes him. His star is rising fast, for he is an artist of a special breed: a dashing, magnetic performer and a consummate technician who woos general audiences and the exacting critics of the classical music world equally.

The LA Times writes that von Oeyen boasts “indisputable gifts [and] an extravagantly thorough and effortless technique.” The Chicago Tribune goes even further: “Brilliant technique can be taken for granted among today’s concert pianists. But von Oeyen’s playing … leaves you convinced that he can do absolutely anything he likes with a keyboard.”

This concert will see von Oeyen exploring somewhat iconoclastic territory. He’ll perform Shostakovich’s playful Piano Concerto No. 1. Rich with humour and folk elements, it stands in contrast to the more pensive Shostakovich work performed by the MCO in October.

Composer Christos Hatzis is a Canadian treasure, and the MCO is only too pleased to again perform Zeitgeist (Spirit of the Age). Much like von Oeyen, Hatsiz has captured the hearts of audiences and critics alike with his eclectic repertoire, which is at once traditionalist and adventurous.

The concert goes out with a bang, wrapping up with Mozart’s 29th symphony, a landmark work that shows the 18 year-old composer really coming into his own.

The concert begins at 7:30 pm on November 8th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $34 for adults, $32 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).

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
8 November 2016

Anne Manson, conductor
Andrew von Oeyen, piano
Guy Few, trumpet

Christos Hatzis
Zeitgeist (Sprit of the Age)

Dmitri Shostakovich
Concerto in C Minor, for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra (Piano Concerto No. 1), Op. 35

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 29, in A Major, K 201

Concert sponsor / Pollard Banknote
Music Director sponsor / The Prolific Group
Concertmaster sponsor / Joel B. Cogan, BMO Nesbitt Burns
Piano sponsors / St. John’s Music and Yamaha Canada

Andrew von Oeyen

Hailed worldwide for his elegant and insightful interpretations, balanced artistry and brilliant technique, Andrew von Oeyen has established himself as one of the most captivating pianists of his generation. Since his debut at age 16 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mr. von Oeyen has excelled in a broad spectrum of concerto repertoire, including Bartók, Barber, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Fauré, Ligeti, Liszt, Gershwin, Grieg, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schumann, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. He has performed with such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Seattle, Atlanta, Berlin, Singapore, Vancouver, Utah and Marseille. He has also played with the Grant Park Orchestra, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and the Slovenian and Slovak Philharmonics. As both soloist and conductor he has led concerti and orchestral works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel and Kurt Weill. On Independence Day 2009, von Oeyen performed at the US Capitol with the National Symphony in A Capitol Fourth, reaching millions worldwide in the multi-award-winning PBS live telecast.

Mr. von Oeyen has given recitals at major venues in London, New York, Washington DC, Boston, Zürich, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Dublin, São Paulo, Rome, Bucharest, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hanoi, and Macau, and in every major concert hall of Japan and South Korea.

Mr. von Oeyen’s 2015/16 engagements included appearances with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Prague Philharmonia (on tour in Europe and China), Chicago’s Grant Park Festival Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Portland Symphony, the Brevard Music Center Orchestra and Winston-Salem Symphony. He also appeared in recital throughout the US and in Europe, and recorded a concerto album with the Prague Philharmonia.

In 2013 Mr. von Oeyen released a critically acclaimed album of Debussy and Stravinsky piano works under the Delos Label (including two pieces written for him by composer David Newman), following his 2011 award-winning album of Liszt works under the same label. 2013 also saw the release of the Chopin-Debussy-Ravel digital album Andrew von Oeyen: Live in Recital.

Mr. von Oeyen, of German and Dutch origin, was born in the U.S. and now lives in Paris and Los Angeles. He began his piano studies at age 5 and made his solo orchestral debut at age 10. An alumnus of Columbia University and graduate of The Juilliard School, where his principal teachers were Herbert Stessin and Jerome Lowenthal, he has also worked with Alfred Brendel and Leon Fleisher. He won the Gilmore Young Artist Award in 1999 and took First Prize in the Leni Fe Bland Foundation National Piano Competition in 2001.

Christos Hatzis

Christos Hatzis is well known in Canada and around the world for his works. Covering a vast range of styles and genres, his works have been recorded, performed and broadcast throughout the world.

Hatzis was born in Volos, Greece, and his early music study took place at the Hellenic Conservatory of Greece in his hometown. He continued his studies in the United States, where he earned degrees from Eastman School of Music and SUNY. In 1982 he moved to Canada, having decided that the country’s multiculturalism was more suited to his own ethos. He became a Canadian citizen in 1985, and joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 1995.

Hatzis’ work has received a considerable amount of attention in recent years. With a large number of presentations of his music in the Americas, Europe, the Middle-East and East Asia every year, commissions by an international list of soloists and ensembles and several recording projects by major labels, “Christos Hatzis is currently enjoying a growing international reputation as one of the most important composers writing today” (CBC Records). The composer is the recipient of several national and international distinctions, and a number of his works have been released on CD.

It is not unusual for a Hatzis work to become a signature piece for a soloist or an ensemble. His Old Photographs and Dance of the Dictators have been performed by the Gryphon Trio hundreds of times all over the world. There have also been a number of all-Hatzis programs over the past few years. Hatzis’ music is inspired by proto-Christian spirituality, his own Byzantine musical heritage, world cultures and various non-classical musical genres such as jazz, pop and world music. His strongest inspiration is his own religious faith, and his religious works have been hailed by critics and audiences alike as contemporary masterpieces.

In 2013, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra commissioned Hatzis to score a major new ballet work, Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation. Hatzis collaborated with award-winning aboriginal throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers in creating the score for the groundbreaking production. The ballet’s subject matter is close to the composer’s heart as it confronts the impact of the residential school system on Canada’s aboriginal young people. In reviewing the production, Paula Citron of the Globe and Mail remarked “… the music for Going Home Star may be the best ballet composition ever created in Canada.”

In addition to composing and teaching, Hatzis has written extensively about composition and contemporary music.

Zeitgeist (spirit of the age)
Christos Hatzis

The composer has provided the following note:

Zeitgeist (spirit of the age) is a personal reflection on the character of the arts today, music in particular. It is the result of an ongoing interest in cultural diversity and historical discontinuity, which are discernible characteristics of most of my work. By “historical discontinuity” I mean the approach to history whereby the artistic products of various eras are not viewed as successive links in a sequential chain but, rather, as the pieces of a comprehensive puzzle, all of which are ever-present and functional in a timeless, multidimensional present. In this sense, Zeitgeist is a postmodern work: musical experiences from the past are taken out of their specific historical context and are assembled and juxtaposed in a way which re-establishes them as viable artistic experiences for here and now.

Formally the work is based on two short motives: the three-note motif which first appears unassumingly at measure 20 as the conclusion of an upwards moving gesture, and the ‘French Overture’ motif (dotted eighth-note followed by a sixteenth-note) which is pervasive in the baroque-like music of the opening. The two motives combine into a larger five-note idea which appears almost ceaselessly throughout the work in various guises, from Shostakovich-like polyphony to takeoffs on disco music of the mid/late seventies, and everything in between. This limited and clearly delineated structural framework helps to counterbalance the eclectic—and seemingly indiscriminate—exuberance of this work, and builds some creative tension between the audible surface and its internal architecture.

Food for thought as all this may be, I sincerely hope that the piece is enticing and meaningful to the less musically gluttonous audiences of today, who are becoming increasingly adverse to cultural spoon-feeding by the ‘serious music’ establishment. Zeitgeist would have not been true to its name had it failed in its effort to provide a balanced, low-calorie alternative to our information-saturated perceptual mechanisms. I believe that, ultimately, a work of art is in resonance with the spirit of its age when it fulfills some indefinable, yet widely agreed upon condition of relevance. I also believe that this condition is often divorced from contemporary prescriptions of ‘greatness,’ be it complexity, simplicity, old-sounding, new-sounding, and/or other recipes which come and go with time.

Zeitgeist was premiered in two locations on the same day: 22 May 1999, in Athens, Greece (Camerata Orchestra, Alexander Myrat conducting) and Kitchener, Ontario (Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Noel Edison conducting).

Concerto in C Minor for Piano, Trumpet & String Orchestra (Piano Concerto No. 1), Op. 35
Dmitri Shostakovich

The young Shostakovich developed his skill as a pianist to the point where he won entry to the 1927 Chopin Competition in Warsaw. He held high hopes of taking first prize, only to be bitterly disappointed when he received only a diploma. Smarting from this public humiliation, he decided to abandon any hope of a solo career and concentrate on composing instead. His vow soon evaporated, however, and finding his spirits revived by the completion of his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1932, he returned to performing in public.

He also composed new works to play. First he wrote a set of preludes for solo piano, then in 1933 the first of his two piano concertos. The premiere took place in Leningrad in October with the composer as soloist and Fritz Stiedry conducting. Shosta­kovich performed it many more times and recorded it, together with Concerto No. 2, in France in 1958.

He scored the accompaniment for string orchestra and trumpet. He considered the trumpet part so important that whenever he performed the concerto he had the trumpet player sit beside him, rather than in the orchestra.

In sharp contrast to the darkly dramatic opera Lady Macbeth, the concerto’s principal characteristic is humour—occasionally subtle, but often not. Technical demands are high, and every player is called upon to perform in a brilliant manner.

Shostakovich didn’t neglect to provide contrast. The slow second movement is an oasis of serenity and warmth in the midst of the generally brittle, satiric and rowdy goings-on, which recall the times he spent playing the piano to accompany silent comedies in a Leningrad cinema during his youth. On another front, he directed that the last three of the four movements be performed without pauses between them. This desire for continuity within his compositions became a regular feature of his music.

Conductor Yuli Turovsky has related an amusing anecdote regarding this concerto, one that has achieved legendary status in the annals of the Moscow Conservatory. “After a performance in Moscow,” he writes, “almost all of the city’s most prominent musicians assembled in Shostakovich’s dressing room to congratulate him. One of them, a well-known pianist and professor of the conservatory, was renowned for his caustic tongue, among other things. While congratulating Shostakovich, but not wanting to miss an opportunity to be sarcastic, he said, ‘A remarkable concerto, but tell me Dmitri Dmitrievich, why does your first theme begin like Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ Sonata?’ According to the legend, Shostakovich answered in his quick, nervous speech, ‘That indeed is so; you see, I wrote it so that any idiot could understand it!’”

Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K 201
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In 1769, Mozart was awarded the post of Honorary Concertmaster in the Salzburg Court Orchestra. His duties included leading it from the first desk of violins (this being before the rise of the conductor, as we now know the role), playing solos, and writing new music for it to perform. Three years would pass before he began receiving a salary for these considerable responsibilities.

Between 1770 and 1773, he composed no fewer than 28 symphonies. This huge output sprang from his ever-practical responses to the demands of the time. One early cause was the death of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Mozart’s employer, in December 1771. While Mozart had enjoyed a fairly cordial relationship with the former Prince-Archbishop, his relationship with the role’s successor, the strict and unappreciative Count Hieronymus von Colleredo, deteriorated catastrophically. Colleredo’s outlook meant that theatrical entertainments were banned during the official period of mourning for his predecessor. The public’s thirst for music had to be satisfied through instrumental concerts, and Mozart was only too happy to supply material for them. Once the needs that had inspired this outpouring of ran their course, his output slackened off, never again to reach such concentrated heights.

His symphonies of this period are pleasant, festive works, perfectly fulfilling their sole ambition: to entertain. In contrast, his next symphony is quite a startling work, one foreshadowed in his catalogue only by the minor-key overture to his oratorio La Betulia liberata (Betulia Liberated, 1771). Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183, which Mozart completed on 5 October 1773, is his first full-scale piece in a minor key, and his initial exercise in symphonic drama. Its stark, pulsating opening movement provided an appropriate aural counterpoint for the harrowing title sequence in the film Amadeus.

Switching moods once again in the next symphony, K. 201 in A Major (known as No. 29 and completed on 6 April 1774), is one of his sunniest, most optimistic orchestral pieces. The light, transparent orchestration (just strings plus pairs of oboes and horns) adds further appeal. Mozart scholar Neal Zaslaw writes of it, “Much of what I have stated about K. 183 could be repeated about this work, including the use of sonata form in three of the four movements; the strongly contrasted character of the andante (in this case perhaps noble serenity rather than longing); the symphonic rather than the dance quality of the minuet; and the basing of the opening of the finale on a transformation of the opening of the first movement.

“Despite its fully worked-out sonata form, including a development section which Alfred Einstein calls ‘the richest and most dramatic Mozart had written up to this time,’ the finale has the character of a hunt, with its mandatory repeated notes and other hunting horn calls. The thoroughgoing excellence of this symphony has long been recognized; it and K. 183 are the earliest of Mozart’s symphonies in the repertoires of major orchestras.”