See the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra perform at The Barn on Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 2 pm. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS
The MCO is “Canada’s tiny, perfect chamber orchestra” (Toronto Star). It has toured widely, commissions often, embraces a diverse repertoire, and collaborates regularly with the world’s leading soloists, from Dame Evelyn Glennie to Measha Brueggergosman.
The orchestra, boasting a roster of some of the finest orchestral musicians in Canada, has been praised for its “satiny sound … dynamic subtlety, and an impeccable sense of ensemble” (Ottawa Citizen) and called “an excellent string ensemble con ducted with crispness and verve by Anne Manson” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Established in 1972, the MCO presents nine concerts annually in Winnipeg, most of which feature guest soloists, and all of which present an accessible, eclectic repertoire ranging from the mega-hits of the common practice tradition to exciting new premieres. The rest of its programming energies are devoted to an extensive program of touring, recording, and outreach.
Notable among ongoing outreach initiatives is the ‘Fiddlers on the Loose’ ensemble, taking live music to remote parts of the province to work with and play for youth and families.
The MCO has recorded ten albums, two of which have earned JUNO nominations. Its 2013 recording of Philip Glass music has enjoyed international acclaim, and its 2018 release of Mirage? Concertos for Percussion with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie enjoyed near unanimous critical praise. The MCO’s first international tour was of Italy in 1999. Since then, highlight tour appearances include performing with Isabel Bayrakdarian at Carnegie Hall in 2008 and a ten-concert Western Canada tour in 2009.
Conductor Anne Manson has served as Music Director of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra since 2008. Manson’s strong commitment to contemporary music has led to numerous commissions and recordings with the MCO. Among them are Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3 and his third piano concerto, and the JUNO and Western Canadian Music award-nominated Troubadour & the Nightingale with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. Their latest release is Mirage? Concertos for Percussion, with GRAMMY-winning percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. Recent seasons with MCO have included the co-commission and Canadian premiere of Philip Glass’ Piano Concerto No. 3 performed by pianist Simone Dinnerstein, as well as presentations of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with soprano Measha Brueggergosman; solo recorder player Lucie Horsch; a duos and arias concert with sopranos Tracy Dahl and Andriana Chuchman; and Haydn, Oesterle, and Mozart with cellist Ariel Barnes.
As a guest orchestra conductor, and renowned conductor of opera, she has performed all over the world: the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Proms, New York City Opera, the Juliard School and many others.
She received Canada’s DORA Award for outstanding musical direction for her work with the Canadian Opera Company on Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was the first woman to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 1994 (Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov).
JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a unique talent for combining idiosyncratic textures and styles into large-scale works, reflecting her multicultural background. Her work often integrates disparate influences such as non-Western folk music, Brazilian rhythms, and visual inspirations.
Fung’s recently composed works include Clarinet Quintet: Frenetic Memories, premiered by the Daedalus Quartet and clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois; Humanoid for solo cello and electronics for a consortium of cellists in Canada and the U.S.; Earworms for the National Arts Centre Orchestra; and a new solo percussion work The Ice Is Talking (for three ice blocks) commissioned by Banff Centre. Her 2018/19 highlights include commissions from the Winnipeg New Music Festival, and a new string quartet for the American String Quartet commissioned by the Red Bank Music Society.
Born in Edmonton, Fung currently lives in California and is on the faculty of Santa Clara University. For more information, please visit vivianfung.net.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. In the early 1960s, Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and, while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation. By 1974, Glass had a number of innovative projects, creating a large collection of new music for The Philip Glass Ensemble, and for the Mabou Mines Theater Company. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, and the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach, for which he collaborated with Robert Wilson. Since Einstein, Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). In the past few years several new works were unveiled, including an opera on the death of Walt Disney, The Perfect American (co-commissioned by Teatro Real, Madrid and the English National Opera), a song cycle entitled Ifé, written for Angelique Kidjo, a new touring production of Einstein and the publication of Glass’s memoir, Words Without Music, by Liveright Books. In May 2015, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performed the world premiere of a double piano concerto Glass wrote for Katia and Marielle Labèque.
In November, the Washington National Opera premiered a revised version of Glass’s opera, Appomattox, created in collaboration with librettist Christopher Hampton. Glass celebrated his 80th birthday on January 31st, 2017 with the world premiere of his 11th Symphony. The 80th birthday season will continue throughout 2017, with performances and celebrations including US Premieres of his operas The Perfect American and The Trial, and the world premiere of String Quartet No. 8 and Piano Concerto No. 3. Glass began his tenure as the Carnegie Hall 2017/18 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair.
American pianist Simone Dinnerstein is known for her “majestic originality of vision” (The Independent) and her “lean, knowing and unpretentious elegance” (The New Yorker).
In 2017 Dinnerstein released the album Mozart in Havana, recorded in Cuba with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. She went on to bring the orchestra to the United States for their first ever American tour. In the same year Dinnerstein premiered a piano concerto written for her by Philip Glass and co-commissioned by twelve orchestras. Since then she has performed the concerto with orchestras nationally and internationally, including MDR Leipzig and the London Symphony Orchestra. Her recording of it, Circles, was released in May and immediately hit No. 1 on the Classical Billboard chart.
Dinnerstein first attracted attention in 2007 with her self-produced recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It was a remarkable success, reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart, and established Dinnerstein’s distinctive and original approach. The New York Times called her “a unique voice in the forest of Bach interpretation.” Her career has since taken her around the world from Brazil to Japan and she has made a further eight albums with repertoire from Beethoven to Ravel.
Dinnerstein is committed to musical outreach. She plays concerts for the Piatigorsky Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing classical music to non-traditional venues. Under their auspices she gave the first classical music performance in the Louisiana state prison system at the Avoyelles Correctional Center. She also runs her own concert series supporting music education in public schools.
String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, ‘American’
“With Handel and Haydn, he is the healthiest of all composers”—Harold C. Schonberg.
For Dvořák, music’s primary function was to praise the many aspects of life that gave him joy. As he put it in a letter he wrote to a friend during the composition of the Seventh Symphony, “Today I have just finished the second movement of my new symphony, and am again as happy and contented in my work as I always have been and, God grant, may always be, for my slogan is and always shall be: God, love and country! And that alone can lead to a happy goal.”
Through his opera and symphonic poems, Bedrich Smetana (1824‑1884) founded the Bohemian (later Czech) branch of the folk‑flavoured musical movement that had sprung up in Russia. Dvořák took up where Smetana left off, bringing the style to the height of its sophistication and worldwide popularity.
The early phase of his career was unpromising. He spent many years barely making ends meet by performing everyday musical tasks, such as serving as a church organist and playing the viola in a dance band. All the while, he composed a great deal, gradually working through the influences of Beethoven and Wagner, and learning how to submit his enormous flow of invention to professional discipline.
His big breakthrough came in 1878, when the first set of Slavonic Dances took Europe by storm. People fell in love with these approachable, exotic works, and he was quick to oblige the clamour for more such music. The influence of his Czech folk heritage is heard in many of his mature creations, though nearly always (as in the Slavonic Dances) through themes he composed himself, rather than authentic native melodies.
His fame had grown so great by the early 1890s that he was invited to become the first Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. His arrival in the autumn of 1892 marked the beginning of a three‑year period spent almost entirely in America. He found much there that fascinated him. He developed a particular interest in the music of African Americans and Native Americans, reflecting his love for his homeland’s native culture. “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what we call Negro melodies,” he told the New York Herald. “This can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, merry, gracious, or what you will. There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot find a thematic source here.”
Statements such as these led to confusion as to whether he used authentic African American and Native American melodies in the works he composed in America, the first of which was the Symphony in E Minor (which the subtitled ‘Impressions and Greetings from the New World’). Four days before the premiere, which took place in New York on 16 December 1893, he made his methods and goals perfectly clear: “It is this American folk spirit that I have tried to reproduce in my new symphony. I have not actually used any of the melodies. I have simply written themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, and orchestral colour.”
Dvořák composed a substantial amount of chamber music, favouring the string quartet above all. From 1862 to 1895, he created 14 of them, virtually the same total as Beethoven. No. 12 is by far the most popular. This flows in large degree from it being equal in “folksiness” to the Ninth Symphony, which he had completed one month before.
At the suggestion of his personal assistant, Josef Kovařík, Dvořák spent the summer of 1893 in the farming hamlet of Spillville, Iowa, where Kovařík had been born, rather than returning to Europe. Spillville’s 300 residents were Czech immigrants, and the intensely homesick composer felt right at home in their midst. He conducted a church choir and played its organ for services, took long early morning walks during which he noted down the songs of birds, fished the Turkey River and consumed vast quantities of his favourite pilsner beer.
His happiness proved a powerful stimulus to creativity. In just 16 days he composed String Quartet No. 12 (known thereafter as the ‘American’ Quartet). At the end of the sketch he wrote, “Thanks be to God, I am satisfied, it went quickly.” Such was the concentration and surety of its creation that the manuscript score contains hardly any corrections. Inspiration continued unabated. Six days later, he finished the sketches of another equally splendid chamber work, the String Quintet, Op. 97.
He was so eager to hear the new quartet that he pressed three members of the Kovařík family into joining him to give it an informal run-through. He played the viola part, and Josef the cello. The Kneisel Quartet performed the formal, public debut in Boston on 1 January 1894.
The viola introduces the first theme of the refreshing opening movement; the violin offers the lyrical and heartfelt second subject. The working out brings growing emotional intensity, but the music’s fundamental optimism disperses the temporary clouds. At the close of this movement, Dvořák wrote in the manuscript, “how beautifully the sun shines.”
In the prayer-like slow second movement, he gave full vent to his longing for home. The powerful climaxes here mark a substantial increase in forcefulness over those of the opening movement. The third movement is a dynamic and joyous scherzo whose great charm masks its intricacy and ingenuity. Dvořák, for example, constructed it solely on transformations of the opening melody. Josef Kovařík revealed that Dvořák took some of the melodic material from the song of the scarlet tanager, a bird he had encountered while walking outside Spillville. The boisterous finale opens with a vivacious chugging rhythm that calls to mind the locomotive, a machine that fascinated the composer. Czech musicologist Jan Smaczny has drawn a parallel between the sweet-natured second theme and a service in the Spillville church.
Piano Concerto No. 3
“Several years ago, Simone Dinnerstein visited me at my home in New York City and played a short program of Schubert and Glass. She played with a complete mastery of technique, depth of emotion, and understanding. Right
away I knew I would someday compose music for her. The opportunity presented itself soon after when she asked for a new piano concerto. About a year later I heard a rehearsal of the new work—Piano Concerto #3. I am very pleased with the result of our work and hope our audiences will enjoy our work together.” —Philip Glass
The idea for Philip Glass’s Third Piano Concerto came after that fateful meeting between pianist Dinnerstein and Philip Glass at the composer’s home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in September 2014. Glass was aware of Dinnerstein’s interpretations of Bach on recording and had the occasion to hear Dinnerstein play privately at his home the music of Schubert as well as Glass, but the occasion to hear her perform live didn’t come until the end of 2016 when the composer was awarded the eleventh Glenn Gould Prize in Ottawa.
It was on that program that Glass finally got to hear Dinnerstein play his music in front of the public and instantly
recognized the rapport between the pianist and her audience. Added to that is Glass’s relationship to the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and conductor Anne Manson. Glass began a collaboration with Manson at a production of his opera Orphée in Portland Oregon in 2009. Then again Portland Opera and Manson performed another Glass opera Galileo Galilei—both recorded for Glass’s label Orange Mountain Music. This led to the 2013 tour and performances of Glass’s music with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in performances of Glass’s piano concerto from The Hours as well as his Symphony No.3 for strings. Piano Concerto No.3 is the natural progression of this special relationship between Philip Glass’s music in Canada in general (the composer owns a summer home in Nova Scotia for the past 50 years) and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and its conductor Anne Manson in particular. The Third Piano Concerto had its premiere in Boston, Massachusetts, on 22 September 2017 with Dinnerstein and the chamber orchestra A Far Cry. The new concerto is cast in three movements and is scored for piano and strings. The piece is overtly Romantic in nature and reflects Glass’s most recent approaches to composing concertos which eschew the model of the concerto as soloist versus orchestra. Remarking on this, Dinnerstein said “it’s as if the piano grows out of the orchestra.” Also, rather than revisiting the format of the slow-fast-slow concerto format, Glass has composed a concerto in a slow-slower-slowest format. Indeed, the third and final movement of Piano Concerto No. 3 is dedicated to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. As such, this new work is perhaps one of the more disciplined and peaceful works Glass has ever composed. Glass stated, “I was thinking about Arvo Pärt—the third movement is an homage to Arvo. It’s a piece which you’ll recognize as being inspired by him yet it’s something that he would never have written.”
All this contributed to a concerto that is unlike any other that Glass has composed. Philip Glass has always been a composer whose music drives forward, very rarely looking backwards. However, recently his works have taken on a new dimension of a kind of rare beauty and acceptance. These are pieces which have nothing to prove but seem to ruminate, to look into the language of music itself, finding a new kind of old beauty.
22 September, 2017