The coming week will be so busy with classical concerts as to require some hard choices from concertgoers.
The chamber choir Vox Humana will present a program featuring guitarist Alexander Dunn (Friday, 7: 30 p.m., Alix Goolden Hall; Sunday, 3 p.m., St. Mary's Anglican Church, Saanichton; $20/$15).
As usual, the choir will emphasize contemporary music that will be new to most listeners, this time with a focus on Spanish and Latin American fare, though also including some music by the American composer Alan Hovhaness, with whom Dunn studied. A cantata, He andado muchos caminos (I Have Walked Down Many Roads), commissioned from Liova Bueno, a Dominican composer living here, will receive its première.
On Saturday, the Victoria Philharmonic Choir opens its season with Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt, with the 50-or-so choristers joined by six vocal soloists and two dozen instrumentalists (8 p.m., First Metropolitan United Church; $25/$15, 12 and under free). This setting of the Biblical story of the Exodus is notably vivid and often exciting, scenarios like the plagues on Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea being ideally suited to Handel's extraordinary powers of musical dramatization.
Those who have seen The Ten Commandments once too often and don't relish the musical version can take in the second concert of the DieMahler String Quartet's fall series, also on Saturday (7 p.m., Church of St. Mary the Virgin; $25/$22.50). Titled Three Bs, Traditional Revolutionaries, the program will include the biggest of Beethoven's Op. 18 quartets, a handful of Brahms' Hungarian Dances, and arrangements of works by Bach, including the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1.
The same evening, the university's School of Music promises "a mind-blowing concert challenging the laws of physics," inspired by the recent hullabaloo over the Higgs boson, in its Faculty Chamber Music Series (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall; $17.50/$13.50).
On Sunday, the Victoria Symphony's Classics Series continues under the baton of music director Tania Miller (2: 30 p.m., Farquhar Auditorium, UVic Centre; $35 to $55). The program, spanning more than a century and three musical eras, will include a concerto grosso by Geminiani, one of a set of daring symphonies by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Haydn's popular Concertante.
Sunday's program will include a post-Classical work with a classicizing bent: Brahms' five-movement Serenade No. 2 in A Major, from 1859, scored for a small orchestra (curiously, without violins). Lightweight, charming, full of allusions to 18th-century music, this is one of a pair of "practice symphonies" a young Brahms wrote while working up the nerve to tackle his Symphony No. 1.
Both string ensembles directed by violist and conductor Yariv Aloni will perform in the coming week. With the Galiano Ensemble, he will indulge his fondness for programming that highlights national styles - in this case, Czech (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, UVic; $33/$30). The program will include serenades by DvorÃ¡k and his pupil (and son-in-law) Josef Suk, plus a short divertimento by Oskar Morawetz (1917-2007), who spent most of his life in Toronto.
Friday, by contrast, Aloni will lead the Victoria Chamber Orchestra in music that is the opposite of ingratiating, though immensely compelling: Bach's Art of Fugue (8 p.m., First Metropolitan United Church; $20/$15, music students free). This collection of fugues and canons for keyboard, all based on the same theme, occupied Bach throughout his last decade. Complex, esoteric and austere, this music is also surprisingly intense.
The VCO will perform the work almost complete - 20 pieces, including a completion of the unfinished final fugue - in an arrangement featuring solo and massed strings as well as organ. Aloni programmed The Art of Fugue with the Galiano in 2005, and this reprise with his VCO promises to be one of the highlights of the season.
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