Victoria Symphony (Legacy Series), conducted by Bernhard Gueller, with Julia Nolan, saxophone
When/where: Monday, 8 p.m., Royal Theatre
Tickets: $33 to $80. Call 250-385-6515; email boxoffice@ victoriasymphony.ca; online at www.victoriasymphony.ca; in person at Victoria Symphony Box Office (Suite 610, 620 View St.)
VCM Presents: VCM Faculty Spotlight
When/where: Saturday, 7: 30 p.m., Alix Goolden Hall
Tickets: Adults $25, seniors and students $15, Victoria Conservatory of Music students, faculty, and staff free. Call 250-386-5311; in person at the Victoria Conservatory of Music front desk (900 Johnson St.)
Of all the flaws that can mar a work of art, the most fatal, you might think, would be incompleteness.
Yet history is rife with artistic torsos whose unfinished state seems only to make them more fascinating and more poignant. Some were completed but subsequently ravaged by time, circumstance or interfering hands. Some, though indisputably masterpieces in the making, were, for whatever reason, never finished.
Classical music offers many examples of works of the latter kind, from Bach's Art of Fugue to Berg's Lulu and including a spate of symphonies - Beethoven's Tenth, Bruckner's Ninth, Mahler's Tenth, Elgar's Third, and at least half a dozen by Schubert, only one of which, the magnificent specimen in B minor, actually bears the nickname "Unfinished."
Schubert began this work in the fall of 1822, but after completing two movements and sketching a scherzo, he was forced to abandon it owing to illness (syphilis, which would continue to plague him until his death six years later).
Why he never finished the symphony once his health had improved is not known; perhaps he simply could not recover his inspiration.
Some modern musicians have made speculative completions of the scherzo and even guessed at the intended finale, but even as a torso, the symphony impresses as a deeply personal, potently Romantic and innovative rethinking of the classical symphony.
On Monday, Schubert's "Unfinished" will open the final concert of the Victoria Symphony's Legacy Series, under the baton of guest conductor Bernhard Gueller, music director of Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax.
The concert will also include DvorÃ¡k's Seventh Symphony, and Brazen, a new concerto for alto saxophone by Jeffrey Ryan, with Julia Nolan making her Victoria Symphony debut as the featured soloist.
Ryan and Nolan both live in Vancouver and the concerto was conceived while they chatted over coffee in 2009. Nolan had just heard orchestral music by Ryan played by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (which recently recorded some of it for the Naxos label's Canadian Classics series).
Impressed, she suggested that Ryan compose something for saxophone, which, it turned out, he had played in high school but had never written for. An official commission, supported by the B.C. Arts Council, followed. (Brazen is one of many works - including other concertos - Nolan has commissioned from Canadian composers.)
Running about 18 minutes and accompanied by strings and percussion, the concerto was prompted, Ryan says, by the double sense of the word "brazen," which means "made of brass" as well as "bold and shameless."
In exploring the latter sense of the word musically, he was inspired by the ambitious title character of the film All About Eve, personifying the many facets of her personality - "brash and defiant, sexy and seductive, calculating and manipulative" - through the solo saxophone.
"I love this piece!" says Nolan, who finds the music "cheeky and flirtatious, silky and melancholy," full of "humour and pathos" and what she calls "a wow factor."
Monday's performance will be the second for Brazen, which was given its première last Saturday by Nolan and the VSO, conducted by Bramwell Tovey.
Saturday's recital at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, the penultimate concert of its inaugural VCM Presents series, is a miscellany of vocal and instrumental works spanning almost three centuries and featuring six members of the VCM's faculty, including the Aurora Trio.
The trio, comprising flute (Mary Byrne), viola (Christine Prince) and harp (Annabelle Stanley), was founded in 2000 expressly to perform Debussy's three-movement sonata for this unusual combination of instruments, though the women went on to explore other repertoire, old and new, original and transcribed.
On Saturday, they will perform an arrangement of Ravel's Introduction et allegro before bringing the concert to a close with the Debussy.
The first half of the program will feature, in various combinations, mezzosoprano Kathryn Whitney, flutist Mary Jill McCulloch, and organist Nicholas Fairbank, in pieces by other French composers, an aria from Bach's Cantata 129 (Gelobet seider Herr, mein Gott) and two works by Fairbank himself: Song of Ruth, his 1999 voice-and-organ setting of Old Testament verses, and Rossignols, which will receive its première.
Composed especially for this concert, Rossignols, Fairbank says, is "based on early QuÃ©bÃ©cois folk songs" and incorporates "excerpts from three songs, all concerned with nightingales and how, by their music, they either charm lovers who observe them or carry messages from one to the other."
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