Victoria Summer Music Festival
When/where: July 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31, 7: 30 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (School of Music, MacLaurin Building, UVic); preconcert talks before all concerts (except July 24), 6: 35 p.m.
Tickets: $30 (five-concert pass $125), students $10 (limited availability, by advance reservation only). Call 250-385-8763; online at vsmf.org.; in person at Ivy's Bookshop
Concert details: vsmf.org
The Victoria Summer Music Festival, launched in 1996, is one of the city's great classical-music success stories, and gives no evidence of flagging. Its 17th season - five concerts spread over the week beginning July 24 - will feature a notably impressive roster of local and visiting talent in substantial programs of both familiar and refreshingly novel repertoire.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons each included a vocalmusic program, though this year's concerts, as formerly, will be devoted to chamber music in the conventional sense - purely instrumental. As always, they will be held in the University of Victoria's Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, an intimate venue seating 220 that is ideally suited to small ensembles.
The series will open with a beloved fixture of the VSMF and a reliable sell-out: Basses Loaded, a masseddouble-bass extravaganza mixing classical and popular repertoire with a splash of humour. It is the culmination of KarrKamp, the intensive annual summer course at UVic that attracts bassists from around the world, founded by the internationally renowned virtuoso Gary Karr, who retired to Victoria in 2001 following a 40-year concert career.
This year, for the 16th incarnation of Basses Loaded, 18 students will be joined by two auditors, Karr himself, his assistant, Sarah Klein, and his partner, pianist Harmon Lewis. "My class is a bit bigger than I had anticipated," Karr says, "so it's going to be quite a noise."
With the remaining concerts, the VSMF has sought to enhance the "festival" atmosphere by having three ensembles each appear on two different programs, allowing audiences to get to know these performers more intimately.
The July 26 and 28 concerts will feature a very distinguished trio comprising violinist William Preucil, longtime concertmaster of the great Cleveland Orchestra; cellist Eric Kim, a professor at Indiana University, in Bloomington; and pianist Arthur Rowe, a UVic professor and artistic director of the VSMF, in which he has appeared annually since 2001.
Rowe, who earned a master's degree at Indiana, formed a partnership with Preucil there more than 30 years ago, and the two have performed with Kim for a decade now, but their trio has never performed in Victoria.
Their July 26 program will comprise three monuments of the piano-trio literature: Mozart's K. 502, Arensky's D-minor trio, and Brahms's Op. 8. Their July 28 program will include violin-cello duets by Reinhold Glière, Beethoven's gorgeous Op. 69 cello sonata, and a big, splendid work for an unusual ensemble: Ernest Chausson's Concerto for piano, violin and string quartet, from 1891. For that, Rowe and Preucil will be joined by the local Emily Carr String Quartet, returning to the VSMF for the first time since 2009.
The July 30 and 31 concerts will both feature the Alcan Quartet, a widely admired string ensemble making its VSMF debut. (It is based in Chicoutimi, Que., and its principal patron is the aluminum company for which it is named.)
Since it was founded, in 1989, the Alcan has played quite often in Victoria, most recently last year. "We love visiting Victoria and seeing our old friends, the members of the Lafayette Quartet," says its cellist, David Ellis.
The Alcan will get to make some new friends here, as it will appear alongside local musicians with whom it has never performed. On July 30, it will join pianist Michelle Mares (also making her VSMF debut) in CÃ©sar Franck's Piano Quintet, in a program that will also include a Beethoven quartet (Op. 59/No. 2) and Spanish Garland, a striking, novel folk-music-inspired work by Montreal composer JosÃ© Ãvangelista.
On July 31, the Alcan will share the stage with the Emily Carr - the latter in Shostakovich's Sixth Quartet, the former in a quartet by the Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin, who was born in 1937 and whose music has lately enjoyed considerable popularity.
(Ellis describes the quartet, composed in 1998, as "a surprising piece that sounds very jazzy.") The two quartets will finally come together in, inevitably, the 16-year-old Mendelssohn's masterly Octet, a perennial favourite.
The VSMF, whose ticket price has risen by 20 per cent this year, will offer informal talks before each concert (except Basses Loaded), a practice that began last year and proved popular. Also, it will sponsor free noon-hour concerts in the Atrium Building (800 Yates St.) on July 18 and 20.
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