What: Victoria Symphony
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2: 30 p.m.
Where: Royal Theatre
Tickets: $35 to $75 at 250-385-6515, 250-386-6121 rmts.bc.ca. Discounts for seniors and students.
The Victoria Symphony this weekend will perform the world première of composer R. Murray Schafer's newest piece, which was commissioned locally with the orchestra in mind.
Figures in the Night Passing is presented alongside Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring and the centrepiece of the program, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem, in concerts Saturday and Sunday.
"He's a very brilliant composer," said Hugh Davidson, the honourary life member of the Victoria Symphony who commissioned the work. "In my opinion, he's the most important composer in Canada, the most compelling."
Schafer's music is known around the globe and the Vancouver Sun called him "the most celebrated composer of his generation."
He is a prolific composer who has created works for opera and musical theatre, as well as choral, chamber and orchestral pieces. He was the first recipient of the Jules LÃ©ger Prize for New Chamber Music in 1978 and also designed the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University, a study of acoustic ecology.
Beyond music, he has worked as an educator, researcher, writer, ecologist and visual artist.
"He communicates, no matter what he does.
Whether it's his operas, his songs, his string quartets or his orchestral music, he communicates directly," said Davidson. "Ravel said the words, 'complexe mais pas compliquÃ©' - complex but not complicated."
Davidson, who lives in Victoria, has known Schafer since they collaborated together in Montreal in the 1950s. Davidson joined CBC Montreal in 1956 as a radio producer and then supervisor of music in the 1960s. He is the former head of music for the Canada Council for the Arts and former music administrator for the National Arts Centre.
He asked Schafer to create Figures in the Night Passing especially for the Victoria Symphony and music director Tania Miller.
"I feel that the audience should hear the best of what's going on," he said.
"Tania does a remarkable job."
Davidson has called it a triple commission - for Murray, for Miller and for the orchestra. He will hear it for the first time during rehearsal.
"I've got a score and it looks very lovely. It begins quietly and ends quietly and it's very impressive in the middle and so forth," he said.
This will be the third piece Davidson has commissioned for the Victoria Symphony. He also commissioned John Estacio's Triptych and Tobin Stokes's Symphony No. 2, both of which premièred in 2009.
Miller will conduct the concert, which features the Victoria Choral Society, soprano Nancy Argenta, mezzo soprano Sarah Fryer, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and bass Alexandre Sylvestre.
The concert is dedicated to the memory of Louise Lemire-Elmore, co-founder of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, who died earlier this year.
Schafer will also be at the Bard and Banker pub Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. for a meet-the-composer event. Admission is free and in addition to celebrating the première of the composition, he will sign copies of his new autobiography, My Life on Earth & Elsewhere.
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