Classical Music: UVic honours one of its beloved figures

In 1971, bassoonist and composer Rudolf Komorous, who was born in Prague in 1931, joined the University of Victoria’s School of Music, where he taught composition and theory, founded an electronic-music studio and served as director.

He left UVic in 1989 to direct the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, but kept his home here, in Broadmead, to which he retired after leaving Simon Fraser in 1994.

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As a composer, Komorous achieved international eminence. But he was also a devoted teacher, and became an influential, beloved figure at UVic. Many of his pupils went on to noteworthy careers, including the School of Music’s current composition professor (and acting director), Christopher Butterfield.

Today is Komorous’s 85th birthday, and tonight the School of Music will honour him in its Alumni Concert Series (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $20/$15/$10; steaming online in UVic’s Listen! Live series; finearts.uvic.ca/music/events). The concert is co-sponsored by the Canadian Music Centre, which, in August, opened a branch at the Victoria Conservatory of Music that includes a library named for Komorous.

Tonight’s concert celebrates Komorous as both composer and teacher. Among the many UVic alumni participating will be former pupils including Butterfield, local soprano and sound artist Cathy Fern Lewis, and Vancouver-based composer and conductor Owen Underhill.

The program will include three works by Komorous: the minimalist Olympia (1964), with Butterfield and Underhill playing assorted offbeat instruments; Lurid Bride (1999), a set of 11 short chamber-ensemble pieces all dedicated to former pupils, with Underhill conducting; and Stone House (2016), a setting of a poem by Fiona Sampson, composed especially for this concert.

The poem consists of a single sentence — Sampson calls it a “one-breath poem” — and according to Lewis, who will be singing, “the brilliant manner in which Komorous knits his music with this poem is beautiful.”

The program will include a second ensemble piece, Morning Glory (2007), by Linda Catlin Smith, another Komorous pupil.

Preceding the concert will be a short film by John Bolton inspired by Komorous’s music, screened in the School of Music (7:45 p.m., MacLaurin B037).

Elsewhere, the seasonal programming continues.

On the next two Sundays, the women’s choir Ensemble Laude, which represented Canada at a choral festival in the south of France this summer, will present its annual winter concert (3 p.m., Dec. 11, Alix Goolden Hall; 3 p.m., Dec. 18, Church of St. Mary of the Incarnation, Metchosin; advance $18, door $20, students $15, under 13 free; ensemblelaude.org). The choir will sing a cappella, but will also take advantage of the big organ in Alix Goolden Hall, with organist Nicholas Fairbank.

Laude’s program will be typically diverse: traditional music from Norway; 18th- and 19th-century music by Hasse, Michael Haydn, Mendelssohn and others; contemporary music from Estonia, Switzerland, the Basque country and the U.S. (including Steve Reich’s Clapping Music); and works by Canadians, including two locals, Fairbank and Georgina Craig.

The concert will also feature the premiere of How Can I Keep From Singing!, a hymn arrangement commissioned from the Ontario-based Sarah Quartel.

On Dec. 17, Vancouver-based conductor Alexander Weimann, an early-music specialist who directs the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, will be back in town, along with his orchestra (which includes many Victoria musicians). The occasion is the annual Christmas concert of the Early Music Society of the Islands (8 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral, $35/$30/$28; earlymusicsocietyoftheislands.ca).

The highlight of the concert will be Bach’s Magnificat. This joyous choral masterpiece is heard here with some frequency, though Weimann’s performance will be special.

For one thing, he will combine Bach’s two versions of the work, performing the revised, D-major version from the early 1730s, though including the four Christmas-themed songs of praise Bach interpolated into the original, E-flat-major version, from 1723. Moreover, the Magnificat will be sung (as it evidently was in Bach’s day) with one singer to a part — that is, the “choir” will comprise just five vocal soloists, all internationally renowned.

The concert will also include Bach’s popular Cantata 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, and a concerto for three trumpets by Telemann, who continues to have a “moment” in Victoria as 2017, his big anniversary year, looms.

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