Classical music: Bach’s sonatas for violin featured at church concert

What: Julia Wedman, violin
When/where: Nov. 8, 7 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church (1273 Fort St.)
Tickets: By donation; tax receipt for donations greater than $20
and
What: Victoria Symphony (Explorations): My Name Is Amanda Todd
When/where: Nov. 10, 8 p.m., Dave Dunnet Community Theatre (Oak Bay High School, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd.)
Tickets: $20-$25. Call 250-386-6121 or 250-385-6515; online at rmts.bc.ca; in person at the Royal Theatre box office and the Victoria Symphony box office (610 - 620 View St.)

In September, a visiting historical-performance specialist played Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello, and this evening another such specialist, Julia Wedman, will perform selections from the parallel repertoire: Bach’s six sonatas and partitas (suites) for unaccompanied violin.

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Wedman, who hails from Saskatoon and now lives in Toronto, has played in the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 2005; she is also a member of the innovative Baroque ensemble I Furiosi and of the Eybler Quartet, which specializes in unfamiliar repertoire of the later 18th century. She has toured widely and recorded prolifically with these (and other) groups, while also maintaining a solo career. Her recordings include a superb account of Biber’s Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas, a set of highly original and virtuosic pieces from the late 17th century.

Wedman is currently planning to record Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas — a project she has been preparing for five years. (It will apparently be the first recording of these important and popular works by a Canadian violinist specializing in historical performance.) This evening’s concert is a fundraiser for the project, which will cost about $40,000.

The program comprises the Sonata No. 3 in C Major and the Partita No. 2 in D Minor, the latter being the one that closes with the Ciaccona, a big set of ground-bass variations that became famous as an independent piece and as a source for transcriptions (especially by pianists). Wedman will also talk about the music and her approach to performing it.

The Victoria Symphony’s Explorations series, which is devoted to contemporary music, has been especially ambitious and adventurous since last season, when Bill Linwood took charge of it. Linwood is the orchestra’s principal timpanist but is also co-founder and conductor of the Aventa Ensemble, the city’s premier new-music group.

This season’s Explorations series begins on Saturday, with a program whose featured work has special resonance for a British Columbia audience: My Name Is Amanda Todd.

Amanda Todd was the Port Coquitlam girl who, in 2012, at age 15, committed suicide following a prolonged period of cyberbullying and online blackmail. A month before her death, she posted a moving nine-minute video to YouTube in which she related her terrible experiences using flash cards, the last of which read, “my name is Amanda Todd ….”

The video went viral after her death, prompting an international conversation about bullying and the mental health of young people, as well as attention from various levels of government and the formation of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society by her mother, Carol Todd.

(In 2017, a man in Holland was convicted of the online harassment of Amanda and others.)

On May 19, 2016, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa mounted an orchestral concert comprising four pieces it had commissioned about four very different Canadian women who had in common “a struggle and determination to find their voices, despite extremely difficult circumstances.” (The program was later recorded for an Analekta CD.)

One of these pieces was My Name Is Amanda Todd, by Jocelyn Morlock, a Manitoba native who is composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The 12-minute piece is extraordinarily poignant, though also, at different times, energetic, passionate, troubled and furious. There is eventually a suggestion of hope and peace, though a thread of sadness remains, and the ending sounds appropriately “unfinished.” The piece won Morlock the 2018 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year.

Morlock and Carol Todd will be in town for the occasion, and on Friday will speak to high-school students from around Greater Victoria at a Victoria Symphony rehearsal.

Saturday’s program, which will be conducted by Linwood, will include another work that had its première in that 2016 NAC event: Dear Life, by Zosha Di Castri, a Calgary-born composer who lives in New York and teaches at Columbia University. Her piece, based on the writings of Alice Munro, will feature soprano Betty Waynne Allison and recorded narration by the great Canadian actor Martha Henry.

The program will include two other short pieces by Canadians: Jordan Nobles’ Ouroboros (2016), a passacaglia inspired by images from the Hubble telescope; and Bekah Simms’s Remnant Shoreline (2017), inspired by the climate-change crisis.

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