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Classical music: Experimental composers concert inspired by minimalist art

The Victoria Composers Collective comprises emerging composers dedicated to performing and promoting experimental music — their own and that of other locals. The collective has 19 members, who hail from across Canada and beyond (Hong Kong, Brazil).

The Victoria Composers Collective comprises emerging composers dedicated to performing and promoting experimental music — their own and that of other locals.

The collective has 19 members, who hail from across Canada and beyond (Hong Kong, Brazil). They range widely in terms of background and musical style, and include students at the University of Victoria, as well as composers with considerable professional experience. All are active as performers, too.

The collective’s inaugural concert was in July 2014. Last year, it sponsored five concerts at various venues, including, in February, the first Oak Bay New Music Festival; in the summer it also sent five members on an eight-concert tour of the Interior. This year, it has mounted a second festival and, in April, a concert titled Woodstockhausen: New Music for Rock Band, which yielded its first CD.

Its next concert is Friday, at Open Space (8 p.m., $16/$11 advance, $20/$15 door; openspace.ca).

Titled Why Can’t Minimal: Do This?, the concert was inspired by Why Can’t Minimal, a visual-art exhibition running at Open Space. The six composers on the program (who double as six of the seven performers) have created new pieces that respond directly to particular artworks in the exhibition and, more generally, reflect on minimalism, one of the most important tendencies in recent avant-garde music.

 

The city’s highest-profile new-music group, the Aventa Ensemble, begins its 14th season on Sunday (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $20; pre-concert talk 7:15; aventa.ca).

The program, conducted by Bill Linwood, Aventa’s co-founder and artistic director, includes two substantial works scored for 15 instruments and bearing a title that qualifies as a mouthful: Todos los recuerdos presentes envolvían ese sonido y algo me miró (2007), by the Argentinian-born Analia Llugdar; and …and I need a room to receive five thousand people with raised glasses … or … what a glorious day, the birds are singing “halleluia”… (2014), by the Serbian-born Ana Sokolovic. The former draws on a poem by a Mapuche writer, the latter on Serbian rock songs.

Both composers have lived in Montreal since the 1990s.

Llugdar’s work is new to Aventa, though it has often programmed music by Sokolovic over the past 10 years, here and on tour in Canada and Europe.

The longest and most unexpected item on the program counts as ancient music by Aventa’s standards: Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 6, from 1925.

Aventa will perform it with an up-to-date twist, however: the North American première of a transcription for 18 performers (including two keyboard players and three percussionists) made in 2010 by the Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.

This is no workaday arrangement, as Abrahamsen is a major composer. (He won the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, classical music’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.)

He was once associated with a Danish movement known as the New Simplicity, so it’s apt that he was drawn to the Sixth, which Nielsen titled Sinfonia semplice.

The four-movement work is already adventurous and elusive in its original form, and Abrahamsen’s lean, spiky, acerbic arrangement further underscores the music’s modernist credentials — its angst and strange beauty as well as its irony and wit.

Anyway, the work is welcome in any form — we don’t hear Nielsen’s music often enough in Victoria.

 

Also of note in the coming days:

• On Saturday, violinist Paul Luchkow and keyboard player Michael Jarvis, a period-instrument duo, will launch their second season of chamber-music concerts in Christ Church Cathedral’s intimate Chapel of the New Jerusalem (7:30 p.m., $25/$20, series $60/$45; 778-231-5126).

Their program includes two selections from Michel Corrette’s Op. 25, a set of six programmatic sonatas for violin and harpsichord from 1742, all inspired by Greek myths. (The duo is currently making the first complete recording of this set, for the Marquis Classics label.) The program also includes significant works by Telemann, Corelli and Biber.

• And on Monday, pianist Arthur Rowe, a professor in the University of Victoria’s School of Music, will give a solo recital in the university’s Faculty Concert Series (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $20/$15/$10; finearts.uvic.ca/music/events).

The program comprises three major sonatas: Mozart’s K. 332, Schubert’s spacious Fantasy Sonata in G major, and Chopin’s No. 3 in B minor.