What: VCM Presents: Ensemble Made In Canada.
When/where: Thursday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m., Wood Hall (Victoria Conservatory of Music, 907 Pandora Ave.).
Tickets: $20, students under 18 free. Call 250-386-5311; online at eventbrite.ca; in person at the VCM Front Desk (900 Johnson St.).
Last August, the Victoria Summer Music Festival closed with an unusual and stimulating concert featuring Ensemble Made In Canada, an Ontario-based piano quartet (that is, comprising violin, viola, cello and piano).
The ensemble, which had made its VSMF debut in 2016, was returning as part of a special venture called the Mosaïque Project. It performed a suite of 14 short works for piano quartet, all by Canadian composers, all inspired by particular regions of Canada, all commissioned especially for the project.
British Columbia was represented by Ana Sokolovic, a Serbian-born composer based in Montreal, whose music was already quite well known here, thanks to the Victoria Symphony and other groups, especially the Aventa Ensemble. The title of her piece, Splendor Sine Occasu, quoted the motto on B.C.’s coat of arms.
Ensemble Made In Canada has been touring Canada with this suite since July 2018, visiting every province and territory, and one of these concert performances, in St. Catharines, Ont., is scheduled to be livestreamed tomorrow, when a CD of the suite will also be launched (for details, go to ensemblemadeincanada.com).
The tour will then wrap up back on the West Coast. The ensemble is scheduled to give two concerts in Sechelt this weekend, then take up a residency at the Victoria Conservatory of Music from Jan. 26 to 30, while also giving a concert at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Jan. 29.
Since November, the ensemble’s violinist, Elissa Lee, has come to Victoria on four occasions to give workshops in local schools, each focused on the Mosaïque Project and featuring a live interactive session with one of the 14 contributing composers.
Two more workshops will take place during the coming week’s residency, again at local schools (École John Stubbs Memorial and Arbutus Middle School), this time featuring the whole quartet and including discussion and performance of several Mosaïque pieces. The ensemble will also offer masterclasses to students in the conservatory’s Young Artists Collegium Program.
The residency will culminate next Thursday evening in a public concert, the first in the conservatory’s annual series VCM Presents.
The ensemble will once again perform Sokolovi_’s Splendor Sine Occasu, though otherwise the program will be a very different kind of musical “mosaic,” one drawing on the standard repertoire.
The opening work is an intriguing novelty: Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor, a single movement of what may have been intended to be a multi-movement piece, probably composed around 1876-78, when he was in his late teens. It is Mahler’s only surviving early work in an “abstract” Classical form, and the style is redolent of Brahms and other 19th-century Austro-German Romantics.
The first half of the program will also include the single-movement Phantasy for piano quartet (1910) by English composer Frank Bridge, and Joaquín Turina’s Piano Quartet in A Minor (1931), in three short movements.
The second half will be given over to one of the masterpieces of the genre: Brahms’s Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60.
The members of Ensemble Made In Canada-Lee, violist Sharon Wei, cellist Rachel Mercer and pianist Angela Park-have all had significant international solo careers, as both performers and teachers, including appearances at some prestigious festivals (Marlboro, Ravinia, Orford, Verbier, Casals).
Together, the ensemble has toured North American and performed for many major Canadian series, including Winnipeg Virtuosi, Montreal Pro Musica, the Stratford Music Festival, Ottawa Chamberfest, the Festival of the Sound (Parry Sound, Ont.) and the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, and it has offered cycles of works on multiple occasions for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. It also participates in outreach programs for public schools in Ontario.
In 2006, the ensemble was awarded the CBC’s Galaxie Rising Stars award from the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the members were featured among Chatelaine magazine’s “Women to Watch” in a special 2008 issue.
Since 2014, Ensemble Made In Canada has been an ensemble-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, in London, where Wei and Park also have teaching positions.