Classical music: UVic prof gives expression to ‘suppressed music’

Flutist Suzanne Snizek is an associate professor in the University of Victoria’s School of Music, where she teaches flute, chamber music and music history.

Born and raised near Chicago, she earned degrees from Indiana University Bloomington and University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, then led a performing and teaching career that eventually took her to Vancouver. In 2011, she completed a doctorate at the University of British Columbia and began teaching at UVic.

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Snizek has a fascinating specialty: “suppressed music.” This includes music banned by the Nazi and Soviet regimes, music from wartime internment camps and, she says, “pretty much any music (or, more specifically, any composer) that irks a given authority, for whatever reason.” She has explored this subject in concert performances, lectures, published writings and a CD, Chamber Music (Re)Discoveries, which she made at UVic in 2016. (It can be heard at ssnizek.finearts.uvic.ca.)

Last year, UVic honoured her with a REACH Award for excellence in research, praising her for “bringing these forgotten treasures back into our musical and historical consciousness and reminding us what can happen when the rights to free speech and artistic expression are violated.”

Next Tuesday, Oct. 9, Snizek will offer a faculty concert at UVic devoted to such repertoire (12:30 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, by donation; live online at livestream.com/somlive; finearts.uvic.ca/music/calendar). The program comprises four very different works, two for unaccompanied flute and two in which she will be joined by pianist Yoomi Kim, who teaches at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

The earliest piece, from 1925, is a lovely sonata by Günter Raphael (1903-1960), a half-Jewish German composer and academic whose works were banned and whose teaching career was disrupted by the Nazis; the most recent piece, from 2014, is by a renowned Czech composer, Sylvie Bodorovà.

Snizek will also perform pieces by Edison Denisov (1929-1996) and Isang Yun (1917-1995).

Denisov was one of the most important and inspiring Russian musicians of his generation. As a composer, teacher and advocate, he forged crucial links between Soviet musicians and the post-war European avant-garde, despite considerable official criticism. Yun, a native of South Korea, studied in Japan and during the Second World War was imprisoned for resistance activities against the Japanese. From 1955, he was based in Europe, mostly in West Germany, but in 1967, he was abducted to Seoul by Chung-hee Park’s regime, accused of being a communist spy and imprisoned. International pressure secured his release two years later.

Also of note:

On Friday, Christ Church Cathedral will launch “ORGtober,” a month-long series of recitals and other events focused on its splendid Helmuth Wolff organ (7:30 p.m., $25; christchurchcathedral.bc.ca).

The inaugural event is a recital by Isabelle Demers, a Quebec-born organist with a doctorate from Juilliard, who is currently an associate professor at Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. She is a highly acclaimed concert artist who plays all over the world, admired for her virtuosity and dynamism and fearlessness. She last appeared here in 2012.

On Friday, Demers will offer a diverse program that begins in the 17th century and includes a Bach arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto, the waltz from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, a couple of programmatic études, variations on a theme by Paganini (yes, that theme) and her own transcription of a “symphonic suite” from the Harry Potter films.

Next Wednesday, Oct. 10, the Victoria Guitar Society will sponsor the local debut of the celebrated and versatile Russian guitarist Artyom Dervoed (7:30 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, advance $25/$20, door $30/$25; victoriaguitarsociety.ca). Dervoed has a high-profile international concert career and has won no less than 16 competitions, one of which yielded a CD of contemporary Russian music on the Naxos label, released in 2008.

His concert next Wednesday will pay tribute to Nicolò Paganini, the early-19th-century violinist whose demonic virtuosity mesmerized audiences and profoundly influenced other musicians. Less well known is that he also played the guitar and composed much solo and chamber music for it.

Dervoed will perform music by Paganini (original works and transcriptions) as well as modern homages to him, including a piece he commissioned himself, The Possessed, by American guitarist-composer Kevin Callahan.

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