Classical Music: From Byrds and Bs to Baroque

Though the Pacific Baroque Festival, which begins today and runs through Sunday, is currently the highest-profile classical music event in town, the coming week offers an array of other concerts with something for every taste, whether you like centuries-old music by the safely dead or spanking-new music straight from the horse’s mouth.

Friday, the Victoria Chamber Orchestra, which has performed early music (Bach and Purcell) so far this season, will offer the kind of late-Romantic and early-modern fare that its music director, Yariv Aloni, conducts with special passion (8 p.m., First Metropolitan United Church; $20/$15, music students free). The program will include two gorgeous works for strings: the short Serenade (1937) by Hans Gál, an Austrian composer who spent much of his career in Edinburgh; and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, a more substantial work (originally for string sextet) inspired by a city he visited often. Also, clarinetist Lawrence de la Haye will join the VCO in an intriguing novelty: a clarinet concerto whose movements are based on works by Handel, arranged in 1952 by English conductor John Barbirolli.

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On Saturday, the a cappella vocal sextet Hexaphone will offer a program spanning more than 400 years and a plethora of countries, genres and styles (8 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Cross; $18, 18 and under free). But that’s all in a day’s work for this ensemble, whose eclectic repertoire starts in the Middle Ages and includes contemporary classical works as well as jazz and popular music.

Titled Byrds and Bs, the program reaches as far back as the Tudor composer William Byrd and includes works by others whose names begin with the same letter — Billings, Brahms, Britten, Böttcher, and on up to Irving Berlin and Dave Brubeck. But there’s music by Gershwin and Barbara Pentland and R. Murray Schafer and others, too, in this miscellany, and the birds-and-bees pun presumably motivated the choice of closing work: Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It.

The Victoria Symphony’s Legacy Series will continue on Monday under the baton of its principal guest conductor, Alain Trudel, making his second appearance of the season (8 p.m., Royal Theatre; $35-$80). This ensemble, too, performs late-Romantic and early-modern music with particular authority and relish, regardless of the conductor, and so should be at its best in this all-Russian program.

The big works are Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (the “Pathétique”) and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (1935), with Mark Fewer, a classical and jazz violinist from Montreal, as soloist. The concert will open with the famous waltz from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty and will also include Stravinsky’s Circus Polka, which was commissioned by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for a little ballet of dancing elephants.

The next instalment in the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s series VCM Presents is titled Mozart@257 — a charming way of making the point that any anniversary year is a good year when it comes to Mozart (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Alix Goolden Hall; $15/$5, VCM faculty and students free). The concert, featuring the VCM’s orchestra and faculty and student soloists, conducted by Timothy Vernon, will include concerto movements in the first half, operatic arias in the second, though Mozart is not the solo focus of the program, which will also sample familiar works by Vivaldi, Haydn and Bruch.

Next Thursday, the University of Victoria’s Orion Series in Fine Arts will sponsor appearances by a senior figure on the Canadian contemporary music scene: pianist and composer Alcides Lanza. Born in Argentina in 1929, Lanza worked at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York in the late 1960s; in 1971, he became a professor of composition at McGill University, and in 1974 he became director of its Electronic Music Studio (of which he is today director emeritus).

In a noon masterclass, Lanza will speak about his use of tango elements in his accordion works, particularly arghanum V (1990). At 8 p.m., with singer and actress Meg Sheppard, his wife and regular concert partner, he will perform works by John Cage and others for various combinations of piano, voice and electronics, including two by himself: the tango-influenced semios (2009), receiving its Canadian première; and vôo (1992), celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to America (Phillip T. Young Recital Hall; free).

For details about these concerts, go to victoriachamberorchestra.org, hexaphone.org, victoriasymphony.ca, vcm.bc.ca and inearts.uvic.ca/music/events.

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