Classical Music: Toronto ensemble returns with special touring show on Bach

Thanks to the Early Music Society of the Islands, the Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, one of the world’s most venerable and admired period-instrument ensembles, has performed in Victoria many times since 1985.

Its most recent appearances here have been in special touring shows with thematically unified, cross-disciplinary, multimedia programs. In 2012, it was The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres, a celebration of Galileo’s astronomical discoveries that included images from the Hubble Telescope. In 2016, it was House of Dreams, which showcased the kinds of music and art that might have been appreciated in a private home in each of five European cities.

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Both shows were devised by Alison Mackay, who has played violone and double bass with Tafelmusik since 1979 and has created many special programs for the orchestra, which have earned international acclaim.

On Saturday, again through EMSI, Tafelmusik will return to Victoria as part of a tour of Western Canada, with another of Mackay’s shows, J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, led by the orchestra’s music director, violinist Elisa Citterio (8 p.m., Alix Goolden Hall, $40/$35/$30, student rush $10; pre-concert talk 7:10; earlymusicsocietyoftheislands.ca).

The show will be repeated in Mill Bay on Sunday and in Nanaimo on Monday.

The all-Bach program focuses on instrumental music he created for his family, students and colleagues, and the ensemble’s 15 members will all perform from memory. The music will include movements from cantatas, orchestral suites and the Brandenburg Concertos, as well as solo pieces for violin, cello and harpsichord.

In addition, texts and projected images will honour “the artisans and tradespeople whose labour and expertise made the performances of Bach’s music possible, both in his own time and in the 21st century,” including papermakers, violin carvers and string spinners.

This weekend, the Victoria Symphony will sponsor the local debut of a rising star: the Israeli-Canadian cellist Daniel Hass, who won the Stulberg International String Competition, in Michigan, in 2016, when he was just 18, and that same year won the Canada Council’s Michael Measures Prize for young classical musicians (Saturday, 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m.; Royal Theatre, $33-$86; victoriasymphony.ca).

Hass, who made his orchestral debut with the Toronto Symphony at age 15 and recently graduated from the Juilliard School of Music, in New York, will perform Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme in a program that also includes Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony. The orchestra’s music director, Christian Kluxen, will conduct.

The program opens with Byrd Dances by Rodney Sharman, who wrote the piece in 2009 while he was the Victoria Symphony’s composer-in-residence. It is a very free rendering of three short keyboard pieces by the Elizabethan composer William Byrd, and shows off Sharman’s ingenuity as an arranger and orchestrator.

It is great to see an interesting commissioned piece like this treated as an ordinary part of the repertoire and brought back for another hearing.

Also this weekend, the Victoria Mendelssohn Choir, founded and directed by Simon Leung and now in its fifth year, will offer a program devoted to Romantic music, which has been a particular focus of its repertoire (Saturday, 7 p.m., Church of St. John the Divine; Sunday, 3 p.m., SHOAL Centre, Sidney; $20; facebook.com, Victoria Mendelssohn Choir, BC).

The choir, which has about 25 members, will perform three beautiful nature-inspired collections composed between 1882 and 1895: Dvorák’s In Nature’s Realm; Brahms’s Four Quartets, Op. 92; and Elgar’s Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands.

This program comprises 15 pieces in all, the texts of which draw on a wide range of nature-related images and themes — ripening rye fields, trees, mountains, birdsong, the seasons, times of the day, song and dance, the hunt — sometimes in the context of a love story.

Finally, on Sunday, three longstanding faculty members in the University of Victoria’s School of Music will come together in recital: cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni (a member of the Lafayette String Quartet), pianist Bruce Vogt and soprano Susan Young (8 p.m., Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, $25/$20/$10; streaming online at livestream.com/somlive; finearts.uvic.ca/music/calendar).

They will perform works by Franck, Brahms and local composer Leila Lustig, who was born in Kentucky but has lived in Canada since 1987.

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