29th Victoria Symphony Splash bash barges into town

When conductor Christian Kluxen stepped on stage for his first Victoria Symphony Splash last year, he was met by 40,000 people.

The symphony’s music director can expect to face a similar size audience today, though he anticipates his second appearance aboard an Inner Harbour barge to go a bit more smoothly.

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“I’m a normal guy who has a special job, but I’m not used to speaking to 40,000 people,” Kluxen said.

The scale of the event took some getting used to, Kluxen said. In an attempt to ease his nerves last year, he cracked a joke, which only made matters worse.

“I couldn’t even hear if people thought it was funny or not,” he said with laugh. “When I said it, I was waiting for them to laugh, but I heard nothing. I thought: ‘I hope that went down well.’ ”

He returned to Victoria on Monday evening after a brief holiday in his hometown of Copenhagen, his first official break from work in six months.

Kluxen and the 56-piece symphony will both be in great shape for the Splash performance, which has become one of the biggest musical events in the province.

“I think even the big orchestras in the world have dreams about engaging their community in the way that the Victoria Symphony does for this event,” he said.

Kluxen has drawn up a film-friendly program, one that includes a handful of the most recognizable film scores in history. For last year’s debut, he chose to showcase works from his European roots — Danish composer Carl Nielsen, Norwegian Edvard Grieg and Finland’s Jean Sibelius — but is going for music with a broader appeal this year, including selections from Cinema Paradiso, E.T., and Star Wars.

“I was very happy last year with the idea that it had to reflect where I come from, and be a gift from myself to Victoria,” he said.

“I’ve tried to go a bit that way this year, by programming some Nielsen and Wagner, but also incorporating some film music.”

He’s excited to showcase Max Steiner’s main title from Gone with the Wind, in addition to selections from Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s scores to Robin Hood and His Merry Men and Prince and the Pauper.

There is also work by composers Carl Nielsen and Richard Wagner, whose music will appear during the Victoria Symphony’s upcoming season.

“It’s a nice way of saying: ‘If you like this, maybe you should also think about coming to a performance.’ I wanted to reflect a little bit of what is coming in the season,” Kluxen said.

Violist Danielle Tsao, 17, will be appearing as a guest soloist during the performance. (Her sister, Carolyn, was the Splash soloist in 2007.) Klaxon said he did not know Tsao before her audition, but he was immediately impressed.

“I rarely know the soloists in that way before I choose them,” he said. “They are so young, so there’s little chance that I have played with them before.”

Kluxen said Tsao was one of the few people auditioning who looked really happy when she played. “She looked like she really loved to play, and for me that’s the key with a young musician — that they like what they are doing.”

He is similarly enthusiast about his job, so they should make for a formidable pair. “I try to be myself, and I want to be myself, and not to be boring. I’m in the tornado’s eye. If I don’t deliver, then it makes a problem for everyone.”

Though he doesn’t expect his nerves to have dissipated come showtime, Kluxen welcomes the challenge.

“If I was not nervous, I think it would not be exciting. That’s why I have the job. I don’t do this to feel safe every day.”

Victoria Symphony Splash gets underway today at 1 p.m. in the Inner Harbour. Admission is free, but organizers suggest a donation of $5. For more information, go to victoriasymphony.ca.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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