As the back-to-school sales begin clogging our inboxes, another sure sign that the seasons will be turning soon is the arrival of orchestra program announcements. If the 2018-2019 programs are any indication, music lovers across Canada can expect a vibrant and gorgeous season of music, filled to the brim not only with star performers and classic repertoire but also several debut performances of works by Canadian composers. This year also brings with it centenary observances of the end of World War I in the form of musical tributes from several ensembles. We’ll feature some of the highlights coming your way across Canada in two parts – here, we focus on the West.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Not only is this the VSO’s centenary year, but this season also marks the first year for incoming music director Otto Tausk – and wow, has he put together a doozy of a season for the lucky people of Vancouver. Highlights include the world premiere of a new work from Dutch-Canadian composer Edward Top (September); Canadian violinist Scott St. John playing Korngold (October); Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin soloing in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major (November); an all-Mozart program in March with the 39th, 40th, and 41st symphonies all together; and the VSO’s 2019 New Music Festival, featuring new commissions from Canadian composers Nicole Lizée and Emily Doolittle. James Ehnes will close the season in the orchestra’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
The CPO’s 2018-2019 season also includes a number of incredible highlights. Canadian music is prominent early on with a late September program that features works from Canadian composers Larysa Kuzmenko and Vincent Ho. For devotees of French music, February brings a program of French masterworks with violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou. Near the end of the season, famed conductor Nicholas McGegan will lead the orchestra in an all-Bach program (and oh, how I wish I could catch this one).
Of special note for the folk/roots fans among our readers: the CPO is bringing several tremendous artists to town as part of its pops series – you can hear the Sultans of String, Heather Rankin, Hawksley Workman, and Tanya Tagaq this year.
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Albertans are lucky, lucky people indeed, as the ESO also has some fantastic music lined up for this season. Especially intriguing offerings include American-Canadian clarinetist James Campbell playing Mozart (September), Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in December (the holidays always bring a feast of great choral music but this is an especial treat), a new work by Sri Lankan-Canadian composer Dinuk Wijertane paired with Elgar’s Violin Concerto in January, a series in February and March highlighting the music of Sibelius, and a June offering debuting a new violin concerto from the orchestra’s artistic director Alexander Prior.
Regina Symphony Orchestra
The RSO is another ensemble reaching an anniversary milestone this season – in their case, their 110th season. In November, the orchestra will observe the centenary of the Armistice with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. February will see the RSO debut of Halifax-based cellist Denise Djokic soloing in Elgar’s Cello Concerto as part of an all-British program (also including music from Britten and Vaughan Williams). The Regina Symphony Chamber Players will present an engaging series of concerts this year with music from a diverse set of composers (including Bach, Nielsen, Saint-Saens, and Steve Reich). The orchestra’s closing concert (which also will be the official anniversary celebration) includes a performance of Holst’s “The Planets” as well as a piano concerto from Canadian composer David McIntyre.
Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
Saskatoon’s very fortunate music fans will get to hear a diverse set of music this year from their local orchestra. Even before the official season begins, however, Saskatoon will serve as one of several locations for a cross-Canada festival of music composed by Canadian composers specifically for wind quintets across Canada, a pan-Canadian project called “Forecasting the Canadian Wind.” October brings a performance with the orchestra by singer/songwriter Jeffery Straker (who we interviewed last year when his most recent album came out). In November, the orchestra will focus on music from World War I, while March features an intriguing pairing of a violin concerto by Moehn (known for his work as a music editor for the renowned publisher Barenreiter) with his edition of Mozart’s Requiem.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons