MCO’s 2019 premiere of Wijeratne’s Gajaga Vannama was a true event
The audience leapt to their feet as Dinuk Wijeratne conducted and played piano and performed vocals when this piece premiered in 2019; a tapestry of rollicking Sri Lankan rhythms and Mozartian colour.
Dinuk reprises this work, one of Canada’s most important in recent history, and presents several others with the MCO at this concert. One of these works, Dinuk’s KarmicBlue, features soloist Shawn Mativetsky a leading Canadian ambassador of the tabla. Like Dinuk, he is a pioneer in bridging the worlds of Western and Indian classical music.
And once again, at this concert Dinuk brandishes his triple-threat as composer, conductor, and performer, and will more than demonstrate why the “exuberantly creative” (New York Times) classical musician is one of Canada’s most sought-after today.
To highlight another piece on this rich musical program, we’re pleased to present Elgar’s Serenade, Op. 20, E minor. Elgar wasn’t always easy on his greatest hits — he ultimately hated Pomp and Circumstance. But about the Serenade’s three movements, which are among his most popular, he wrote: “I like ‘em (the first thing I ever did).”
A note on our matinees: our matinee concerts are casual afternoon performances (one hour in duration, with no intermission); students will be in attendance, and the program may be shortened from the evening program. Some seating restrictions apply.
The concerts begin at 1.00pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday, October 25th, in Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. Casual tickets will be available 7 July 2023 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue
1.00pm & 7.30pm, Wednesday, 25 October 2023
Dinuk Wijeratne, piano / conductor
Shawn Mativetsky, tabla
Dabke, for string orchestra
Sir Edward Elgar
Serenade for Strings, in E Minor, Op. 20
Gajaga Vannama, fantasy variations on a traditional theme
—for piano and strings
Commissioned by the MCO and I Musici de Montréal with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts; premiered October 2019
Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs (Sz 71), Nos. 7-15, ‘Old Dance Tunes’
—arr. for strings by Jean Cousineau
A letter from the after-life
[out of the] Karmic Blue
Concert sponsor / Johnston Group
Sri Lankan-born Canadian Dinuk Wijeratne is a JUNO and multi-award-winning composer, conductor, and pianist who has been described by the New York Times as “exuberantly creative” and by the Toronto Star as “an artist who reflects a positive vision of our cultural future.” His boundary-crossing work sees him equally at home in collaborations with symphony orchestras and string quartets, tabla players and DJs.
Dinuk was featured as a main character in What would Beethoven do?, the 2016 documentary about innovation in classical music featuring Eric Whitacre, Bobby McFerrin and Ben Zander. Forthcoming projects include new works for GRAMMY-winning baritone Elliot Madore (featuring Dinuk as pianist) and GRAMMY-nominated mandolinist Avi Avital and severak others.
Dinuk made his Carnegie Hall debut while still a student in 2004 as a composer, conductor, and pianist performing with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. A second Carnegie appearance followed in 2009, alongside tabla legend Zakir Hussain. Dinuk has also appeared at the BoulezSaal (Berlin), Kennedy Center (Washington DC), Opéra Bastille (Paris), Lincoln Center (New York), Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Sri Lanka, Japan, and across the Middle East. Dinuk grew up in Dubai before taking up composition studies at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Manchester, UK. In 2001, he was invited by Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano to join his studio at New York’s Juilliard School. Conducting studies followed at New York’s Mannes College of Music, and doctoral studies under Christos Hatzis at the University of Toronto.
Dinuk has composed specially for almost all of the artists and ensembles with whom he has performed, including Suzie LeBlanc, David Jalbert, James Ehnes, Buck 65, DJ Skratch Bastid, the Gryphon Trio, the Symphony orchestras of Toronto and Vancouver, and many other ensembles, orchestras, and soloists. Dinuk is the only artist to have served both as Conductor-in-Residence and Composer-in-Residence of a Canadian orchestra (Symphony Nova Scotia).His music and collaborative work embrace the great diversity of his international background and influences.
Dynamic performer Shawn Mativetsky is considered one of Canada’s leading ambassadors of the tabla, and is a pioneer in bridging the worlds of Western and Indian classical music. Acclaimed as an exceptional soloist and a leading disciple of the renowned Pandit Sharda Sahai, Shawn Mativetsky is highly sought-after as both performer and educator, and is active in the promotion of the tabla and North Indian classical music through lectures, workshops, and performances across Canada and internationally. Based in Montreal, Shawn teaches tabla and percussion at McGill University. His most recent solo tabla album, Rivers, is rooted in the rich traditions of the Benares style of tabla playing. Shawn’s new book, Rudimentaal, features compositions for snare drum, inspired by the tabla drumming of North India.
Syrian-American Kareem Roustom is a composer whose genre crossing collaborations include music commissioned by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, arrangements for pop icons Shakira and Tina Turner, as well as a recent collaboration with acclaimed British choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. A musically bilingual composer, Roustom is rooted in the music of the Arab near-east but often expresses beyond the confines of tradition. The themes of a number of his works often touch issues of those affected by war and instability.
Roustom’s music has been performed by ensembles that include the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Boulez Ensemble, Oregon Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, The Crossing choir, Lorelei Ensemble, A Far Cry, and at renowned festivals and halls such as the BBC Proms, the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Verbier Festival, the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and others. Roustom has been composer-in-residence with the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Grant Park Music Festival, the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, and the Mannheim Philharmonic. Roustom has received commissions from ensembles and orchestras across the world, and been recorded by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester (Berlin), and the Philharmonia Orchestra (London).
The Chicago Tribune wrote that Roustom is “a gifted and accomplished artist, one of the most prominent active Arab-American composers,” BBC Radio3 described Roustom’s music as “among the most distinctive to have emerged from the Middle East”, and the New York Times described it as “propulsive, colorful and immediately appealing.” The Guardian (London) wrote that Roustom’s music is “arrestingly quirky and postmodern … music with lots of personality.” Roustom holds the position of Professor of the Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Music in Boston.
Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op. 20
Sir Edward Elgar
- Allegro piacevole
Numerous front-rank British composers, including Vaughan Williams, Britten, Bridge, Tippett, Ireland and Holst, have found writing for the rich, expressive and flexible medium of the string orchestra a highly congenial practice. Elgar’s contributions were small in number but substantial in every other sense. When fellow composer Herbert Howells asked him for the secret of his understanding of strings, Elgar replied, “Study old Handel. I went to him for help ages ago.”
This lovely, warm-hearted Serenade was Elgar’s first work for string orchestra. It was followed by the Introduction and Allegro (1905), Elegy (1909), and Sospiri (1914). Its origins appear to lie in three pieces, dating from 1888, the manuscript of which has disappeared. The premiere most likely took place in May 1888, with the Reverend Edward Vine Hall conducting the Worcestershire Musical Union. At that stage, the movements bore titles: Spring Song, Elegy, and Finale. “I like ‘em, (the first thing I ever did),” Elgar told a friend, Dr. Charles Buck, later that year.
He revised and re-titled the three pieces in the spring of 1892, in time to offer what he then called Serenade as a third anniversary present to his wife, Alice. The first performance of that version was probably given by the Ladies’ Orchestral Class in Worcester, an ensemble which Elgar trained and conducted. The first complete performance by a professional ensemble was given in Antwerp, Belgium in 1896.
At first, British audiences greeted the Serenade with indifference. It remained unheard in London until 1906, when Elgar conducted it himself. It has three brief movements, two compact, animated sections framing the heart of the work: a haunting Larghetto.
Author Michael Kennedy wrote that together with the stirring concert overture, Froissart (1890), the Serenade shows “that Elgar was already a master of the orchestra rare in English music, that he lived and breathed the orchestra as naturally as the air around him, and that, given the spur of the chance of performance in a suitable setting, this kind of music was already within his power.” In later life, Elgar often referred to the Serenade as a favourite among his works.
Words of wisdom from Herbert Howells: “Sonority it is—sonority without noise—which is the greatest abiding power of the string medium. In a world of sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, and of noise magnified to the nth degree, this is it—sonority without noise—that marks the supreme contribution made by string music to the fund of our musical enchantment.”
15 Hungarian Peasant Songs, Sz 71, Nos. 7-15, ‘Old Dance Tunes’
Arranged for strings by Jean Cousineau
During the early years of the twentieth century, Hungarian composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Koldály traveled throughout their nation’s countryside, primitive recording equipment in tow, and collected several thousand authentic folk songs. Their dedicated work preserved this treasure chest of important and attractive music for posterity to enjoy. Both composers made use of what they found, either through works based on authentic melodies, or original works inspired by them. On occasion, Bartók used both approaches in the same work.
He created this score between 1914 and 1918, in the original version for piano solo. He produced a setting for full orchestra in 1933. Jean Cousineau, (1937-2013) the founder of the celebrated Québec ensemble known as Les Petits Violons (The Little Violins) transcribed the final nine pieces for strings. All of them were originally entitled Old Dance Tunes.