Affairs of the Heart

with the NAC Orchestra

2020-11-07 20:00 2020-11-07 21:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Affairs of the Heart

NAC Livestream

Original broadcast date: Saturday November 7, 2020 With works spanning 1957-2018, by composers from Canada, the UK and the US, this concert is full of the sounds of contrasting cultures and moods, and pure musical virtuosity. American composer Jessie Montgomery’s Coincident Dances is a musical snapshot of a walk through New York City, with layers of texture, colours, and cultures.  Following the energetic opening work, the brilliant young trombonist Hillary Simms, from Torbay,...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Saturday, November 7, 2020
NAC Livestream

≈ 90 minutes · No intermission



Coincident Dances


Trombone Concerto (Hillary Simms, trombone)


Verdala (Canadian premiere)

Marjan Mozetich

Affairs of the Heart (Duncan McDougall, violin)



I. Andantino ma energico
II. Larghetto piacevole
III. Allegro molto con brio

Canadian composer Violet Archer relished writing music for orchestra. Although trained as a pianist and organist, she spent nearly eight years (1940–1947) as the percussionist for the Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra, playing all percussion instruments except the timpani. She credits the experience for her interest in—and understanding of—writing for the orchestral medium. “Being in that orchestra was a great learning experience in the ‘inside’ of orchestra sound,” she said in an autobiographical essay. “It also made me conscious of the importance of the dynamic value of percussion instruments in the orchestral fabric.”

Archer’s Sinfonietta from 1968, originally commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, is a fine display of her signature style and craft in writing for large instrumental ensemble. In each of its three movements, groups of instruments are assigned various melodic motifs, which they present, develop, and recombine in dialogue with each other. With the textures being relatively spare rather than dense, the distinctive timbres of the instruments—as well as the artistry of the orchestra’s musicians—are allowed to shine.

The energetic first movement has a somewhat grand, ceremonial quality about it with its trumpet fanfares and the ratatat of the snare drum throughout. It progresses, first by individually highlighting in turn three main sections of the orchestra and their respective motifs—strings, then dialoguing woodwinds, and later, the brass with bold proclamations. In between, there are episodes of playful counterpoint. As the motifs develop, the sections gradually combine, building intensity and volume of sound to culminate in a boisterous final shout.

The second movement is a tender serenade, with a lyrical melody whose phrases are passed from instrument to instruments. Silvery touches of triangle evoke a dreamy nighttime atmosphere. In the middle, the strings introduce a haunting chant-like motif that they take to an impassioned peak. Afterwards, the serenade resumes, the triangle now more prominent, before fading out with the flute at the close.

Lighthearted and full of humorous touches, the finale includes a scampering tune, a quirky motif of alternating notes, and a majestic phrase of repeated sustained notes against vigorous tremolo. A rather ominous climax is reached that stops the orchestra in its tracks, giving space for a solo clarinet cadenza. But the violins soon interrupt the clarinet’s rhapsody with a reprise of the scampering tune, ultimately leading to a bold ending on the motif of alternating notes.