Last updated: September 20, 2022
OUTI TARKIAINEN Selections from The Earth, Spring’s Daughter
MAX RICHTER The New Four Seasons (Vivaldi Recomposed)
ALEXINA LOUIE The Eternal Earth
Tonight’s NACO concert, the first of the SPHERE Festival, is a musical exploration of the relationship between humans and the place we call home: Earth. In each their own way, the works on this program celebrates the miraculous power of our planet to bring forth and sustain life. They also consider the natural cycles that govern life on Earth—birth, development, transformation, death, renewal—the “seasons” of life, as well as the seasons in nature. In doing so, these pieces bring to our attention our impact—individual and collective—on the progress of those cycles, and how they change because of it.
The concert opens and closes with pieces by Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen and Canadian composer Alexina Louie. Both draw inspiration from creation myths and cyclic perspectives on life, while also evoking the longing and anger over lost ways of life and animal species through colonization and environmental change. At the centre, we’ll hear Max Richter’s “recomposed” Four Seasons, in which the British composer “recycles”, if you will, Antonio Vivaldi’s four violin concertos from the early 18th century, to create a new hybrid work.
I. Summoning the Earth Spirit
II. To the Ends of the Earth
III. The Radiant Universe
The Eternal Earth is “at once my plea for the continuation of life on earth and a celebration of the joys of the universe,” Alexina Louie says of her orchestral piece from 1986. Commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, it’s a virtuosic work for large ensemble, which exhibits her distinctive blend of Eastern and Western musical influences. Of the former, this includes the expansion of the orchestra’s instrumentation to incorporate Chinese tom toms, a bender gong, a large button gong, and tam tams. Indeed, the work requires a massive assemblage of percussion instruments as well as some extended playing techniques to evoke the mystical power of the Earth and the universe.
From the start, we feel the full power of this huge orchestra, in a movement that Louie has said should sound “teeth-shattering”. As she describes it:
Vigorous fanfare-like motifs and thunderous percussion effects including lion’s roar, gongs, tam-tams, and Chinese toms-toms characterize the first movement, which calls forth the dragon spirit from the bowels of the earth. It is this spirit that Kakuzō Okakura in his book The Awakening of Japan calls “the spirit of change, therefore of life itself.”
The atmospheric second movement, “To the Ends of the Earth”, “is a tranquil, lyrical cradle song for our world with tender solo passages for cello, piccolo, harp, and celeste,” Louie explains. “It is meant as a song of solace for the distant, disappearing corners of the world and with them, the ways of life and species of nature that are being lost to us forever. Included in this movement are some exotic instrumental effects: the rubbing of water-filled crystal wine glasses, a shimmering glissando effect on the timpani, and a particular “seagull” glissando performed by the cello section at the end of the movement.”
The final movement is “an affirmation of life and a joyful celebration of the oneness of heaven and earth.” After a recall of the first movement’s opening fanfare motif, “The Radiant Universe” becomes a lively, energetic dance, featuring the various instrumental groups (strings, woodwinds, brass) alternately moving together through rapidly shifting harmonies. To close, a final ascent through the strings and woodwinds culminates with ecstatic full-orchestra chords that resolve thrillingly to a resounding consonance.
Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD
Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009–2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
Each season, the NAC Orchestra features world-class artists such as the newly appointed Artist-in-Residence James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds. As one of the most accessible, inclusive, and collaborative orchestras in the world, the NAC Orchestra uses music as a universal language to communicate the deepest of human emotions and connect people through shared experiences.
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
Jethro Marks (principal / solo)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
*Joel Quarrington (guest principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Darren Hicks (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
**Donald Renshaw (principal)
*Steve Dyer (guest principal)
Chris Lee (principal)
* Thomas Annand
* Olga Gross
Assistant Personnel Manager
**On Leave/En congé
SPHERE is presented as part of Nordic Bridges, a year-long cultural initiative led by Harbourfront Centre in Toronto and supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Visit NordicBridges.ca to learn more.