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De Souza, Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn

Featuring Francesca Dego with the NAC Orchestra

2023-03-08 20:00 2023-03-09 23:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: De Souza, Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn

In-person event

UPDATE (March 2, 2023) - Unfortunately, Karen Gomyo will not be able to perform in Ottawa, please see below for the updated programming.       -   -   - The National Arts Centre Orchestra hosts the Southam Hall debuts of Toronto-born conductor Jordan de Souza and Italian violinist Francesca Dego.  Francesca Dego is one of the most sought-after violinists on the international scene, thanks to her compelling...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
March 8 - 9, 2023

≈ 2 hours · With intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: March 8, 2023


ALISON YUN-FEI JIANG Flowing Waters for Orchestra* (17 min) 

FELIX MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (27 min) 

I. Allegro molto appassionato 
II. Andante 
III. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace 

LILI BOULANGER Nocturne for Violin and Orchestra, arr. Sarah Slean (3 min) 


PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique” (45 min) 

I. Adagio – Allegro non troppo 
II. Allegro con grazia 
III. Allegro molto vivace 
IV. Finale: Adagio lamentoso 

*World Premiere; NAC Orchestra commission as part of the Carrefour Composer Program, made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts 



Largo ma non tanto (2nd mvt) from Concerto for Two Violins, BWV 1043 (March 9th only)


Flowing Waters for orchestra

Canadian composer Alison Yun-Fei Jiang (b. 1992) explores the intersections of cultures, genres, people, memories, and emotions in her music. By drawing inspirations and influences from personal life experiences as well as an array of sources such as East Asian aesthetics and philosophies, Chinese opera, Buddhism, natural landscapes, art, film music, popular music, and literature, she creates musical narratives and experiences in a lyrical, dynamic, and storytelling nature. Her music has been performed in Canada and across the United States and has garnered awards and recognitions from the SOCAN Foundation, ASCAP, and the International Alliance for Women in Music, among others. Alison is the RBC Affiliate Composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2022–24) and was a Carrefour Composer-in-Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (2020–22).  

Alison composed Flowing Waters for orchestra in 2022. Commissioned by the NAC Orchestra, the work receives its world premiere tonight. She shares the following description of the piece:  

Flowing Waters is a tone poem and a meditation on waterways, landscapes, nature, and life. The title comes from the name of an ancient Chinese Guqin piece, which depicts the imagery and sounds of water in different states. Like creating an unfolding scroll of a traditional East Asian landscape painting with an ink brush (a genre called “mountain and water”; in Chinese: “shanshui” “山水”), in Flowing Waters, I attempt at “painting” a naturalistic impression of waterways and landscapes by using the orchestra as a sonic brush stroke. In the piece, some opening melodies are musical and metaphoric representations of water streams. As the piece—the musical “scroll”—unfolds, those initial melodic, metaphoric water streams take the listeners on a journey, where they run and morph into orchestral textures, sometimes transform into rhythms and percussive sounds, and other times weave into and out of ambiguous soundscapes. It is as if water flows from high up in the mountains down to some lower streams, into vast seascapes, and back into the sky as mists and clouds. In this naturalistic and poetic depiction of waterways, the distinction between orchestral foreground and background often becomes blurred. This is similar to treatments of the ink flow in traditional East Asian landscape paintings and calligraphy, where clear and distinctive ink lines could flow and morph into ambiguous splashes of dots, blocks, and textures.  

Drawing from the Taoist idea that people should strive to be like water, which is flexible, yielding, and benefits all things, Flowing Waters is also a metaphoric narrative, where I draw parallels between the impermanent states of fluid waters and the ever-changing, transforming, and resilient human mentality and identity in the journey of life.


Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
III. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace 

The facility, polish, and effortless grace found in Mendelssohnʼs Violin Concerto totally belie the creatorʼs struggle to compose it. This enormously popular concerto, Mendelssohnʼs last major composition, occupied him for over five years (1838–44), during which he carried on a lively exchange of ideas about the structural and technical details with the concertoʼs dedicatee, violinist Ferdinand David (1810–73). When Mendelssohn (1809–47) became conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, he instated David as his concertmaster. At the concertoʼs premiere on March 13, 1845, David was, of course, the soloist.  

Mendelssohn, trained in the Classical tradition, nevertheless possessed a Romantic streak, which manifested itself in the poetic fantasy that infuses his music, and in the liberties he took with regard to formal construction. For example, there is no opening orchestral introduction. The soloist enters with the main theme almost immediately. All three movements are joined, with no formal pauses to break the flow. A cadenza, which normally would appear near the end of a concertoʼs first movement, in this work is placed before, not aer, the recapitulation.  

The term “well-bred” is often invoked to describe this concerto, and it is nowhere more appropriate than in describing the quiet rapture and poetic beauty of the second movementʼs principal theme. A moment of sweet melancholy in A minor intrudes briefly, with trumpets and timpani adding a touch of agitation. The principal theme then returns in varied repetition, and a gently yearning passage, again in A minor, leads to the finale. As in the two previous movements, the soloist announces the principal theme, one of elfin lightness and gaiety.  

Program note by Robert Markow  

Lili Boulanger

Nocturne for Violin and Orchestra, arr. Sarah Slean

French composer Lili Boulanger (1893–1918) was an immense musical talent from a young age. Despite suffering chronic illness, she composed prolifically, creating substantial, potently expressive works for choir, voice, piano, chamber ensemble, and orchestra, and was at work on an opera when intestinal tuberculosis claimed her life at only 24 years old. In 1913, she became the first woman to win the prestigious Prix de Rome. Her distinctive style bears qualities typical of early 20th-century French music, influenced, notably, by Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy in her synthesis of tonal and modal harmony, combined with her imaginative use of instrumental colour and layered textures.   

Although her frail health prevented her from pursuing a comprehensive musical education at the Paris Conservatoire, Boulanger had her prodigious musical abilities nurtured through private instruction. In 1911, the year she wrote this Nocturne, she was studying with French composer Georges Caussade, preparing to compete for the Prix de Rome. The work was originally conceived as a “short piece” for flute and piano although it has been more frequently performed in a transcription for violin and piano. The version you’ll hear tonight has the piano part arranged for string orchestra by Canadian composer Sarah Slean. 

It was the publisher who added the title “Nocturne”, yet the piece certainly shares characteristics with that genre of composition that is evocative of the night—an enigmatic atmosphere, perhaps tinged with anxiousness, as well as connotations of romantic passion. Boulanger masterfully conveys these qualities through her impressionistic use of harmonic colour (here, given a certain richness and subtlety in the orchestral arrangement), which supports a sumptuous violin melody. The beginning is somewhat tentative, but gradually, the violin gains confidence, becoming more impassioned and rhapsodic, while the accompaniment’s sparse texture fills out accordingly. Following an intense climax, the music subsides in a state of blissful peace.  


Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, "Pathétique"

I. Adagio – Allegro non troppo 
II. Allegro con grazia 
III. Allegro molto vivace 
IV. Finale: Adagio lamentoso 

“I definitely consider it the best, and, in particular, the most sincere of all my works. I love it as I have never loved any other of my musical offspring,” wrote Tchaikovsky to his nephew Bob Davidov in August 1893, after completing the score, begun seven months earlier, to his sixth symphony. He referred to it in a letter to his publisher as his “Patetitčeskaja simfoniye”; the closest English translation is “passionate symphony”, but the French subtitle “Pathétique” adds another layer of meaning. Coming from the “grande passion pathétique” of French opera (as noted by music theorist Timothy Jackson), it refers to the genre’s engagement with “difficult”, that is, forbidden relationships. Tchaikovsky had been fascinated with such works, probably relating them to his own struggle with homosexuality at a time and place where he could not openly have romantic relationships with men. Therein lies a clue to the “secret program” he told Bob was contained in his Sixth Symphony—their unmentionable love relationship.  

While the Sixth Symphony conforms in large part to the general structure and processes of the “classic” Austro-German symphony, the secret program clearly shapes some of the work’s formal innovations, thus intensifying its dramatic arc, as you’ll read about below. Also notable is Tchaikovsky’s deliberate use of the key of B minor, in which much of the symphony is firmly planted. Generally avoided, historically, by composers writing symphonies (Beethoven dubbed it the “black key”), B minor’s association with feelings of melancholy and anguish was ideal for the expression of intense emotions concerning romantic love. (It’s worth noting that Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy (1880) and his Manfred Symphony (1885), both of which are based on narratives about a forbidden relationship, are also in B minor.) 

The first movement opens with a slow introduction “in the depths”: over sustained tones in the double basses, solo bassoon introduces a mournful theme—an ascending sequence of sighs. It picks up speed in the ensuing Allegro; several ideas follow—a strong rhythmic phrase, a chattering motif, a brass fanfare—and the mood becomes increasingly agitated. But the initial anxiety recedes, ending in a question. The answer is given by muted violins and cellos—a gorgeous theme of deep tenderness, set in sunny D major. When it returns, following affectionate duets between flute and bassoon and clarinet and bassoon, the upper strings, against the rest of the orchestra’s pulsating “heartbeats”, take it to an impassioned climax, after which the music luxuriates, as if on a fond memory, then fades out.  

The reverie is shattered by the brutal stroke of a chord, then snarling motifs; the main theme becomes a stormy fugal episode and builds to a desperate cry exclaimed in the brass. After it subsides, the trombones intone a brief quote of a chant from the Russian Orthodox Requiem, “With thy saints, O Christ, grant peace to the soul of thy servant.” From there, the first theme’s main motif reappears, restated obsessively, eventually arriving at a full statement—it’s the recapitulation, but it won’t proceed exactly as before. Instead, it drives to a catastrophic climax, to which the strings respond with a gut-wrenching lament. After a pause, the second theme returns, this time in the luminous key of B major. Sweetly tentative at first, it becomes more confident and soars to passionate heights. A chorale in the brass, then woodwinds, closes the movement with nostalgic consolation.

As a respite from the earlier intensity, the second movement is a graceful dance, unusually in five-time, featuring a mellifluous melody initially passed from cellos to the winds, then developed by the strings, who add crisp dotted rhythms. It bookends a contrasting central section in melancholy B minor, with a tune of descending sighs above insistently repeating Ds in the double basses and timpani. In the coda, the repeated Ds return as do the sighs, now given harmonic poignancy within the serene D major mood.   

The Scherzo begins with rapid chattering between the upper strings and woodwinds; oboes quietly pipe a fanfare motif, which the brass picks up, then is developed playfully by the strings. Gradually, the music builds, eventually leading to a full march tune based on the fanfare, introduced very softly by the clarinet, then intensified by the violins. The opening material returns;later, there’s a massive orchestral crescendo, which arrives dramatically, via raucous brass and a whirlwind of strings and woodwinds, on a triumphant statement of the march theme, and drives to a confident finish. 

But now, a significant departure from convention: “the Finale will not be a loud allegro but the reverse, a most unhurried adagio,” wrote Tchaikovsky to Bob. The Adagio lamentoso consists of two alternating sections: the first, featuring a deeply anguished melody in B minor, created by interweaving notes in the strings; the second, a heartfelt song over pulsating horns in a consolatory D major. After reaching an emotional climax, the music breaks into a cascade of scales. Silence. Then a howl of grief, which subsides and leads into another cycle of the two sections. This time, the first theme builds with an even fiercer intensity, then collapses with exhaustion. Trombones intone a solemn chorale, out of which the song, now in B minor, emerges as a lament that is steadily drawn, by pulsating double basses, to the symphony’s conclusion. 

Tchaikovsky conducted the first performance of his Sixth Symphony, which he dedicated to Bob, on October 16/28, 1893, before succumbing to death, nine days later.(There’s been much speculation as to the exact cause, but to this day, it remains a mystery.) Though the symphony’s ending intimates a tragic conclusion for a love that could not see the light of day, this might not have been what Tchaikovsky thought. At the very least, in creating this work, he at last found a way to be true to himself. 


Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 


  • conductor Jordan de Souza
  • violin Francesca Dego
  • fuller-emily-smith-photographer-cropped
    Assistant Conductor (appears courtesy of Tapestry Opera’s Women in Musical Leadership Program) Maria Fuller
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

First Violins  
Yosuke Kawasaki (concer master) 
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster) 
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster) 
Emily Kruspe 
Marjolaine Lambert 
Frédéric Moisan 
Carissa Klopoushak 
Zhengdong Liang 
*Martine Dubé 
*Renée London 
*Erica Miller 
*Oleg Chelpanov  

Second violins 
Mintje van Lier (principal) 
Winston Webber (assistant principal) 
Jeremy Mastrangelo 
Emily Westell 
Manuela Milani 
Leah Roseman 
Mark Friedman 
**Edvard Skerjanc 
*Andréa Armijo Fortin 
*Heather Schnarr  

Jethro Marks (principal) 
David Marks (associate principal) 
David Goldblatt (assistant principal) 
David Thies-Thompson 
Paul Casey 
*Sonya Probst 

Rachel Mercer (principal) 
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal) 
Timothy McCoy 
Leah Wyber 
Marc-André Riberdy 
*Desiree Abbey 
*Daniel Parker 
*Karen Kang  

Double basses 
Max Cardilli(assistant principal) 
Vincent Gendron 
Marjolaine Fournier 
**Hilda Cowie 
*Paul Mach 
*Travis Harrison  

Joanna G'froerer(principal) 
Stephanie Morin 
*Dakota Martin 

Charles Hamann (principal) 
Anna Petersen  

English Horn 
Anna Petersen  

Kimball Sykes (principal) 
Sean Rice  

Darren Hicks (principal) 
Vincent Parizeau  

Lawrence Vine (principal) 
Julie Fauteux (associate principal) 
Elizabeth Simpson 
Lauren Anker 
**Louis-Pierre Bergeron 
*Olivier Brisson 
*Corine Chartré-Lefebvre  

Karen Donnelly (principal) 
Steven van Gulik 
*Amy Horvey  

*Robert Conquer (guest principal) 
Colin Traquair  

Bass Trombone  
*Trevor Dix  

Chris Lee (principal)  

*Marc-André Lalonde (guest principal)  

Jonathan Wade 
*Matthew Moore   

Principal Librarian 
Nancy Elbeck  

Assistant Librarian 
Corey Rempel  

Personnel Manager 
Meiko Lydall  

Assistant Personnel Manager 
Laurie Shannon  

*Additional musicians  
**On Leave 

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees