≈ 2 hours · With intermission
Her generous contribution will provide young orchestral musicians with exceptional learning opportunities like the one you will see this evening for years to come. Sara and her family have supported the National Arts Centre since 1998 and have championed the NAC’s professional music education programs for young artists since 2012. In recognition of her generous support, Sara was Honorary Patron of the NAC’s former Young Artists Program from 2012 to 2019. A loyal and engaged performing arts lover, Sara enjoys dance and theatre as well as NAC Orchestra performances.
Born in Montreal, Donald Renshaw received his Bachelor of Music degree with distinction from McGill University in 1977, and a Master’s degree in Music from The Juilliard School in 1982. As a young professional, he freelanced in a wide array of genres, performing with early and contemporary music groups such as the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal on sackbut, and the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, in addition to jazz groups and big bands.
In 1983, Don was invited to play with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra as Principal Trombone. He was Principal Trombone of Orchestra London Canada from 1983 to 1986, and also taught at the University of Western Ontario. In 1986, Don became Principal Trombone of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and taught trombone, tuba, and jazz ensemble, at the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Hull from 1987 to 1994. He was a founding member of the Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet (now the NAC Brass Quintet), the Capital BrassWorks, and the Ambassador Brass Trio. Education and community outreach were always close to Don’s heart. He gave hundreds of school concerts through the NAC education program, and also taught at the University of Ottawa. Don was the dear husband of Linda Renshaw, and proud father of two sons, Adam and Aaron.
Last updated: May 11, 2023
KEIKO DEVAUX Listening Underwater for orchestra* (12 min)
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (32 min)
II. Adagio sostenuto – Più animato
III. Allegro scherzando
RICHARD STRAUSS Ein Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Op. 64 (51 min)
*World Premiere; NAC Orchestra commission as part of the Carrefour Composer Program, made possible by the Canada Council for the Arts
In 1888, convinced that his artistic direction was to create new forms for every new subject, Richard Strauss (1864–1949) embarked on writing orchestral “tone poems.” A one-movement work that illustrates or evokes the content of an extramusical source, like a story, poem, or painting, a tone poem was a novel way to structure the experience of orchestral music compared to the traditional abstract forms of the four-movement symphony. With each one he composed—from Don Juan to Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks to Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)—Strauss found innovative and ever expansive ways of using orchestral timbre, texture, and sonority to vividly convey the breadth of human experience.
Completed between 1911 and 1915, Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony) was Strauss’s last major symphonic work. Its sprawling length of 50 minutes suggests its more than a conventional tone poem (which tends to span only half that time) but like one, it explicitly conveys an extramusical topic. Employing a massive orchestra including off-stage brass, wind and thunder machines, and organ, the piece evokes an excursionist’s 24-hour journey up and down an alpine mountain—what they see and their physical, emotional, and psychological responses en route, which we, as listeners, experience alongside. For the atheistic Strauss, this subject was rooted in Friedrich Nietzsche’s anti-metaphysical philosophy, with which he had been preoccupied since the 1890s (his 1896 tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra is based on Nietzsche’s novel of the same title). As the composer had written in his diary in 1911, he originally thought to title “my alpine symphony: The Antichrist, since it represents: moral purification through one’s own effort, liberation through work, [and] the adoration of eternal, glorious nature.”
An Alpine Symphony unfolds in 22 tableaux, as indicated in Strauss’s score. The first 12 chronicle the hiker’s ascent, focused on conveying the act of climbing and the sights and sounds that are experienced. Along the way, several important “leitmotifs” appear, the ensuing recurrences of which form the sonic narrative. The opening tableaux, “Nacht (Night)”, begins with a solemn descent to the registral depths, at the bottom of which four trombones intone the “Mountain” theme. After dwelling in this murky sound world, figures in the strings begin to move more quickly, leading to an orchestral crescendo that culminates in the “Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise)” theme—a majestic full-orchestra descending scale. The excursionist basks in the glow, then begins their ascent (“Der Anstieg”), represented by a rigorous leaping melody introduced by the cellos and double basses (it’s derived from a motif in the coda of the finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony).
After clambering vigorously, we arrive at “Eintritt in den Wald” (Entry into the wood)”, in which Strauss conjures up the mystery of a dark forest, with rapid string crossings suggesting the wind moving through the trees. Then, as if we’ve emerged into a clearing, the music becomes serene and contemplative. Eventually, the excursionist wanders by a burbling brook (“Wanderung neben dem bache”), which leads to a rushing waterfall (“Am Wasserfall”). As we gaze at the waterfall’s tumbling spray, evoked by harps and celeste, ricochet glissandos in the strings and woodwind arpeggios, the English horn and solo viola present a naïve little tune (“Erscheinung”; Apparition), tinged by glints of glockenspiel. Later, horns and violas sing a warm melody of descending sighs—this is the “Admiration” theme, expressing wonder at the view.
We then glide through flowery meadows (“Auf blumige Wiesen”)—smooth lyrical lines in the violins—and arrive at the sound of yodeling, cowbells, and twittering birds on the mountain pasture (“Auf der Alm”), where we pause with the hiker to take in the scene. Thereafter, the music becomes more agitated and dissonant, as we traverse difficult terrain: “through thicket and briar on wrong paths” (“Durch Dickicht und Gestrüpp auf Irrwegen”), then a perilous trek on a glacier (“Auf dem Gletscher”), signaled by a defiant trumpet theme. After surmounting that treachery, there’s a suspenseful moment, as fragments of the “Ascent” theme sound, depicting the final “dangerous moments” (“Gefahrvolle Augenblicke”) near the peak.
“Auf dem Gipfel (On the summit)” begins with a powerful statement of the “Nature” motif (similar to the one that opens Also sprach Zarathustra) intoned by trombones. An extended oboe solo follows, halting and delicate, as if pausing to catch one’s breath, in the stillness at the top. At this point, the music isn’t evoking what is being seen, but the climber’s emotional response to the view at the summit. The “Admiration” theme, last heard at the waterfall, returns as an effusive outpouring, and is later followed by a recall of the “Sunrise” melody in full glory.
Hereafter, the remaining tableaux, beginning with “Vision (Vision)”, emphasize the thoughts and feelings of the excursionist following their peak experience. We hear recalls of “Admiration” in the minor mode and “Sunrise” complicated by chromaticisms, thus suggesting a growing anxiety. After a grand statement of the “Mountain” theme, the music suddenly collapses, and the atmosphere becomes nebulous—the rising mists (“Nebel steigen auf”) and the gradual veiling of the sun (“Die Sonne verdüstert sich almählich”) also a metaphor, perhaps, for a developing spiritual crisis. In the ensuing “Elegie (Elegy)”, strings sing wandering, uncertain phrases, which musicologist David Larkin argues might represent the climber’s melancholy over the loss of religious or metaphysical certainty. Faith-shattering doubt is then evoked in its ecological parallel—a terrifying storm on the descent, beginning with the calm beforehand (“Stille vor dem Sturm”), then thunder, howling gales, and pouring rain (“Gewitter und Sturm, Absteig”).
At sunset (“Sonnenuntergang”), the “Sunrise” theme sounds in the violins and woodwinds in vastly elongated form, as the mood shifts to nostalgia. The entrance of the organ (a sonic reference intimating the world beyond) signals the start of the “Ausklang (After-echo)” tableaux. The “Admiration”, “Ascent”, and “Sunrise” themes, along with their variants, make final reappearances, like reminiscences, then dissolve into the closing realm of night (“Nacht”).
Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD
“A two year residency that allows composers to work closely with Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra is such an invaluable and exciting opportunity. Having meaningful access to musicians, the artistic direction, and the entire NAC team offers an immediate, rich, and personal approach to expanding, learning, and challenging myself as a composer for which I am immensely grateful.”
Keiko Devaux (b. 1982) is a contemporary music composer based in Montreal.
Her works have been performed in Canada, France, Germany, and Italy by various ensembles including Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Ensemble musica assoluta, Ensemble Arkea, Quartetto Prometeo, and Ensemble Wapiti among others. She composes regularly for diverse ensembles, as well as collaborating with choreographers and filmmakers.
Her approach embraces a love of electroacoustic sounds and methodology by manipulating and distorting acoustic sound with digital tools, and then transcribing or re-translating these interpretations back into musical notation and the acoustic realm. Her interests include emotional experience and affect, auto-organizational phenomena in nature and living beings, as well as “genre-blurring” by layering and juxtaposing contrasting melodic/harmonic skeletal elements of highly contrasting sonic sources. The distortion of the temporal, frequency, and timbral attributes allows the blurring between traditional tonal sounds and more electroacoustic-inspired “noise” gestures.
She has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Jan V. Matejcek Award for New Classical Music (2019), the Rotary Club Siena Award for distinction in her master courses with Salvatore Sciarrino (2018), the OUM composition prize (2016 and 2018), and the Jury and Public prizes of the Accès Arkea competition (2017). Her composition Ebb, premiered by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, was nominated as Création de l’année for the 2017-2018 Opus awards, and her work Ombra was a finalist for the Prix du CALQ - Œuvre de la relève à Montréal in the same year. In 2019, she won the inaugural Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music, at $50,000, the largest of its kind in Canada and one of the largest in the world.
From 2016 to 2018, she was the composer in residence with Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. She is an associate composer with the Canadian Music Centre, president of the board of directors of Codes d’accès, and past organizer of the Montreal Contemporary Music Lab.
Originally from British Columbia, she began her musical career in piano performance studies as well as composing, touring, and recording several albums in independent rock bands. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Écriture) and a Master of Music in instrumental composition from the Université de Montréal. She has also studied with Maestro Salvatore Sciarrino at L'Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy (2017-19). She is currently completing her doctorate in music composition and creation at Université de Montréal under the direction of Ana Sokolović and Pierre Michaud.
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
°Yu Kai Sun
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
°Sienna MinKyong Cho
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Darren Hicks (principal)
°Juan Antonio Rodriguez Diaz
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
°Luis Cardenas Casillas
°Matheus Correa de Moraes
*Peter Sullivan (guest principal)
°Léonard Pineault Deault
Chris Lee (principal)
*Andrei Malashenko (guest principal)
°Alec Joly Pavelich
Assistant Personnel Manager
°Participants of the NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program