We invite you to enjoy a special concert from our 2019 European tour, a recording of the live radio broadcast from the DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen on May 22, 2019.
The NAC Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary “Crossings” Tour included memorable concerts in London, Stockholm, Paris, and especially in Copenhagen, where our concert was broadcast live-to-air on DR, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and shortly after on CBC and Radio-Canada. This concert included the best of the best, and a little bit of everything.
Quebec composer Claude Vivier’s haunting “Lonely Child”, with solo soprano Erin Wall, opens this program. Erin captures the exquisite beauty of Vivier’s text with a delicate tenderness, as a mother singing to her child to assuage any fears. James Ehnes performs Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, giving one of the most exciting performances you are ever likely to hear. Dark and dramatic, it concludes with fiery pyrotechnics which drew the audience instantly to their feet. To close the program, we performed Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”. This masterpiece reflected Dvořák’s journey to North America in 1883. With its soulful English horn solo played by the wonderful Anna Petersen, and its blazing finale, the “New World” Symphony was a perfect fit for our own 50th Anniversary journey. You can find the NAC Orchestra’s JUNO nominated recording of this symphony on all your usual music streaming platforms.
For this fifth week of our NACO Home Delivery, we bring to you a concert which is very close to my heart and to our hearts as an orchestra.
In 2017, the Orchestra and I undertook a tour of every province and territory, performing for and alongside communities from coast to coast to coast in celebration of the sesquicentennial. Two years later, we toured to Europe as Canadian cultural ambassadors as the National Arts Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The concert we are sending you today was recorded live during the midst of that European Tour at the beautiful Danish Radio Concert Hall, in the heart of the capital Copenhagen. It features three important elements that are at the core, both of these major tours and of our identity: championing Canadian music, championing Canadian soloists and showcasing the excellence of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra. This triumvirate is what you will hear tonight.
We took an unprecedented number of Canadian works with us on our European Tour, the majority of which were recent NAC commissions, receiving their premieres outside the country. One such Canadian work, albeit somewhat older, was "Lonely Child", written by Quebec composer Claude Vivier in 1980. Vivier, an artist of extraordinary gift and accomplishment, who was taken from the world under terrible circumstances at the tender age of 34, stands to this day as one of Canada’s finest composers of international renown. He is a musician worth exploring.
"Lonely Child" is a soliloquy for solo voice (sung here by the magnificent Canadian soprano Erin Wall) in a unique language mix, accompanied by an unusual array of instruments in a chamber setting - strings, each with a solo voice, a smattering of woodwinds, two horns and some eastern percussion. The text, by Vivier himself, is one of reassurance for a child fearful of the night, as a mother at the bedside. All kinds of fantastical, religious and magical images are invoked to calm the child, while the orchestra conjures a carpet of exotic and beautifully crafted sonorities beneath. The fact that Vivier, an orphan, never enjoyed this sort of motherly tenderness and was himself fearful of the dark, brings a personal nature to this work that has led many to describe it as his most autobiographical. Its complex musical language and message bear multiple listenings to really absorb, and I would recommend having the text to hand (printed below).
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is of course a mainstay of the repertoire and provided a perfect vehicle for us to present another Canadian star, James Ehnes, who must rank among the finest living interpreters of this masterpiece. To this day it remains one of the most accessible of all concerti, demonstrating Mendelssohn’s trademark fluidity, melodic invention and imagination alongside, what was for the time, a bold three-movements-in-one form, in which the music melts from section to section without an audible break. Unusual was also the decision to have the soloist ‘dive in’ within a couple of bars of the opening. No formal introduction or exposition from the orchestra, but rather one and half bars of uneasy, undulating rhythm. The second movement, an intimate, tender lullaby, is interrupted only by a moment of melancholic unease, before liaising into one of the brightest, ebullient finales in all music. It is one of my very favourite movements to perform.
James has been a friend of the Orchestra for many years. A Manitoban born and bred, he has known our musicians as friends and colleagues for decades and has been a regular guest both on our Southam Hall stage and also on tour with us nationally and internationally. This note-perfect recording encapsulates all that we love about him - his virtuosity, his refinement and taste and his ability to call on these gifts with utter calm and command. Alongside this, he is both a broad and deep thinker and one of the most fun people to have around on tour… mischievous doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Our program ends with Dvořák’s symphonic masterpiece, the beloved "New World Symphony". Inspired by the sights, sounds and stories that the Czech master encountered during his visit to the US, this work was a constant companion to us during our Canadian and European tours. Keeping such a concert hall warhorse fresh is, paradoxical as it sounds, a matter of constantly revisiting the original text, intentions and inspirations of the composer. It is a great challenge and a joy to keep revisiting such a work and demands everything of an orchestra: from the delicate opening - not too fast, not too slow, blended, balanced, singing, mysterious yet taught (this is a symphony not a tone poem) - through to the exquisitely lyrical slow movement and on into that famous finale, there is nothing that a performer should ever take for granted. I hope that our interpretation imbues you with that sense of precision, fidelity and passion that were worked so hard to achieve and that you enjoy every note of what was for us, an historic concert!
Beauteous child of light sleep, sleep, sleep, forever sleep.
The dreams will come, the gentle fairies will come and dance with thee.
Wonder, the fairies and the elves will fête thee and the merry farandole will inebriate thee.
Sleep, my child. Open up, doors of diamond, sumptuous palaces,
my child, the swallows will guide thy steps.
Kuré nouyazo na-oudè waki nannoni eudou-a.
Sleep, my child.
Dadodi yo rrr-zu-i yo a-e-i dage dage da è-i-ou dage dage ou-a-è dagè dadoudè dagè dagè dagè
na-ou-è ka jadè-do yanousè mayo rès tè de-i-a wè nanoni nowi i-è ka.
The stars make prodigious leaps in space, time, dimensions striped with coloured zebra-markings.
The times discuss Merlin in parables, the wondrous magicians splash the glowing sun with gold, the
acrobats touch with their nose the mischievous stars, the gardens make the mauve monks dream.
Children’s dreams, give me your hand and let us go and look up the fairy Carabosse. Her palace of jade, lying amidst pieces of forgotten dreams, is already floating in eternity.
Oh, queen of blue dawns, give me, please, eternity.
Koré noy Tazio.
Koré kore Tazio Tazio Tazio.
Koré noy na-ou yasin kè.
The gentle helianthus directs the sublime energy towards the stars, Tazio. The language of the fairies, you will speak it and you will know love, Tazio. Tenderly, your green eyes will dip into dregs of outmoded tales to create a real one, yours, Tazio. And the hope of time, of time.
Beyond time, my child appears, the stars n the sky are shining
for you, Tazio, and will love you forever and ever.