What a great time of year! It almost felt like Christmas morning when I spread all the Winnipeg musical organizations' brochures out to write my first column of the new season, the traditional "concert picks."
The choices are exciting and varied, with both celebrated guest artists and plenty of local talent featured in choral, symphonic, solo recital and chamber music performances.
Here's what looks especially good in the months leading up to 2014:
It doesn't matter how often Brandon-born violinist James Ehnes comes to town -- it's always worth going to hear him. The international performer and recording artist's career continues to thrive; we're fortunate he never forgets his roots.
Ehnes joins Alexander Mickelthwate and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4 and 5, at 8 p.m. for a rare performance of Aram Khachaturian's folk-inspired Violin Concerto. This is a terrific vehicle for the technically intrepid Ehnes and should be an audience pleaser. Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor rounds out the program. Tickets are $27-$96 by calling 204-949-3999.
Canadian pianist David Jalbert has made a name for himself as a soloist and chamber musician. His recent recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations offers a unique interpretation, displaying Jalbert's creative and fearless musicality. His version is unlike any other. You can hear him perform the entire set in person on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Women's Musical Club of Winnipeg series. Tickets are $25, $5 for students, available at the door or at McNally Robinson Booksellers.
Feeling romantic? You'll want to attend the WSO's week-long Tchaikovsky Festival for a heavy dose of gorgeous melodies and surging emotion. On Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m., Russian conductor Aziz Shohkakimov leads the orchestra through the thrilling 1812 Overture and Symphony No. 4 in F minor. Renowned Canadian cellist Denise Djokic will play the marvellous Variations on a Rococo Theme (a personal favourite). The baton is then handed to the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 8 p.m., for a program including the famous Dumka for solo piano, Souvenir d'un lieu cher for violin and piano, and Quartet in D major, Op. 11. On Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, Russian-born pianist Ilya Yakushev will perform Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor; the festival concludes with the moving Symphony No. 6 in B minor (Path©tique). Call 204-949-3999 for tickets to all events.
Djokic returns to Winnipeg with pianist Heng Jin Park and violinist Irena Muresanu, comprising the Boston Trio. They've planned a lovely mixed program for their debut here on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 8 p.m., at Eckhardt-Gramatt© Hall in the Virtuosi Concert Series. Repertoire spans centuries, with works by Mozart, Brahms, Faur©, Schubert and Arvo P§rt. The intimate setting is ideal for this arrangement, giving audience members that treasured "up close and personal" feeling. Call 204-786-9000 for ticket information.
Manitoba Opera is whisking us to the Wild West with a "Hollywood version" of Donizetti's light-hearted comic opera Don Pasquale. The concept is too intriguing to miss and the cast is full of favourites -- the hilarious bass-baritone Peter Strummer as the title character, Manitoba soprano Nikki Einfeld as Norina and smooth-voiced Canadian baritone Brett Polegato as Dr. Malatesta. You can catch all the rootin'-tootin' action on Saturday, Nov. 23, Tuesday, Nov. 26, and Friday, Nov. 29. Tickets are $22.25 (14 years and under) to $130.50. Give a holler to 204-957-7842.
French-horn player extraordinaire and marathon runner Jamie Sommerville will be on hand to perform one of Mozart's glorious horn concerti with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Westminster United Church will ring out with the strains of Horn Concerto in E-Flat major, full of pleasing melodies and horn antics. Canadian-born Sommerville, now principal horn with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the entire concert, which also features the Beethoven Sextet in E-Flat for Two Horn and Strings, and two works by Lutoslawski. Tickets are $8 to $28 at McNally Robinson Booksellers or by calling 204-783-7377.
The Christmas season means holiday-themed concerts -- what you choose all depends what tradition you prefer. Give me a great choral performance at this time of year and I'm immediately in the holiday spirit. The Winnipeg Singers have invited Santa to join them for their Friday, Dec. 13, concert entitled Christmas Around the World (7:30 p.m.). Crescent Fort Rouge United Church is always beautifully decorated for the season and the choir will be joined by the youthful voices of the Steinbach Regional Secondary School Chamber Choir. Yuri Klaz leads the choirs through carols from across the globe as Santa travels with two young guests. Tickets are $25/$22/$10 at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the door or at firstname.lastname@example.org.