Virtuosi Concerts is bringing something truly different to its stage Saturday night. Not that there's anything to beef about with their usual quality fare of primarily string players and pianists (with an occasional singer thrown in for good measure), but a departure is often refreshing. In the case of their March 16 show, Ports of Call, they've commandeered the Canadian trio from Vancouver, Volante Vento. And yes, there is still a pianist, Cary Chow, but there will also be bassoonist Jesse Read and one-time Winnipegger, Milan Milosevic on clarinet. Volante Vento means "Fast Winds," entirely suitable for the whirlwind tour of the world on the itinerary for the evening.
We don't get the opportunity to hear much music devoted to woodwinds in our city, so this is a rare treat. Just as appealing is the selection of works being played, some of which may come as a surprise.
Read is something of a pioneer when it comes to presenting the bassoon to the public. Sure, he's played all the standard repertoire in his gigs as principal bassoon of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera National Company and San Francisco Opera, to name a few. He's recorded and toured with Tafelmusik and played with the CBC Chamber Ensemble, but he's truly taken the bassoon to new heights.
Read has championed the instrument beyond the standard repertoire, searching out different avenues, having music arranged and playing with unusual combinations of instruments.
Creative and daring, he admits to "going beyond the usual," and shared in a phone interview that he's "never had a bad review." He has a true affinity for Latin music, including the works of Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla.
"He wrote some tango etudes for flute," said Read, "and I thought I could play them." He and Winnipeg classical guitarist Ryszard Tyborowski will play a transcription of Nightclub 1960, a movement from Piazzolla's suite, Histoire du Tango.
"It has tango elements," explained Read, "and shows different aspects of Buenos Aires."
Also on the program are two works by Portuguese composers Moniz Pereira and Frederico Valerio. Both represent the centuries-old practice of fado singing. And while theories as to its origins vary, Read believes that it stems from the history of Portugal being a powerful naval force during the 16th century.
"Fado means 'fate.' As the men would leave to go to sea," he said, "the women would cry at the docks, not knowing if they would see them again. It is heart-rending."
The remainder of the program takes a sharp turn -- first with Milosevic and Chow in Brahms' Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op.120, considered a great masterpiece of the instrument's repertoire.
"It is, neo-classical, warm and romantic," Read said. "Brahms wrote a lot for the clarinet. He was inspired by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld."
Read describes Glinka's Trio Pathétique in D Minor as "very Russian, with long sweeping solos for each instrument and an especially demanding piano part, almost like a piano concerto." He hastens to dispel the usual translation of "pathétique" as "pathetic," interpreting it rather as pathos and noted the evocative nature of the bold, majestic work.
The trio will also play Concert Piece No. 2 by Mendelssohn, originally composed for clarinet, basset horn and piano, and will end the night with a "rearrangement" of a work by local composer Sid Robinovitch. Klezmer Granada, originally written in 2005 for two clarinets, guitar and double bass has been, as Read puts it, "transmogrified" for bassoon, clarinet and piano.
"Milan wanted a version that could be played by his trio," said Robinovitch via email, "so the bassoon covers the second clarinet part and the piano covers the other two instruments."
This results in the bassoon spending a lot of time in its not-often-heard upper register. "They tell me that the whole thing works quite well," Robinovitch said. "I'll be looking forward to hearing how it sounds."
The work was recorded on Robinovitch's Sefarad album and "reflects the dual Spanish/Eastern-European character of the music. The first movement is definitely tango-like, and the second is more straight-ahead klezmer."
Virtuosi Concerts is offering a special promotion for this concert and their March 30 (Reiner Trio) show, enabling audience members to purchase their first two tickets, in any combination, for $30 and add an additional ticket (or tickets) for $10 -- as many tickets as they'd like. Regular prices are $33/adults and seniors, $15/students, $5/ high school. Tickets are available by calling 204-786-9000.