Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New year presents plenty of musical gifts

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It's always a letdown to realize that after all the buildup, the holidays are over. Even though we may have had our fill of turkey, eggnog and visiting, it's hard to transition back to real life -- work, busy schedules and those pesky credit card bills.

But take heart. It's the new year and local arts organizations have many musical offerings to soothe our winter blues. The following are a few picks that look especially promising.

First up on Jan. 9 is the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin. The program includes the Haydn Piano Concerto No. 2 in D major and Shostakovich's Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra, Op. 3 with another Canadian virtuoso, trumpeter Guy Few.

Hamelin is singular in his technical prowess, astounding listeners wherever and whenever he performs. You really have to experience him to believe it. Few is dapper and showy, always fun to hear.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster United Church. Tickets are $26.50/adults, $24.50/seniors and $7.50/students, at McNally Robinson Booksellers, online at www.themco.ca or by calling 204-783-7377.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's 22nd annual New Music Festival (NMF) runs this year from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2. Check out the NMF brochure for scheduled performances by the Elmer Iseler Singers and the world première of Canadian composer Christos Hatzis' Redemption: Book 3.

American Steve Reich is this year's Distinguished Guest Composer and you'll hear several of his works throughout the week. But it is the final night that draws my interest the most. WSO composer-in-residence Vincent Ho continues his collaboration with percussionist extraordinaire Dame Evelyn Glennie in a new concerto debuting Feb. 2 -- From Darkness to Light: A Spiritual Journey. Following the success of 2011's The Shaman, written for Glennie, Ho's latest work sees him delving into a daring subject -- the personal experiences of people living with cancer.

Dedicated to the memory of his friend, Dutch-American painter Luc Leestemaker, who died of the disease last May, From Darkness to Light -- A Spiritual Journey is "my personal response to cancer," Ho says. "It expresses the horrors of the disease and the fight one faces: fear, uncertainty, shock and grief; the quest for healing, hope -- the journey from pain and suffering to peace and acceptance."

Ho spent considerable time speaking with cancer patients, sharing their deepest fears and doubts, but also witnessing their optimism and courage. The process of composing the work was harrowingly intense, as Ho became very close to his subject.

The concert is at 8 p.m. at Centennial Concert Hall. Festival passes are $99/adults, $89/seniors and $59/students. Single ticket prices range from $10 to $92, by calling 204-949-3999 or online at www.wso.ca.

Piano lovers have hit the jackpot this season, with several masters of the instrument playing in Winnipeg over the next few months. Canadian Angela Cheng, known for her fine interpretation of Mozart, will be the guest artist with the WSO on Feb. 15 and 16. She will lend her powerful hands to Mozart's' Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major. The rest of the program features selections from Prokofiev's unforgettable Romeo and Juliet, full of gorgeous melodies and drama to match Shakespeare's story of youthful love.

Both concerts are at 8 p.m. at the Centennial Concert Hall. Tickets range from $23.75 to $92, available at 204-949-3999 or online at www.wso.ca.

More Mozart is on the menu when pianist Janina Fialkowska takes to the stage of Westminster United Church with the MCO on Feb. 19. The Canadian-born phenom is as amiable onstage as she is in person. She may be best known for her sensitive renderings of Chopin and Liszt, but her Mozart is as bright and pleasing as one could wish. Hear her play his Piano Concerto in A major, K.414 in an evening that also presents Haydn's Symphony No. 82 in C major -- The Bear. See above for MCO ticket info.

Two upcoming choral concerts are must-hears. On March 24 at 7 p.m., Canzona brings us Bach's glorious St. John's Passion with the MusikBarock Ensemble at Westminster United Church. Tickets: $25/adults, $22/seniors, $12/students at McNally Robinson Booksellers or at the door.

Cleverly called The Full Monte, Camerata Nova's April 6 (8 p.m.) and 7 (3 p.m.) shows, also at Westminster, offer the complete Vespro Della Beata Vergine -- the 1610 Vespers by Claudio Monteverdi. Uplifting vocals will be accompanied by period instruments. This is a rare opportunity to hear sackbuts, shawms and cornettos. Tickets: $28/adult, $23/seniors and $12/students at www.cameratanova.com or 204-918-4547.

Two of my all-time favourite singers, countertenor Daniel Taylor and soprano Suzie Leblanc, join the MCO at Westminster United Church on May 14 at 7:30 p.m. The repertoire is mostly Baroque, but it really doesn't matter what they sing; they are so incredibly musical and have such pure tones that everything they do is thrilling. Don't miss this! See above for MCO ticket info.

Last but by no means least, delightful British cellist Colin Carr returns to play the cheerful Boccherini Cello Concerto in G Major with the MCO on June 5. If you witnessed his performances at the International Cello Festival two years ago, you will remember his smiling face and energetic delivery. Here is a musician who loves what he does and it's infectious. Carr also conducts the concert, which includes selections by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. See above for MCO ticket info.

gwenda.nemerofsky@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2013 C6

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