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Festival features fiery foundries, caped crusaders

Daniel Raiskin will conduct Saturday's New Music Festival opener, Fire and Blood. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Daniel Raiskin will conduct Saturday's New Music Festival opener, Fire and Blood. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The 29th annual Winnipeg New Music Festival roars back to life tonight in a gale of fire and blood before wrapping up Jan. 31 with an homage to comic-book superheroes.

Spearheaded by Daniel Raiskin, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s music director and the festival’s artistic director, and Harry Stafylakis, the festival’s co-curator and WSO composer-in-residence, the 2020 incarnation welcomes American composers Michael Daugherty and Sarah Kirkland Snider, who will be in Winnipeg to hear performances of their eclectic music.

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider (Shervin Lainez photo)

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider (Shervin Lainez photo)

"If ever there was a WNMF that would be suitable for people who aren’t typical symphony concert-goers or new music festival-goers, this would be a good one," Stafylakis says over the phone from New York City. "It offers very accessible and accommodating repertoire, as well as more challenging works, and feels very inviting to me."

Opening night (tonight, 7:30 p.m.) includes Daugherty’s Fire and Blood, featuring Canadian violinist Alexandre Da Costa. The three-movement work is inspired by the Detroit Industry Murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and is enhanced by Russian composer Alexander Mosolov’s Iron Foundry, a 1926 work depicting a brave new world of industry.

"This is one of the first pieces of minimalism, and is a pure form of what became ‘metal music,’ " Raiskin says of Mosolov’s piece. "Even Metallica did a cover of Iron Foundry with the San Francisco Symphony last September."

The evening’s second pillar is Kirkland Snider’s Hiraeth, which explores ideas of "home, family and belonging," and will be accompanied by a film by Mark DeChiazza. The evening rounds out with the Winnipeg première of Stafylakis’s Sun Exhaling Light, based on Richard Blanco’s poem One Pulse One Poem, penned in response to mass shootings in the United States, including the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., in June 2016, where 50 people were killed.

"The whole issue of gun violence and gun rights has always been shocking to me as a Canadian immigrant to the United States," Stafylakis says of his 11-minute work. "The title itself is one of the lines from the poem, and the music is trying to encapsulate the very complex set of emotions around this challenging subject."

Audiences can also look forward to Kirkland Snider’s Penelope, conducted by Julian Pellicano on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., which presents a 21st-century take on Homer’s Odyssey, sung by American mezzo-soprano Shara Nova. Also on the bill is Canadian composer/guitarist Amy Brandon’s "flesh projektor," which morphs her traditional classical guitar with "augmented reality technology."

Raiskin’s son, Amsterdam-based jazz drummer Ilia Rayskin, 21, will perform with the WSO Chamber Ensemble for Kirkland Snider’s piece.

"Ilia is a very fine musician and I couldn’t be more proud of him," Raiskin says. The maestro’s family will be celebrating his 50th birthday on Jan. 28.

The festival’s Composers Institute will offer a full week of rehearsals and workshops for six hand-picked emerging artists from across Canada. World premières of their works will be showcased on Monday during the program Orchestral Voices of the Future, as well as Isle of Pic by 15-year-old Henry From, this year’s winner of the Canadian Music Centre’s Prairie region emerging composer competition.

Composer Michael Daugherty (Supplied)

Composer Michael Daugherty (Supplied)

On Tuesday, Winnipeg’s Camerata Nova will perform De Toutes Fleurs/Of All the Flowers, an "old made new" program of works by Renaissance masters Guillaume de Machaut and Carlo Gesualdo that inspired Terri Hron’s new electro-acoustic work Of All the Flowers, as well as selections by Canadian composers.

Another show near to Raiskin’s heart is Wednesday’s The Art of Dialogue, which explores the relationship forged between soloist, conductor, orchestra and composer, with highlights being Dinuk Wijeratne’s Clarinet Concerto, and Armenian-born jazz pianist/composer Tigran Hamasyan’s Road Song, performed by his trio.

Hamaysan also performs his own program on Thursday, showing off his his unique compositional voice influenced by metal bands Tool and Meshuggah, and music of his homeland.

Friday’s finale features the Manitoba première of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony, hailed by the Times of London as "a ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ for our times," and celebrating the legacy of DC Comics’ caped crusader, Superman.

"It’s a maximalist piece in the best sense of the word, and is huge and very vivid and rich," Stafylakis says of the five-movement work. "It feels like when you’re at the movies gripping the armrests on the edge of your seat, saying, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ "

The bill also includes two works originally commissioned by the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie of Koblenz, Germany, and dedicated to its then-conductor Raiskin: Lera Auerbach’s Eterniday and Benjamin Staern’s Wave Movements, as well as Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason’s sublime All Sounds to Silence Come.

"This concert is very personal to me, because being a soloist is who I was before I became a conductor," says former violist Raiskin. "Performing with an orchestra is both a competition and partnership; and this will be an incredibly entertaining program because each soloist brings a completely different dynamic to the stage."

holly.harris@shaw.ca

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