The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s next season will be its 70th and it will celebrate the occasion with an artist who has been at the top of the classical-music mountain during most of that time, violinist Itzhak Perlman.

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The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s next season will be its 70th and it will celebrate the occasion with an artist who has been at the top of the classical-music mountain during most of that time, violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Itzhak Perlman</p></p>

Itzhak Perlman

Perlman will play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major at the Centennial Concert Hall with the WSO, led by maestro Alexander Mickelthwate, on Sept. 16.

The 71-year-old Israeli-American has been in the public eye since a 1958 performance on Ed Sullivan’s Caravan of Stars when he was 13 years old. Since then, he has played with virtually every major symphony in the world and earned greater fame after performing John Williams’ Oscar-winning score for the 1993 film Schindler’s List.

"(He’s) maybe the most legendary violin soloist right now, living," says Mickelthwate. "He’s compared to Jascha Heifetz, perhaps the most important violin soloist of the last century. It’s really amazing that we got him... It’s unbelievable when you think about it. He’s a living legend.

"The natural aura he brings to the table leaves me very excited."

Tickets are available to WSO subscribers at preferred prices, between $60 to $140 plus fees. Subscriptions are available at 204-949-3999 and Tickets for a VIP reception that includes premium seats and an intimate dinner with Perlman are available for $1,000.

Pianist Katherine Chi headlines Schumann and Beethoven in February 2018.</p></p>

Pianist Katherine Chi headlines Schumann and Beethoven in February 2018.

It’s the second year in a row the orchestra is launching its season with one of the world’s top violinists. Last September, Joshua Bell played a sold-out Centennial Concert Hall, which Mickelthwate admits was a risky endeavour.

"We kind of gambled a little bit, financially, with this whole Joshua Bell idea and pulled it off," says Mickelthwate. "Overall, it just exceeded the expectations and people were like, ‘How are we going to continue that now? What is the next step?’"

The WSO’s 70th anniversary will be marked several times during the season, including a June 28 community celebration and Happy 70th concerts on Oct. 13 and 14 that will include a special guest appearance by Victor Feldbrill, the WSO’s music director from 1958 to 1968. The 92-year-old member of the Order of Canada, who was the second music director in the the WSO’s history, will join Mickelthwate in conducting the orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.

"It’s like a real coup to get him here and have that link to the past," Mickelthwate says. "It’ll be a beautiful beginning to the subscription season."

The WSO’s annual autumn festival is called Angels & Demons, and runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 4. The orchestra will take on works by Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Henryk Gorecki and Kurt Weill and a special Halloween performance dubbed Frankenstein! should provide some thrills and chills for an audience invited to wear costumes. Performers include Russian-American pianist Natasha Paremski (Oct. 27-28) and Winnipeg soprano Sarah Jo Kirsch (Nov. 3-4).

Pianist Natasha Paremski leads off the WSO's Autumn Festival, Angels & Demons, in October 2017.</p>

Pianist Natasha Paremski leads off the WSO's Autumn Festival, Angels & Demons, in October 2017.

Another Winnipeg soprano, Lara Ciekiewicz, headlines choral concerts March 23-25, 2018 that will mark the 200th anniversary of the St. Boniface Cathedral. Mickelthwate says the concerts will take place among the ruins of the original building, which was heavily damaged by fire in 1968.

The orchestra will be joined by the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, and the group will perform works by Gabriel Fauré and Francis Poulenc as well as Three Metis Songs From Saskatchewan, which Canadian Malcolm Forsyth composed in 1975.

"It will be different and have a real community connection," says Mickelthwate, who said the orchestra still has to iron out the logistical details of performing at the historic site.

The annual Winnipeg New Music Festival highlights the winter schedule as usual, from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, 2018.

Other guest artists scheduled include:

  • cellist Yegor Dyachkov (Oct. 13-14);
  • trumpeter Paul Jeffrey (Dec. 1-2);
  • violinist Alexandre Da Costa (Jan. 12-13, 2018);
  • pianist Katherine Chi (Feb. 9-10);
  • guitarist Gaëlle Solal (Feb. 23-24); and
  •  Italian pianist Luca Buratto (April 6-7), the 2015 laureate of the Honens Prize, a piano competition held every three years in Calgary.

The anniversary season will also end with a violin virtuoso taking the concert hall stage. On May 23, James Ehnes, the Brandon-born and raised musician, will perform with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, led by Bramwell Tovey, who was the WSO’s music director from 1989 to 2001.

Gaelle Solal strums Spanish nights in 2018.</p>

Gaelle Solal strums Spanish nights in 2018.

"They have their own celebratory tour, but it fits into our 70th anniversary like bookends, previous music directors," Mickelthwate says. "I think it’ll be really sweet, his own orchestra. A perfect ender for the historic 70th season."

The anniversary will give the orchestra and its fans to look at how much the orchestra has grown over the years, the maestro says.

"It’s nice to celebrate with the community and there’s more coming together with the family and appreciating the history, and what we’ve accomplished in the last 70 years... twice at Carnegie Hall," Mickelthwate says. "One of the celebratory ideas is to feature subscribers that are still alive that were there at the first concert 70 years ago. To draw that big arc of Winnipeg history, in a way."

Famous names

Canadian artists headline the WSO Pops schedule, with: Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac performing three concerts (Oct. 20-22); Christmas-themed concerts with the Tenors (Dec. 8 and 9) and Winnipeg’s Steve Bell (Dec. 12); and music from the career of world champion figure skater Kurt Browning (Jan. 19-21).

The orchestra will team up once again with Rainbow Stage for performances of A Chorus Line (March 16-18) and it will provide the music for Cirque de la Symphonie acrobatics on April 27-29.

Mickelthwate, who will be conducting when the Tenors return to Winnipeg, is especially looking forward to the operatic pop vocal group’s concerts.

"We have a relation to them personally because we were the first orchestra to feature them, so it’s great to have them back," he says.


Canadian Alexandre Da Costa performs Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in January 2018.</p>

Canadian Alexandre Da Costa performs Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in January 2018.

Movie nights

The WSO, which has performed several different scores of films while they are screened, turns it into a series next season with a trio of films.

The series begins with the wave of a wand as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of the films based on J.K. Rowling’s series of novels, will be shown (Nov. 25-26). The WSO plans to perform one Potter film a year for the next seven years as orchestral transcriptions have become available.

"They just came out with it and they’re available, so let’s do it, let’s go," Mickelthwate says. "When we played Pirates of the Caribbean three years ago with live orchestra, it was such an enhanced experience. You feel the emotions of the music but you realize, there’s actually people playing and you have that right here. It was overload, almost."

Other films in the series include City Lights, the 1931 silent film starring Charlie Chaplin (Feb. 16-17), and the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz (April 21-22).

Kids Concerts

Five shows aimed at children are also part of next season’s program, including an April 8 collaboration with Winnipeg entertainer Al Simmons.


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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.