Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/12/2014 (1780 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
From dazzling young musicians on the brink of their careers to poignant farewell performances by seasoned pros, Winnipeg audiences have been treated to a feast of classical offerings this past year. While it was difficult to narrow the list, here are my personal top 10 performances of 2014 (listed in chronological order):
— The Hilliard Ensemble embarked on its farewell 40th anniversary tour this year with two stops in Winnipeg, Jan. 25 and 26. The pair of performances, including a stirring delivery of Arvo P§rt's Litany featured during the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's 2014 New Music Festival, allowed city fans to bid a fond adieu to one of the world's greatest vocal ensembles before they retired for good this month.
— Prodigiously gifted Winnipeg cellist David Liam Roberts made local music history when he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the 96-year-old Winnipeg Music Festival's top instrumental prize, the Aikins Memorial Trophy, on March 25. Barely 14 years old, Roberts confidently delivered Tchaikovsky's Pezzo Capriccioso, Op. 62, considered one of the most challenging works in the cello repertoire.
— Back by popular demand, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra welcomed Spanish cellist Asier Polo to its stage on April 9. One of the most communicative artists we've seen in years, the Bilbao-born musician wowed the crowd with his soulful artistry and quick-fingered virtuosity
— Canzona's epic performance of J.S. Bach's four-act sacred oratorio St. Matthew Passion on April 13 at Westminster United Church celebrated the 25-year-old directorship of its retiring founding artistic director-conductor, Henry Engbrecht. The remarkable, nearly four-hour concert, which included the capacity audience joining in on soaring chorales, did this beloved choral master and pillar of Manitoba's musical community proud.
— This one's a no-brainer: seeing the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra perform at New York City's Carnegie Hall during the Spring For Music festival on May 8 was a bona fide thrill. The all-Canadian program led by Alexander Mickelthwate included Vincent Ho's The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie, as well as R. Murray Schafer's Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. Witnessing Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq performing bare-footed on the historic stage in Derek Charke's 13 Inuit Throat Song Games was profoundly moving.
— Any time Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin comes to town is cause for celebration. The popular artist brought refined elegance to the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra stage during his May 28 performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17, in G Major, K. 453.
— World-class cellists abounded during Agassiz Chamber Music Festival's second triennial International Cello Festival of Canada, held June 18-22. Hearing English cellist Colin Carr's soulful interpretation of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 during the gala closing program quickly became one of my personal highlights of the festival — and year.
— One of this country's top orchestral arrangers, Mike Janzen, hails right from our fair province. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Reimagining Broadway Pops concert showcased Steinbach's pride as the musician brought his jazz trio to town along with 13 Great White Way-inspired tunes, performed by himself with guest vocalist Sarah Slean.
— Manitoba Opera packed an emotional wallop during its inaugural production of Beethoven's sole opera, Fidelio, Nov. 22-28. Directed by general director-CEO Larry Desrochers, the 150-minute opera included a cast of former refugees whose dignified presence as witnesses to freedom moved many in the audience to tears. This might be the most potent of all the arts events that marked the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights this fall.
— Award-winning pianist-composer-arranger Emily Bear astounded when she performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 29. After wowing the crowd with a two-hour program of jazz and classical music selections, the "girl with a gift" then tossed off Gershwin's knuckle-busting Rhapsody in Blue as easily as child's play.
— And finally, an honourable mention: Canadian composer Christos Hatzis' tour de force score for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's 75th season-opener of Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation, held Oct. 1-5, that seamlessly melded Tagaq's vocals and Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers in a melting pot of classical and indigenous forces that could only be described as game changing.
So there you have it: an astonishing wealth of music in our culture-rich city this year — with much more to come as the 2014-15 season roars on.