Afternoon Delights: VI Symphony Origin Matinee Series Premieres October 20th

Building on the success of last year’s Symphony Soundbites (which continue this year), VI Symphony will be premiering their first-ever matinee series, “Origin Opus” beginning on October 20th.  Presented mid-afternoon and only an hour long, the shows provide the full quality of the main program – with the performance of the entire orchestra – but without the concerto or soloist pieces.  For the first foray, matinee-goers will be treated to Shostakovich’s Ballet Suite No. 1 and Stravinsky’s thrilling Firebird Suite.  (Opus #2 in February will feature Bach, Brahms and Beethoven while #3 in April will be an ode to Beethoven.)

Pierre Simard, VI Symphony’s charismatic artistic director, is looking forward to this season’s exciting programming changes.

Pierre spoke to us from Nanaimo, where he and his family have recently settled permanently after 10 years of dividing his time between the island and Montreal: “Our audience is changing and growing, and they were telling us that they wanted an opportunity to see quality classical music earlier in the day.  Many seniors in Nanaimo in particular are looking for a shorter musical program and one where they can enjoy the calibre of a full professional orchestral show without having to spend a whole night downtown.”  The Symphony has developed a sponsorship with Origin at Longwood to help more seniors enjoy the pleasures and health benefits of experiencing live music.  And of course this timing offers even more opportunities to engage local public schools in additional music education.

Pierre is keen to use this format to hone the skills and talents of the orchestra’s musicians as well.  “This will really challenge all of our players.  The matinee performance actually means less time for rehearsal, so the musicians have to be really prepared.”  He also notes that the live performance of the main pieces at the matinee will only serve to strengthen the quality of the full evening performance the following day – so regular symphony audiences will also reap the rewards of this new program!

The Matinee series premiere marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution by featuring two phenomenal Russian composers: Shostakovich and Stravinsky.

They were contemporaries who had very different experiences during the period of the revolution – Shostakovich chose to stay in Russia while Stravinsky left the country and eventually ended up in the US.  Perhaps their decisions ultimately influenced their musical styles.  Says Pierre: “Shostakovich is known as the utmost Soviet composer.  He wrote very Russian music, and mainly very gloomy music.”  While his Ballet Suite No. 1 (most of which is taken from his 1935 ballet The Limpid Brook) is uncharacteristically light, and colourful, Pierre insists it has all the elements of what the French call a “rire jaune” – or hollow laughter.

The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky is in contrast, “splashy and virtuosic”.  The composition, written for the ballet of the same name and first performed in Paris in 1910, essentially cemented Stravinsky’s international acclaim, and popular fame.  Ever the music historian, Pierre clarifies that the version being played by VI Symphony is one that was slightly tweaked by Stravinsky in 1945 in order for him to retain the music copyright in the United States.  “He was a keen businessman”, laughs Pierre.

Both pieces will be sure to delight the matinee audience at the inaugural Origin Opus on October 20th
Tickets are available through the Port Theatre.