Dress your best for string octet’s Vernon performance

NOCCA opens season with gala evening

North Okanagan Community Concerts Association (NOCCA) is pleased to open its 67th Season with a gala performance by a string octet Oct. 26. The concert is an extraordinary presentation by two acclaimed Canadian string quartets—the Saguenay Quartet, from Chicoutimi, PQ and the Lafayette String Quartet from Victoria, B.C.

Originally formed in Detroit in 1986, the Lafayette quartet, Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and Sharon Stanis, violins, Joanna Hood, viola and Pamela Highbaud Aloni, cello, has been based at the University of Victoria since 1991, where they are artists-in-residence at the School of Music. There, the Lafayette are treasured performers and mentors. As well as their teaching at the university level, they are active individually as soloists, outreach educators and adjudicators, and collaborate within the rich musical world on southern Vancouver Island. They are recognized widely across Canada, Mexico, the USA and Europe.

The Saguenay Quartet, previously known for 27 years as the Alcan String Quartet, Marie Bégin and Nathalie Camus, violins, Luc Beauchemin, Viola, and David Ellis, cello, has an illustrious tradition of excellence and expression, based in their musicality and emotional engagement in their performances. The quartet members contribute greatly to the Saguenay Conservatory of Music, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Youth Orchestra, area music schools and Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean public schools. Each member is the first desk player in of their respective sections of l’Orchestre Symphonique du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Marie Bégin plays a Vuillaume violin thanks to a generous loan by CANIMEX Inc.

Each quartet group has an extensive pantheon of highly regarded performances and recordings, and each has received awards recognizing their musicianship and contribution to musical culture in Canada.

The group will play three octets, all romantic in nature, from periods spanning 1825 to 2017.

The first on the program will be String Octet in F major composed by Neils Wilhelm Gade in 1848. Niels Wilhelm Gade, a Danish composer, violinist and conductor pre-eminent in Denmark in the mid-nineteenth century, is little-heard in live performance in Canada. Gade was influenced by Danish folk tunes and by the compositional style of his older contemporary, Felix Mendelssohn. This octet was composed shortly after Mendelssohn’s death, and may have been a tribute to his friend and mentor. In the opening of the fourth movement, (Allegro vivace) we will hear echoes of musical idioms stated in Mendelssohn’s Octet

This will be followed by the String Octet Op. 56 Letter from an Unknown Woman, by Airat Ichmouratov, commissioned in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Ichmouratov’s inspiration is a novella by Stefan Zweig, a Viennese Jewish novelist and poet, whose writing was immensely popular in all of Europe after the First World War.

The story recounted in Letter from an Unknown Woman is of a woman of poor birth and exceptional beauty, who spent her childhood living in close proximity to the unnamed well-off flaneur’s home, who is the recipient of the letter. It recounts her unrecognized youthful love of the man, and her isolated hardship as she grew up and made her solitary way in the demi-monde, conceived in an encounter with him, and raised a son who died in childhood. The nominative letter describing her unrequited love, and her hardships, is delivered to the child’s father after the woman’s loss of hope, and her death. Well, he has trouble even remembering her, and after a moment’s poignant reflection, carries on his self-centred lifestyle.

For us, Ichmouratov’s octet expresses Zweig’s story in its emotional intensity and complexity in a more sympathetic and accessible way to our 21st-century sensibilities.

The second half of the recital will feature Felix Mendelssohn’s acclaimed String Octet in E flat major Op. 20, composed in 1825, when Mendelssohn was 16.

Each of these octets demand virtuosic abilities in every voice. And here we have two fine quartets collaborating to generate the emotional impact and burnished sound to form a passionate and affecting musical encounter.

Audience members are invited to dress in their best for this evening. The gala opening concert will be at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for NOCCA’s five concert season are $125 for adults and $62.50 for youth. Single tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for youth. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller box office, call 250-540-7469 or online at ticketseller.ca. For more information visit nocca.ca.

READ MORE: NOCCA unveils upcoming season

READ MORE: Victoria choir gives flawless Okanagan concert


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