JWR Articles: Preview - Music Niagara (Artistic Director: Atis Bankas) - July 15, 2008

Music Niagara

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Another tempting menu of music

The palette of music lovers of all persuasions will positively salivate with the vast array of delectable items on the menu of the 2008 edition of Music Niagara. Presented by the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival, the 50 performances (July 16-August 21) include chamber music, orchestral works and transcriptions, solo recitals, jazz, film scores—with the movies playing on the silver screen, new music, old music, emerging stars of tomorrow and seasoned veterans of today.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake (aside from an excursion to Lewistown) venues are equally diverse: St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Prince of Wales Hotel (Victoria & Albert Room) Peller Estates and Inniskillin Wineries, Pumphouse Visual Arts Centre, The Epicurean, Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre, Market Room at the Courthouse Theatre, Loyalist Room at Queen’s Landing Hotel, Simcoe Park band shell, Nathaniel Dett Chapel and the Old Library at the Pillar & Post Hotel.

But the taste sensations are not confined to great music—many of the events feature food and wine accompaniments that are bound to add more depth and enjoyment to the scores.

For those who haven’t already gone online to order tickets (link to Music Niagara listing is below), here are some particular highlights of this 10th anniversary season.

Chef de la musique (and violinist extraordinaire) Atis Bankas has broadened the artistic scope and utilized his creative acumen like never before.

The Gala Opening (July 21—all evening concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.) is a string spectacular: Those who love The Four Seasons will find much to admire in Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins; another highlight will be the Canadian première of Russian composer Igor Raykhelson’s Elegy for Violin and Strings; Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings (written at the tender age of sixteen) is an incredibly energetic and melodic tour de force that will see instrumentalists create clouds of resin dust as they burn their way through the demanding work. Performers include the Philharmonic String Quartet, the Gould String Quartet (named after Canadian piano legend Glenn Gould) and the Festival Strings.

More than three weeks later (August 16) the music fest winds up with an evening of gastronomic and musical delights at the Inniskillin Winery’s Piazza and Founders Hall. Niagara’s most accomplished chefs will “compose” a three-course concerto of food that will only be topped by the appearance of Brent Carver and Laura Burton as they bring their considerable skills to the table with music by Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, Kurt Weill and Joni Mitchell. (Because of the extra-abundance of nourishment for the body and soul this extravaganza lifts off at 7:00 p.m.)

Piano fans won’t be disappointed. On July 25, Robert Silverman will demonstrate his special understanding of the Romantic period in a program that includes Liszt, Brahms and Schumann. After the keys have cooled off, many concertgoers will make their way down Queen Street for the first “JazzAfterPlay”—the John Sherwood Trio kicks off the first set at 10:15 p.m.

Ever-popular Anton Kuerti will describe in words and music Beethoven’s magnificently treacherous 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli on August 9. The Austrian-born pianist will also perform Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26. After that, don’t miss Peter Appleyard’s distinctive vibes’ stylings for that evening’s “jazz-mortem.”

Showcase of Young Virtuosos (July 28, @ 11:00 a.m., August 11 @ 2:00 p.m.) and Parade of Young Talent (August 2) will afford tomorrows’ soloists and orchestral players the opportunity to hone their craft—there’s no other way to gain the nerves of steel and concert discipline than stepping into the public eye. Excitement is guaranteed.

As a musical complement to the Shaw Festival’s currently running A Little Night Music, veteran accompanist Roger Perkins is teaming up with soprano Cheryl Mullings and tenor Stephen Simms for two presentations of Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little (August 7 & 15). Christopher Newton, the Shaw’s Artistic Director Emeritus will put his acting skills to work for the children’s fable, The Wizard and His Parrot (August 9 @ 11:00 a.m.) and don his narrator’s hat for Shaw on Mozart (August 11, featuring Mozart’s sublime String Quartet, K. 590 and Arnold Bax’s lesser-known String Quartet No. 1—two other Mozart quartets fill programs on August 2, 9 & 10).

The Fest goes to the movies with a pair of films in the Reel Music initiative. Clarence Brown’s The Eagle (1925, starring Rudolph Valentino) wings its way to the screen on July 30; August 13 will feature Simcha Jacobovici’s Charging the Rhino with piano-and-strings accompaniment.

Many other concerts are planned in this spectacular bounty of musical art that proves once again just how creative and diverse Bankas and his talented guests and colleagues are. But don’t take my word for it—see you at Music Niagara! JWR

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Artistic Director - Atis Bankas
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