Although the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s annual Spring Festival might seem like it’s dedicated to the late conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, that’s not how it was originally framed, according to VSO music director Bramwell Tovey. Initially, the concept was simply to survey musical legends.
On Saturday (March 17), for instance, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms will be paired with Carl Orff’s playful Carmina Burana. A week later (March 24), the composer’s most famous work, West Side Story, will be accompanied by a reading of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G Major. And the festival ends on March 26 with Zukerman Plays Mozart—a program entirely bereft of Bernstein compositions.
That, Tovey says, is entirely by chance. His first thought was to pair something by the late New Yorker with Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, with Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth as the latter’s musical star. “It transpired that [Forsyth’s husband, string virtuoso] Pinchas Zukerman could come, and Pinchas wanted to play Sancho Panza, that viola part,” the conductor explains. “And then I thought there are some opportunities you just have to grab. Carpe diem; you just have to seize the day, so I just said to Pinky, ‘How about a concerto in the first half?’ And he offered Mozart, and I said, ‘Fantastic. Why don’t you direct it from the violin?’ So we have a living legend who knew Lenny.”