Fall Arts Preview 2019 music critics' picks: Beethoven’s birthday propels season

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      The main event, this concert season, has to be the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth. Granted, the party won’t actually take place until December 17 of next year, but you’ll have plenty of chances to celebrate before that, starting almost immediately. The Danish String Quartet, for instance, will play the great German’s Quartet No. 15 in A Minor in its November 3 recital at the Vancouver Playhouse, while András Schiff’s performance of sonatas 24 to 28 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on March 24 should be occasion for ecstasy. Watch, too, for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Beethoven Festival, also in March; music director Otto Tausk’s affinity for this repertoire should be on full display.



      At Pacific Spirit United Church on September 27

      With compositions celebrating the first successful aircraft, the dawn of love, the crowning of a new emperor, and spring, Beginnings also celebrates the debut of the Vancouver Chamber Choir’s new artistic director, Kari Turunen.

      The Draw: A hint of where the VCC might go, following 46 highly successful years under Jon Washburn.

      Target Audience: Choral loyalists and a new crop of fans.


      La Traviata

      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 17, 19, 24, and 27

      A brand-new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1853 hit moves the action to 1920s Paris, allowing for even greater depths of glitter and some of the most sensuous costuming ever seen on the VO stage.

      The Draw: Canadian soprano Emily Dorn takes on the central role of doomed courtesan Violetta Valéry.

      Target Audience: Stylish ears.


      New World Symphony

      At the Orpheum from October 18 to 20

      The 19th-century Czech composer Antonin Dvořák’s response to his time in the United States will gain fresh resonance in new Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Otto Tausk’s hands.

      The Draw: A chance to see how Tausk, who’s Dutch, will infuse Dvořák’s work with his own North American impressions.

      Target Audience: Residents, and resident aliens.



      At St. Philip’s Anglican Church on October 25

      Explore hope and heartbreak with musica intima, through this collection of songs about love.

      The Draw: Morten Lauridsen’s gorgeous Madrigal, but also works by Claudio Monteverdi, David Lang, and former Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer in residence Jeffrey Ryan.

      Target Audience: Anyone who ever had a heart.


      Star countertenor Iestyn Davies hits town in October.

      Iestyn Davies

      At Christ Church Cathedral on October 29

      One of the great countertenors of our time joins the acclaimed Fretwork ensemble in a Music on Main/Early Music Vancouver presentation entitled Purcell & Nyman: Music After a While as part of the Modulus Festival.

      The Draw: With Britain’s future in doubt, follow cultural threads that link the Elizabethan era with today.

      Target Audience: Lovers of music both early and modern.


      Les Voix Humaines join Early Music Vancouver.


      At Christ Church Cathedral on November 1

      Celebrate the music of pioneering English composer John Dowland, as played by the viol ensemble Les Voix Humaines and interpreted by Canadian composer Stacey Brown.

      The Draw: Eminent lutenist Nigel North guests in the Early Music Vancouver co-production with Music on Main.

      Target Audience: Not the unduly lachrymose; the only tears shed during this show will be ones of joy.


      Flamenco Legends

      At the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on November 2

      The late Paco de Lucía’s work lives on in the hands of his nephew and fellow guitarist Antonio Sánchez, who’ll lead the Paco de Lucía Project in a tribute to the flamenco innovator.

      The Draw: Music and dance as fiery as the hottest piquillo pepper.

      Target Audience: Connoisseurs of style and soul.


      The Vancouver Recital Society will host the Danish String Quartet.

      Danish String Quartet

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on November 3

      It’s hard to pick favourites from the Vancouver Recital Society’s 2019-20 season; other must-see artists include Measha Brueggergosman, Yuja Wang, András Schiff, and Steven Isserlis. Still, don’t miss these great Danes!

      The Draw: A stunning combination of instrumental maturity and youthful verve.

      Target Audience: Listeners who love musicians who listen.


      Protect Us From War

      At West Vancouver United Church on November 9 and 10 and the Orpheum on November 11

      If the thought of 45’s finger on the nuclear button is unsettling, Chor Leoni’s annual Remembrance Day concerts will offer some glorious psychic salve.

      The Draw: We’ll take all the psychic salve we can get.

      Target Audience: Uneasy sleepers and admirers of the massed male voice.


      Okkyung Lee

      At the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on November 16

      The second installment of Vancouver New Music’s Parallels series teams the New York–based cellist with an all-star cast of Vancouver musicians, including electronic composers prOphecy sun and Tegan Wahlgren.

      The Draw: The sound of spontaneous composition.

      Target Audience: Fearless explorers.


      Art of the Tango Fugue

      At West Point Grey United Church on November 28 and 29, and Pyatt Hall on December 1

      Vetta Chamber Music and its resident string quartet join bandoneon virtuoso Jonathan Goldman to explore the links between 18th-century Germany and modern-day Argentina.

      The Draw: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Art of the Fugue as you’ve never heard it before, plus Astor Piazzolla.

      Target Audience: Seekers after sonic perfection.


      The Aphotic Zone

      At Pyatt Hall on December 16

      Redshift Music Society hits on yet another innovative concept: meditative modernism, performed in an entirely darkened hall.

      The Draw: Pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa and flutist Mark McGregor, a.k.a. the Tiresias Duo, are among the performers.

      Target Audience: Listeners who love to be kept in the dark.


      French Enchantment

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on January 14

      In the first of three concerts presented in association with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Friends of Chamber Music offers an elegant program of French bonbons.

      The Draw: The music of Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, and Gabriel Fauré.

      Target Audience: Friends of chamber music.


      Gidon Kremer

      At the Orpheum on January 31 and February 1

      There’s other repertoire we might rather hear Gidon Kremer play—contemporary music from the Baltic region, for instance—but Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor will pose an intriguing challenge for the virtuosic violinist.

      The Draw: A great modern mind joins the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to deliver an inherently unusual take on an 1850 classic.

      Target Audience: Transcriptionistas.


      Tomasz Ritter

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on March 23

      The Vancouver Chopin Society has booked a strong lineup of pianists, but the jewel in the crown might be this collaboration with Early Music Vancouver, featuring the young winner of the inaugural Chopin Competition on Period Instruments.

      The Draw: Chopin as Frédéric himself would have heard it.

      Target Audience: Romantics and time travellers.