Fall arts preview music critics’ picks: The season is music to the ears

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      Fear not: I won’t be donning a micro-mini or waving pom-poms for the purpose of this survey. But it’s hard not to act like a cheerleader when looking at the upcoming year in classical, world, and contemporary art music. Flagship organizations Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra kick off the fall season with strong presentations, and things only improve from there. Highlights include avant-garde flamenco, first-rate string quartets, and well-run festivals: a winterlong staycation has never looked so good!

      Imaginary Worlds

      (September 19 at the Vancouver Playhouse)

      The hyperskilled Turning Point Ensemble ventures to Korea, Tajikistan, Vienna, and Vancouver’s Chinatown, all through the magic of sound.

      The Draw: Any program that includes Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement of Johann Strauss’s Emperor Waltz deserves a listen.

      Target Audience: Armchair travellers and the musically astute.


      (September 27 and 28 and October 2 to 5 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      If you’re seeking proof that this fall is going to be hot, look no further than Vancouver Opera’s season opener. The steamiest of operas sets the pace and the temperature with its uninhibited exploration of lust—for blood and for sex.

      The Draw: Kate Aldrich and Ginger Costa-Jackson share the title role; some will want to see both!

      Target Audience: Passionistas.

      Inon Barnatan

      (September 27 and 29 at the Orpheum)

      Pianist Inon Barnatan is one of those rare musicians who can shed new light on established repertoire, and in this recital with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra he’ll illuminate Johannes Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor.

      The Draw: An intimate look into the inner workings of a symphonic behemoth.

      Target Audience: This is a show with mass appeal, but young pianists and composers might benefit most of all.

      Legends Of India

      (September 28 at the York Theatre)

      A lack of touring artists means that North American fans of Indian music are sometimes stuck in a Ravi Shankar time warp—but here sitarist Shahid Parvez Khan and tabla master Anindo Chatterjee will show that the form’s timeless beauty is also an evolving force.

      The Draw: A chance to catch up on 40 years of musical innovation.

      Target Audience: Fans of slow unfoldings and warp-drive finales.

      Dowland In Dublin

      (October 3 at the Orpheum Annex)

      While we’ll miss José Verstappen’s steady hand, Early Music Vancouver’s new artistic director, Matthew White, is steering the venerable organization onto fresh terrain. The biggest surprises—including a Fox Cabaret series—will come in 2015, but suggesting that John Dowland, one of the cornerstones of English music, was actually Irish is an intriguing place to start.

      The Draw: An all-star cast, including tenor Michael Slattery and lutenist Sylvain Bergeron.

      Target Audience: Open-minded antiquarians.

      Dolce E Crudele

      (October 3 at the Western Front, October 4 at Dunbar Heights United Church)

      Arguably Vancouver’s most accomplished small choir, musica intima here takes an appropriately intimate look at the pleasures and pains of love.

      The Draw: Who can’t relate to the title of Peter Berring’s song “She Pulled My Skin Right Off”?

      Target Audience: Masochists, perhaps. Or, to put it another way, anyone who’s ever been in love.

      The Muted Note

      (October 15 at the Western Front)

      Trombonist-composer Scott Thomson and singer-dancer Susanna Hood pair in an unusually nuanced exploration of movement, text, and sound.

      The Draw: Thomson’s songs pull inspiration from the poetry of the late P. K. Page, works that contain a pensive, almost Zenlike clarity.

      Target Audience: Multimedia mavens who don’t need digital bells and whistles.

      High Renaissance

      (October 17 at Ryerson United Church)

      Setting and sound will be well matched in this Vancouver Chamber Choir exploration of some of the most gorgeous vocal music ever written.

      The Draw: It’s impossible to argue with a program that includes William Byrd, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, and Claudio Monteverdi; consider this a crash course in European civilization.

      Target Audience: Those seeking a soundtrack for Leonardo da Vinci’s and Michelangelo’s art.

      Modulus Festival

      (October 23 to 29 at Heritage Hall, the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, and the Ukrainian Centre)

      Music on Main will take a trek downtown during the latest edition of this popular event, but it stays true to its mandate of smart programming for an appreciative crowd.

      The Draw: One guaranteed highlight will be the launch party for the Piano and Erhu Project’s debut CD, featuring pianist Corey Hamm and erhu virtuoso Nicole Ge Li.

      Target Audience: Sonic explorers and social butterflies.

      Diego El Cigala

      (October 25 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)

      We’re not sure why this striking flamenco star is named for a small and sweet crustacean, but we do know that he’s pushing the music of his native Madrid into new and startling areas, including Argentine tango and Cuban rumba.

      The Draw: A gripping voice backed by the extraordinary guitarist Diego “El Twanguero” García.

      Target Audience: Anyone who thrilled to Carmen and wants to know what Spain sounds like now.

      Vertavo String Quartet/Paul Lewis

      (November 9 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)

      The British pianist Paul Lewis is at the peak of his powers, so his work on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major and Anton Dvorák’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major will no doubt dazzle. Still, it will be the Vertavo String Quartet’s performance of Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 6 that ices this Vancouver Recital Society cake.

      The Draw: Brilliant musicians and a fascinatingly eclectic program.

      Target Audience: Those who like their elegance laced with astringency.


      (November 22 at the Orpheum Annex)

      Vancouver New Music’s association with Michael Gordon isn’t new: the New York composer’s ultra-minimalist Timber, for amplified two-by-fours, mesmerized VNM listeners in 2013. This time around Gordon is writing for seven bassoons, so expect more melody.

      The Draw: Seven freaking bassoons!

      Target Audience: Bassoon fanciers—yes, I’m one.